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06.02.2006 Football News

Rude awakening for Ghana's Black Stars


(William Ezah, GNA Sports)

Accra, Feb 6, GNA - The abysmal performance of the Black Stars at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, especially with their shocking defeat suffered at the hands of 'the Warriors' of Zimbabwe has thrown the entire nation into a state of 'mourning'.

The result coming especially at a time the nation had secured her first ever ticket to the World Cup after years of labour in the wilderness is indeed very sad.

As the nation broods over the defeat, we are tempted to conduct a post mortem to find the causes of the early exit as well as chart the way forward.

Having qualified for the World Cup and subsequent drubbing of Saudi Arabia in an international friendly match, everyone believed that the nation had finally gathered the best crop of materials to reclaim continental glory that has eluded her for years.

Zimbabwe, obviously a minor on the soccer scene, proved the Stars wrong and exposed the nation to the reality of the day.

In fact the performance of the Stars was a rude awakening for all and what is left at the moment is the search for the scapegoats that often results in the blame game, which is obviously not necessary now, though certain things must be pointed out bluntly.

Whilst the coach is putting the blame at the door-step of some of the players whom he accused as feigning injuries with others not showing much commitments to the national cause, the players think otherwise. For them, the technical team, especially the local component lacked the required technical competence to provide the direction at such a big stage.

In the face of all these accusations, the basic fact here is that the defeat of the Stars is a rude awakening call for all. It has exposed the team, the technical men and all those involved in the management set up.

But the unanswered question now is who takes the blame for the calamity with less than five months to go for the World Cup? Taking our minds back to the issues preceding the competition, brings to the fore the unpardonable gamble and mistake made by the technical team for picking only 23 players with seven on a stand-bye without making entry into the team, a competitive one.

Among all the participants, Ghana seemed to be the only country to have selected 23 players for the tourney, without embarking on a thorough justify your inclusion exercise to analyse the strength and weakness of the players available before making a choice, whereas other countries invited 40 or more players for justifier before settling on the final 23.

With this choice, one wondered how the coach was going to manage to settle on the best material for the country after engaging in this kind of selection 'of try and error'.

However many were those who could not question the decision because the nation had perhaps been overwhelmed with her qualification to the World Cup coupled with the fact that the coach is the first to have supervised that historic feat, though he could not carry the glory alone.

An attempt to apply the same system ahead of the Germany event would surely spell greater doom for the nation. Many analysts again were taken aback when the coach decided to invite two attackers to replace midfielders, Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari when it became obvious that they would not be available for the competition.

These, among others are useful lessons for Djukovic as he ponders over the downfall of the team in his plans towards finding the way forward.

The coach's excuse of being employed by the nation to qualifying the team only to the World Cup is totally out of the question. My understanding is that he is perhaps telling us that he lacks the moral justification to lead us to the Mundial because that does not form part of the basis for his appointment.

Player commitment to the national cause has once again cropped up in the search for the causes of the defeat with Muntari, Asamoah Gyan and Essien in the limelight.

Muntari and Gyan have never created any doubt in the minds of Ghanaians over their readiness to play for the nation. On the other hand, Essien has on many occasions somehow given most of us the cause to believe he has a diluted commitment to national calls.

This is a player who has for the past years made Ghanaians to have cause to believe that he sometimes feigned injury to avoid matches. Presently answers have not been found to his decision to stay out of the quarter-final game against Nigeria in Mali 2002 when he assigning similar reasons.

Again, some still have doubts over the reasons, which led to his substitution in the second leg game against Uganda in Kumasi during the qualifiers.

What even makes the suspicion high is his absolute silence in the battle for his release for the 2006 Nations Cup, whereas his other African colleagues all over the world made open declarations on whether or not they would play for their respective nations until his injury set in.

With this background, how many would believe that the player's injury was genuine or not. What has even raised the level of suspicion is his recent game against Liverpool in the English league almost a week after the exit of Ghana.

The ball is now in the court of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to unravel the mystery.

All that Ghanaians demand from our Stars is total commitment to national cause as exhibited by their colleagues of other sister African countries at the Nations Cup.

It is a fact that what the nation pays the players does not match up to what they earn from their European employers, however nothing but total commitment to national call is expected from them, after all "There is no place like home".

Once again allegations of player, management and business conflicts have come up with the head coach as the first accused. This is not the first time such allegations are being made and just as the FA set up the machinery to investigate the match-fixing allegation, the same must be done to the fresh allegations. The sporting media, cannot be left out of this disaster as the media seemed to have relaxed a bit over their watch dog role prior to the preparations towards the competition.

Perhaps, the media was also overwhelmed by the World Cup feat and failed to subject player invitation to thorough scrutiny. The same could be said of the GFA, which also took a relaxed approach but as a whole establishment they rather concentrated on the battle for positions in the newly created Executive Committee to the detriment of the team.

Even the General Secretary who was to be in the helm of affairs was also busy on the elections, though he was not part of the process. It is obvious that some basic lessons have been learnt by all and that similar mistakes will not occur in the run up to the World Cup. 'God Bless Our Homeland Ghana' as we try to put our house in order.