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Sports Features of Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Source: Obour, Samuel K.

Rejoinder: Rajavac Named Among World’s Best Coaches.

Sellas is a world class coach because he won the U20 World Cup! The first in all of Africa!! Milo won silver, not gold. Shehata won gold. Milo has been awarded a top 11 world coach. Everyone agrees Milo messed up the substitutions in Angola....and at that level it’s inexcusable. Milo hasn't explained why he brought Addo in when we were looking for a goal with Adiyiah and Randsford Osei warming the bench. Why doesn't GFA appoint both Sellas and Milo co-Coaches? Milo can do the discipline and Sellas can do the substitutions. This way, all will be happy and we can all focus on winning the world cup.-Mark Adjetey.’’

I was vaguely surprised when I read on Ghanaweb and a couple of other websites that our own Milovan Rajavac has been named among the best coaches in the world. I read through the comments that followed the story and I wasn’t surprised to read the following comments from certain Black Stars fans:

‘’Where is Samuel K. Obour? The so called "professional writer I know it all coach"...The one who spends hours writing bullshit calling for the coach’s head.....I live in Germany and I have seen and read how professional coaches admire our Milo....I mean people who know what coaching is about.....But we Ghanaians, like I always say, want to see our boys playing "AGRO"...running senselessly up and down the field. Long live Ghana eleven best coaches in the world by ESPN.’’-Ronny

‘’Ronny, I bet Samuel K. Obour has gone hiding. International soccer has grown beyond the "Agro" game Ghanaians are used to and people like Obour should study the beautiful game more intensely. Rajevac may not be flamboyant but the Serb surely knows how to win games and that is what matters.’’-Ben Owusu-Sekyere

‘’Samuel Obour, you need to read the above news and stop your "sansa articles". Se wa'fere?’’-Sly

The preceding were comments from certain individuals who felt the confidence and trust they had in Milo had been vindicated with news that he had been named among the best coaches in the world. More importantly, they felt this writer has been put to shame, having called for Milo’s sack in the articles ‘Sack Milovan Rajavac, Probe G.F.A’ Part one and two. False Alarm With the help of a friend, I researched a little on the issue and realised rather agonizingly that contrary to what Ghanaweb and they other pro-Ghana websites would have us believe, Milo hasn’t been named among the best coaches in the world anywhere. Instead, he was named in an ESPN article written by Robin Hackett, as one of the eleven best coaches who will be going to the World Cup in South-Africa. It’s amazing how people are talking about Milo as "among the best in the world". But that is not an accurate depiction of the ESPN article by Robin Hackett. This author was merely expressing an opinion, listing his pick of the top 11 coaches coming to South-Africa 2010. He never said he had compared all coaches worldwide and that this was the best 11 worldwide as the Ghanaweb interpretation alludes. This means that he didn't consider a Sellas or a Shehata because neither is coming to South-Africa 2010. Also, were Ghana to fire Milo tomorrow he would automatically fall off the author's top 11 coming to South-Africa 2010.

Some readers, with the help of the misleading Ghanaweb article, have ignored the fact that this was one man's opinion by a person who probably knows less about Ghana soccer than majority of us. We ought to drive home hard the fact that this isn’t a committee award or a FIFA award. It is the expression of one man’s personal opinion.

The Milo vis-à-vis the Black Stars. Milo has done relatively well by qualifying Ghana to the final of the Nations Cup in Angola. Prior to even taking over as Ghana coach, he had won the Serbia coach of the year award. He had also done relatively well with some clubs in Serbia. His main strength is his ability to ensure discipline; and we are all witnesses to the fact that indiscipline in the Black Stars has reduced drastically since Milo took over as coach. A player like Muntari who hitherto had been uncontrollable has been brought down to earth. Also, the Black Stars now defend better than they used to sometime back. The preceding observations notwithstanding, it ought to be acknowledged that Milo is neither good enough to be named among the best coaches in the world, nor is he good enough to be named among the eleven best coaches going into the World Cup. That’s the stark reality. We are insiders and we know Milo more than outsiders, including the international press. This writer has watched Milo take charge of the Black Stars in as many as twenty games and can confidently affirm that not only does he lack the ability to come up with different strategies for different matches, he also lacks the ability to critically analyse matches, vary his tactics and make relevant substitutions. Needless to say, Milo’s pattern of play is one-way, as proven at the recently concluded Angola 2010. Match after match, Milo picks his first eleven and instructs them to try and get an early goal. And as soon as the team scores, the players are instructed to defend for the rest of the game. So if the Black Stars score a goal in the 2nd minute of the game for instance, the team has to defend for the remaining 88 minutes of the game. Against Nigeria, for instance where Ghana scored in the 26th minute of the game, the team defended desperately for the remaining 64 minutes of the game, this does not include added time! Milo’s defensive style of play is not similar to the typical Italian pattern where resolute defending is combined with mid-field efficiency and, endless bursts on the counter-attack. Milo’s pattern is different. It’s a pattern that FIFA’s Stepp Blatter will describe as ‘anti-football.’

Milo’s pattern of play, though unattractive, is not the problem, as long as it helps him win matches. The problem is Milo’s inability to vary his tactics when his original pattern or his Plan A fails to go according to plan. In essence, Milo doesn’t have a plan B. In Angola, Milo’s plan worked against Burkina-Faso, Angola, and Nigeria; we got early goals in all of those matches and defended well throughout. Against Egypt, Milo’s tactics failed to work. But Milo continued playing for 85 minutes without any form of variation whatsoever. Indeed, Egypt’s coach Shehata also saw his tactics failing to work; however unlike Milo, he varied his tactics and brought on two extra attackers to invigorate Egypt’s attack. In the end Shehata’s Plan B worked perfectly, as one of the two attackers he brought on scored the only goal that nailed Ghana’s coffin.

