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30.10.2005 Sports News

Sammy Kuffour’s recall, a must for the Black Stars

By Francis Asenso-Boakye
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"The world is a dangerous place to live not because of those who do evil, but because of those who watch let it happen" -- Albert Einstein. This is the motivation behind this article.

I would like to begin this article by congratulating the current Black Stars squad for qualifying to participate in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Kudos also goes to President Kufuor and his government for their leadership which has made this dream, a reality. This is a significant achievement, and the players, and indeed all stakeholders deserve our commendation. Playing in the World Cup finals is the dream of every football player, just like the Olympics are to Athletes. Come next summer history will be made in Africa football map as the four times Nations Cup holders will go to the World Cup for the first time. This is a crucial period in our nation's football history, and that is why we must all bury our differences and unite as we prepare for the world football gathering.

As we head to our maiden World Cup appearance, one critical issue that has the potential of derailing the nation's sterling efforts so far is the exclusion of Sammy Kuffour from the Black Stars. Opinions about Kuffour's exclusion are mixed; while some people have justified his exclusion, others have argued that recalling Kuffour back will go a long way in strengthening the defense set up of the team - a position I strongly share.

Much as I believe everybody is entitled to his/her opinion, it is important to put the “Kuffour saga” in perspective, in order to better understand the circumstances surrounding the current impasse. Kuffour's problems did not start with the present Coach. In fact, it has been a tradition on the part of the FA to “eliminate” any outspoken players - who are critical of their policies - from the Black Stars team. It all began in November 2001 when the FA and the then coach Fred Osam-Duodu of the Black Stars held a press conference, and not only stripped off the captainship from the outspoken C.K. Akunnor, but also dropped him from the team, ahead of the 2002 African Cup of Nations in Mali. This happened when C.K. Akunnor was in top form and was the also the captain for Wolfsburg-Germany, and many believe he was dropped because of his criticisms of the FA. After the incident BBC Sport called up Sammy Kuffour – deputy captain - who not only condemned C.K. Akunnor's expulsion from the Black Stars, but also rejected the captainship in solidarity with his captain. This did not go down well at all with the FA and coach Osam-Duodu, and this explains the FA's apparent disdain for Samuel Kuffour.

Indeed, this incident only marked the beginning of Kuffour's problems with the FA. Consequently, Kuffour was dropped from the Cup of Nations tournament, but with the intervention of the late Hon. Edward Osei-Kwaku, the then Sports Minster, he was recalled to play in the 2002 Nations Cup tournament. Readers will recall that Kuffour was again sacked from the tournament by Coach Osam-Duodu for bluntly complaining about the poor quality of jerseys and training kits provided by the GFA-L-Sporto kits sponsorship deal. His dismissal from the camp cost him the CAF 2002 Africa Football Player of the Year Award as it made him look bad in the eyes of people. Kuffour is an experienced player and he could easily figure out the fishy deal in the negotiation process (as demonstrated by the jerseys provided), which was described by BBC Sport as a “shambolic deal”. Indeed, for those officials at the FA, Sammy Kuffour became a pain in their neck, and as a result, they had long decided not to invite him again for Black Stars games, but subsequent coaches insisted, and made sure that he's invited. During Dr. Nyaho Tamakloe's regime, Kuffour turned down two invitations to play for the Blacks Stars – first, on the grounds that his wife was sick and therefore could not leave her, and second, because he was injured. According to Dr. Tamakloe, the FA decided therefore not to invite him again. I would have no problem with the coach if he says he will not invite Kuffour, because he turned down two previous invitations. This notwistanding, Kuffour is not the first and only player to have turned down invitation to play for Ghana. Several other players including Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah at one point did turn down Black Stars invitations. Ghanaians will recall that our maestro Abedi Pele did not honor the Ghana-Burundi World Cup qualifier that cost us the 1998 World Cup finalsin France. Again, on two occasions, Abedi said he would not play for Ghana anymore, but he was twice prevailed upon by influential politicians at that time, and he rescinded his decisions. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. In fact, until the recent impasse, Kuffour was the most consistent Black Stars player.

In the recent incident, when Black Stars coach Ratomir Dujkovic came to the job, he invited Sammy Kuffour; but someone at the FA “whispered into his ears” that Kuffour was sick and that he could not play at that time. The normal practice is for the coach to make the list of players he wants, and the FA officials will do the paperwork. The official with the intention of sabotaging Kuffour, did not send any invitation to him, but told the coach that Kuffour was sick. Incidentally, Kuffour was in Kumasi the very day of Black Stars game to see his sick father, when the media caught up with him to ascertain the truth of the matter. He did not only deny that he was sick, but also called it a lie. This again did not go down well with the officials of the FA and they asked the coach to demand an apology from Kuffour. For those officials of the FA, it was an opportunity to settle personal scores with Sammy Kuffour.

The fact of the matter is that Kuffour is not the only football player to have had problems with his officials. Great players like Romario, Cantona, Ginola, Gascoigne, etc have all had problems with their national teams. The truth is that he is not that bad as he is being portrayed by some section of the media and the FA. He has being wrongly branded as arrogant and disrespectful. But, in our country those who are firm, forthright and outspoken, and also stand against unfairness and injustice are usually seen to be arrogant. On the contrary, Kuffour is not arrogant, but a strong and firm individual who has reached the world football heights in the face of many challenges. He is very outspoken and forthright. He condemned the FA when they sacked coach Dossena after he had started a World Cup qualifier with a 4-0. Kuffour's commitment to the national team cannot be doubted. The FA and the coach have the unique opportunity to unite the nation, and bring on board the country's best both old and new. Describing the FA's statement about his health as a lie cannot be seen as an insult to the nation, and as such, should not be enough justification to sideline the nations most experienced player at this crucial period. If even he insulted Ghanaians, he has apologized and must be forgiven, after all to err, they say, is human. In fact, the coach will show more strength in him if he forgives Kuffour and recall him to the team. Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “the weak can never forgive; forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. It is important that as a nation we put less emphasis on the past and forge ahead for the future.

Much as we commend the current players for a job well done, playing at World Cup finals is a different ball game, and as such, we must strive to strengthen our team with the best that we have. Experience counts a lot at the world Cup, and this is something we cannot loose sight of. It is the assembly of the best players in the game, and Kuffour's “cohorts”, the likes of Ronaldo, Beckham, Totti, Zidani and the rest will be there, and that is why Kuffour's recall is most crucial. He is one of the few Ghanaian players who have played consistently at all levels of our national team – Starlets, Satellites, Meteors and the Black Stars, and his dedication on the field of play is always unquestionable and outstanding. His exposure to the game in the international scene is undoubted, and indeed, commendable. He has played at the highest level of football more than any other Ghanaian player ever, and has also played more European Champions League games than any other African player ever- far more than his closest challenger Nwankwo Kanu of Nigeria. Now that we have qualified for the World Cup and everybody is happy, nobody to see Kuffour as important to the team, as asserted by Abedi Pele himself. Let's not wait till it's too late!

Indeed, Sammy Kuffour has served his country very well, and as such, we must rather show appreciation than denigrate him. His recall is a must for the Black Stars. Francis Asenso-Boakye New Jersey, U.S.A Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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