27.04.2004 Sports News

Ben Koufie, a Prophet Or a Soothsayer?

27.04.2004 LISTEN
By Public Agenda

Recent developments in Ghana sports have brought to the fore on again debates as to whether foreign coaches are better than local coaches as far as coaching the senior national teams, the Black Stars and the Black Meteors are concerned.

It all started with the Black meteors recent Athens Olympics qualification after several unsuccessful attempts. What did the Portuguese coach, Mariano Barreto do right this time that all these years our local coaches have failed to do?

On the club side, three of the four clubs who played Africa and brought smiles to the faces of football loving Ghanaians coincidentally are all being coached by foreigners. The only team that lost, though narrowly, is being handled by a local coach.

When Graphic sports carried the banner headline " FOREIGN INVASION," many are the Ghanaians who out of patriotism questioned the rational behind this move by the local clubs. Questions of finances were high on our queries especially in HIPC times like these. The national team could be pardoned but the clubs with no proper sponsorship were cause for concern.

The man who was named the best African coach for the year 2001, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio wondered why local clubs would undertake such an expensive venture when they could better spend their scarce resources by giving a local coach some foreign training.

The problem, as a senior scribe of the sport puts it; " it is never the case of lack of skillful coaches, but rather unskillfulness in player management and dishonesty is the problem with the local coaches. This to a large extent has made the boys (footballers) not respect them and has affected their play on the field over the years. Players are fielded not based on fitness and form but how well they can dip their hands into their pockets."

It is hard to believe that coach Abdul Razak Karim despite the distinction of guiding Asante Kotoko to their first league title in a decade, was sacked for incompetence with a window dressing promise of sending him to Europe for further training. Could there be something we don't know?

Asante Kotoko interestingly, have a long history of been bedfellows with foreign coaches. As far back in the mid 1960s Josef Ember handled Kotoko. Twenty years later Kotoko had a Briton, Ron Heckman and in 1996 Kotoko signed on Burkhard Ziese.

However it was during Herbert Mensah's administration that Kotoko had the most of foreign coaches. From David Booth to Middendorp to Ian Porterfield and then to Zumdick who got the team qualified for the final of the 2002 Cup Winners Cup. Would Hans Kodric improve on this record?

Hearts of Oak however does not boast of a long history of foreign coaches but it is easy to guess what necessitated their quest for a foreign coach, Herbert Addo lost the league title to Kotoko and failed to gel at the Coca-cola Top 4 tournament at a point a savior was needed and they found that in coach Middendorp.

Alhaji Grunsah's King Faisal, also has Hans-Dieter Schmidt. Liberty which happened to be the only team that did not share the joy of winning happened to be coached by a local coach. What a sad coincidence?

But our hope, expectations and anxieties lie in the return marches to be played in a couple of weeks. Will our local coaches redeem themselves or it will be another field day for the foreign coaches. If the latter happens then Ben Koufie, the former GFA boss and a renown coach's assertion that " the influx of experience foreign coaches will improve the standard of our game and also provide local coaches the opportunity of enriching their knowledge of the game as they share ideas with their foreign counterpart. The expatriate coaches posses superior tactical discipline and they also inject into the playing body professionalism and discipline." This the foreign coaches are steadily proving to be true.

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