I am especially sad that Milo perpetually substitutes strikers with defenders when the Black Stars desperately needs to get a goal. In the final of the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) where Ghana played against Dr Congo, Milo failed to vary his tactics until Dr Congo scored two goals. When he realized that substitutions had become inevitable, he brought on Habib Mohammed, a defender who had no record of goal-scoring, to try and equalize. During the Nations Cup/world Cup qualifiers, also, Milo more than twice brought on Isaac Vorsah in certain difficult matches to try and get a goal even when he knew Vorsah was a defender and not an attacker. In the Black Stars’ first match against Cote d’Ivoire Milo brought on Harrison Afful a defender when Ghana needed to get goals. Most recently against Egypt, Ghanaians vividly and painfully remember that Milo replaced Opoku Agyemang, an attacker with Eric Addo, a defender who has never scored a goal for the Black Stars. And this was at a time that the Black Stars desperately needed to get a goal and cancel out Egypt’s lead. This especially was a substitution that defied logic and reasoning and could go down in history as the worst substitution of the game. We ought to be keenly interested in why Milo prefers replacing attackers with defenders even when his team desperately needs a goal. What is the rationale behind those decisions? The foregoing clearly shows that though Milo is enjoying some form of international recognition and is being hailed here and there, his performance with the Black Stars has been far from convincing. We ought to analyse Milo’s recent exposure and recognition in the context of the Black Stars. Has he been able to deliver flawlessly with the team? We shouldn’t hasten to rejoice because Milo is being described as good coach by the international media. We should be more concerned about how his exposure and recognition will be beneficial to the Black Stars at South-Africa 2010. On the basis of what happened in Angola 2010, it is clear that Milo needs help on the bench. It is indisputable that a Football Association with vision would have sacked Milo immediately after the Egypt game, where he was totally outclassed by Shehata. Even children know that we lost that match from the bench. This is a coach that has been challenged by Players like Michael Essien in the past with regards to his selection of players and his tactics. Indeed, the captain of the Black Stars in Angola 2010, Richard Kingson, openly challenged Milo on his decision to replace Asamoah Gyan with five minutes to go against Egypt. These are incontrovertible indications that even some Black Stars players lack confidence in Milo.

Preparing for South-Africa 2010. We are going to the world cup in a few months time. The world cup is indisputably the greatest theatre of the game; that is where we see the best players, the best coaches, the best referees and so on. Now, if we don’t acknowledge that Milo has deficiencies or flaws, so that requisite support is provided for him, we may fail to qualify from the group stage. It will be a great mistake to judge Milo based on what outsiders-international media, foreigners- are saying about him. We do so at our own peril. Needless to say, outsiders don’t know the entire story; they know just a bit of the story. We should rather judge Milo on the basis of what Ghanaians are saying. Let’s judge Milo on the basis of what the Essiens and Richard Kingsons of this world are saying. They are the insiders and they know the full story. I am sad that Milo is being praised internationally. This is because the recognition and hype he is enjoying is inconsistent with the level of his performance with the Black Stars. Because, while majority of Ghanaian are describing Milo as incompetent, the international media is describing him as a good coach, while the mediocre performing officials of the G.F.A also refer to his as ‘master tactician’, according to a Graphic Sports report. God save Ghana! One thing we should understand from all the hype that has recently come to surround Milo’s is that he has nothing to lose no matter what happens during his time as head coach of the Black Stars. At worst, the Black Stars will put up a mediocre performance and that is all Milo needs to better his curriculum Vitae. Milo will be satisfied to qualify Ghana to the second round of the world Cup, because his CV will have been greatly enhanced. If we fail to perform in South-Africa, Milo will emplane to Serbia; officials of the G.F.A and players of the Black Stars will be consoled by the fact that the received winning bonuses and per diems amounting to thousands of dollars. But we the fans home and abroad, whose taxes are used to pay the players and the officials, will be left to rue the pain of the team’s failure. That is why together we must ensure that the right things are done this time around.

South-Africa 2010 is an African World Cup and there is no doubt that Ghana can win it. If the Black Satellites could win the U-20 world Cup in such a dramatic fashion, what prevents the Black Stars from winning the world Cup in South-Africa? There is no doubt that the Black Stars can defy the odds to win the world Cup if we possess a good technical bench that can invite the best players, analyse matches and make reasonable substitutions when there is the need to do so. A technical team that substitutes strikers with defenders when there is urgent need to get a goal cannot help Ghana! A technical team that wouldn’t make substitutions until their team concedes a late goal will not help Ghana! Like Mark Adjetey of the Local Coach Movement rightly said above, we need to get a local coach, preferably Sellas Tetteh to assist Milo on the bench. Contrary to what the F.A would have us believe, our local coaches are capable of achieving with the Black Stars. When I say achieving, I mean winning trophies, like Sellas Tetteh did recently. The Sellas Tettehs, the Jones Atteoquofios and the Sam Ardays of this world have proven themselves capable, at one time or the other. They proved themselves by winning trophies. Sellas Tetteh for instance defied world opinion to become the first black man to lift the U-20 world cup. Moreover, most of the trophies Ghana boasts of in football were won by local coaches. It’s imperative that one of the aforementioned Ghanaian coaches is, as a matter of priority and urgency, contracted to assist Milo and thereby reinforce the technical team of the Black Stars. These are coaches who know the Black Stars players even better than Milo. Some of them even coached some current players of the Black Stars at junior levels.

There is no denying the fact that we need Milo’s discipline off the pitch and on the pitch; much more importantly, however, we need a coach who would critically analyse matches, vary his tactics and come up with substitutions that will make Ghanaians happy and not substitutions that will give Ghanaians heart attack. Samuel K.Obour (facebook) samuelkwason@aol.com

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