Walking the streets of Accra last Sunday, and looking at the faces of almost all who had just spent nearly two precious man hours sitting anxiously in front of television sets to watch the Ghana – Congo 2006 World Cup Qualifier, one could tell a feeling of despair and disappointment even though those whom I knew and so talked to, tried to make up with a smile.
I was not exactly impressed too. The Vice President is doing his best crusading against indiscipline but I guess as a country we are simply not prepared to be discipline.
Last Sunday a police car drove through a red light and almost run into me. I panicked so much that before I recomposed my thoughts the car was gone. I did not even get his number. And so as I met my friends, the football lovers, I wondered what had slapped so much sadness on them, as their facial expressions showed.
“The coach is a disappointment. Why would he use Ibrahim Tanko when his recent performance is a far cry from what it takes to play in such a competition” Said Jango, a friend and a football enthusiast. “Asamoah Djan is by far a better player than his senior brother Baffour Djan, who coach Sam Arday chose to use.” He added.
I have now become fully interested in the gossip of the Sunday evening and so went on to talk to a senior sports journalist, Uncle Ken Bediako to find out what he made of the Black Stars' performance and as to what he thought of Arday's selection. Uncle Ken confirmed what most people I heard discussing the match were saying, “If Barreto had been in charge the Stars would have at least scored one goal.” This is not to say Arday did not do well considering the short time he had to organize the boys, he could not have done better he did. Kwadjo Gyan, another sports fan said: “The boys simply lacked concentration. They were over-confident and so in the end we paid for it. We did not lose the match but we lost the much-needed points.
Vexed questions raised by the Black Stars' abysmal performance have to do with the extent to which the coach could have influenced the outcome of the match, whether or not Ghana had a team, and whether the Black Stars respond more positively to some coaches than others.
On the field on Sunday, we had twelve hurriedly assembled players left in the hands of a caretaker coach. Who did we expect to make it happen on the field? The coach, or the Black Star players?
Kwabena Yeboah, on his GTV programme, Sports Highlights last Monday said, it was about time that we recalled Abedi Pele and other achievers from retirement, have them trained and play for the national team again.
But I beg to differ. In spite of the country's heartbreaking erratic performance, today's players are sharper than those of old. They understand instructions quicker and they do not only play but know what they are playing for and what is at stake. They create chances and try to take every one of them as they are created, all within the stipulated ninety minutes.
Playing football requires much knowledge and skills. Technical directions are given both on a drawing board as well as on the field. Players who are able to read the game, vary their game plan when necessary, estimate distances of passes and speed required to take the passes accurately hold the key to building a winsome team.
Another worrying issue is that of commitment to the Black stars. It is possible that the national love for the team is waning. We are only drawing from our reserves to support them or even just watch them play. Exactly fifteen days before the start of the Black Star's campaign for Germany 2006, Accra Hearts of Oak and King Faisal refused to release their players for the Black Meteors who incidentally are also players of the Black Star.
It is perhaps, time we did something about the fortunes of the game we love so much. Ghana is ranked fourteenth in Africa behind teams like Libya, Mali and Zimbabwe, and seventy-second in FIFA world rankings. We should have had more teams than one making up the Black Stars. It should be possible by now to have a fallback team who are always battle ready. We need a competent coach who is hungry for success. As successive coaches leave, our football sinks. Football is all about consistency and commitment to work. All over the world successful football nations are those who have maintained the technical direction of one coach over a long period of time. Teams are not just a collection of skillful players but are built, and built around skillful players with succession plans in place. Brazil is doing well in world football because at any point in time there is a player ready as replacement in every department of the game.
Now that former France captain Marcel Desailly has decided not to coach Ghana and has instead decided to continue his playing career in Qatar, what next? Desailly, who was born in Ghana, was on the shortlist to be the next coach of the Black Stars but has now signed to play for Al Ittihad in Qatar. However, it is worthy of note that, he did not rule out the possibility of coaching Ghana in the future.
“I must thank the Ghanaian Sports Minister, who offered me the position of coach, but maybe my change of mind, is just a postponement,” Desailly is quoted as saying.
For now, all that the footie fraternity in Ghana, can do is to cry and hope that someday they will be heard, a team will be built when a good coach is found.