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09.02.2006 Sports News

Lessons From Black Stars’ Failed Escapade

By Godwin Yaw Agboka

"They came, they saw - and they went back with their tails firmly between their legs." This is how the BBC's Farazi Mungazi describes the Black Stars' participation and subsequent exit from the 25th African cup of nations in Egypt. Oh, how i wish the statement would be "they came, they saw, they conquered." It is no hidden secret that since the 1992 cup of nations in Senegal (if not after Lybia 1982) Ghana has been perennial underachievers in the nation's cup. Ghanaians had a lot of expectations about this year's group of players even though reports came bitterly, though, that the likes of Michael Essien were not going to feature due to injury. Of course, the tournament came in the wake of the team's unprecedented qualification to the world cup. At least after the Senegal game, in Egypt, even the doubting Thomases, for once, believed the Stars were going to go past the first round. But what went wrong? The game against Zimbabwe was a shame, and the players were a pale shadow of themselves. I thought it was unfathomable how the Zimbabweans were drawing rings around the Ghanaians, outpacing them, and enjoying ball possession. That is not to say that credit must not be given to the Zimbabweans. In the game itself, the Ghanaians were static, frozen-cold, and lacked the fluidity usually associated with a Ghana team that qualifies for tournaments.

In Ghana, football is like a religion and I can't believe how passionate people are and can be about the game. People can go without food the whole day if a team loses an important match in Ghana. But that is history, for me, now. The last time I did such a thing was when Ghana lost to Algeria in a World cup qualifier. It was a terrible experience for me. But I am immune to defeat of the Black Stars now. In as much as I believe our performance in the nation's cup is history there are teething concerns we have to look at. What went wrong and what is the way forward? But why did they produce such stagnant football at a tournament where they were expected to reproduce the form that took them to the World Cup finals? I believe this question is a cliché, now. I am not a member of the school of thought that believes in the perennial change of coaches. Over the past two years, South Africa has changed not less than five (5) coaches and Ghana is no model example. Of course, we know the results of that. Before Barreto it was Bukhard Ziese and I still can't believe the miracle it took for us to qualify for the world cup. Changing coaches on impulse is just not right! But there are issues about Djukovic that cannot go untouched. Before I go into them let me refresh readers' memory about the coach' best quotes since he qualified the team to the world cup or before the nation's cup.

“I was only hired to help Ghana qualify for the world cup and not to win ANC for Ghana. We can play but cannot win the cup”

"We don't have options, so it'll be very difficult to win this trophy because of the three injured players,"

"I feel big pressure on me for this competition: everyone's pressing me to win this competition and I think it's unfair." I'm in trouble because I cannot promise anything to Ghanaians.

In telling Ghanaians and the world that he (the coach) was only hired to qualify the team for the world cup, "Duya" as he is known is telling us that he has completed his job and that there is nothing more. In as much as I think Ghanaians relish (ed) our maiden qualification to the world cup I think no Ghanaian will settle for mediocrity when it comes to other tournaments. What use will it be when a team qualifies for the world cup and fails to justify why it did so? From what I get, the coach was using the Cup of Nations as a dress rehearsal for the world cup. That is not a bad idea but you don't leave negative images at a tournament like the Stars did in Egypt. The performance of the boys against Nigeria was not the best and the coach's defense was that he did not want to concede so many goals? Do you play to win a game or you play to avoid goals? I need someone to explain this philosophy.

Are we saying that if the Stars go to the world cup and Essien, Muntari, and Gyan are shown two yellow cards and therefore have to be suspended for a match the Black Stars will not go past the first round? I don't think Ghanaians will be happy with just an appearance; they would like their national team to perform just as teams like Senegal etc have done. The argument about Essien and his contemporaries is neither here nor there. Nigeria played without most of their key players in the first game and yet got results but our coach was playing to prevent an avalanche of goals.

However, let's look at the coach' other argument. He made a good point about lack of options. Even with Essien and co, we have no options. Someone should consider the bench of Nigeria; there is Mikel Obi, Kanu, Utaka, among many others, so if a first choice player does not feature there is a good replacement. The same cannot be said about the Black Stars. It is Appiah, Appiah, Appiah and that is why he (Appiah) needs to play even when he is on the verge of dying. What a shame! The current set up of the team lacks depth and the earlier the technical bench operates an open-door policy the better. Now, why did an unfit Appiah play in the match against Zimbabwe when Kufuor who was declared fit was on the bench? Why didn't Baba Armando, the only player to have scored in Ghana's friendly and in the match against Zimbabwe not feature in time when it was obvious that Dramani was terribly inefficient and tired? At any rate what has Joe Tex's contribution been so far? Is there a problem between the coach and some players? I think the coach is allowing his personal vendetta to override the national cause. It is good to be principled but when principles become arrogance, there is a problem. Now, let me ask. Is it true that the coaches of the Black Stars are player agents as well? It is a serious allegation and it will spell disaster for the team if it is true. Why are there so many former Liberty Professionals players in the Stars' set up? They are the only good ones, I know.

The world cup is fast approaching and no one can continue playing jackpot with the team. I wish we will stay home instead of going to the mundial to be embarrassed. But here is the good side; the coach has promised to put up a good show and I believe he can do it; he should be given a chance. However, players like Isaac Boakye, Sam Johnson, among other consistent players (not benchwarmers) should be invited to justify their inclusion. The nation cannot be content with mediocrity. We should also invite other former players (Abedi Pele, Mohammed Polo, etc) to come on board and help with their rich experiences. Other nations have done this. I even suggest that in the future the team should be handled by some of these former players; don't talk about experience: Lothar Mathaus, Klinsman, Kalusha, and now, Alan Shearer are examples; they will do that with the passion that it needs. The 25th edition of the African Cup of Nations is over for us; we can forget about that and forgive whoever must have played a part in our early exit but i doubt it if we can forget about any unceremonious and bitter experience at the world cup. We can make it so let's put our house in order.

Long live Ghana! Godwin Yaw Agboka Illinois State University USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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