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Sports Features of Thursday, 14 August 2014

Source: Kontoh, Albert

Ghana World Cup of Shame! Part 2

The first part of this article focused primarily on Kwarasey, the goalkeeper, and the unusual circumstances that surrounded his demotion in Brazil to the bench after the first match. There were no discernible tactical reasons nor incompetence on his part to suggest he was not up to the task. Therefore, only the coach probably knows why he relegated him to the bench. The core of this section would be on Kevin Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari.

There are some young football talents in our squad with bright futures. Most of them have spent the greater part of their lives in environments quite dissimilar to that in Ghana. They did not grow up waking up in the mornings to fetch water or wash the cars and polish the shoes belonging to adults in their neighbourhoods. They had their own cars at the age of 18 and a wad of cash in their pockets. They would not bow or kowtow to the views of people because of age difference. One’s wealth and possessions or social status is immaterial to them. It is most unlikely that coaches and their technical staff or superiors would be able to gain their respect through intimidation and fear without some positive resistance. As international footballers, they are celebrities in their own right.

These two young men (Kevin and Sulley), and some of their teammates in the Black Stars, have played for many top clubs. They have as a result benefitted from top-class coaching by some of the renowned football tacticians. Whilst Sulley is susceptible to disciplinary problems on the pitch, Kevin’s record has been reasonably satisfactory, if not exemplary. It is logical to presume from their experience and credentials that they should have the capability to recognise a good coach and be able to distinguish between top-class coaching and what constitutes mediocre instructions. Equally, this experience should be an asset to our front bench.

Kevin has not accepted the allegation that he insulted the coach. He made this unambiguously clear after his eviction from the team hotel. It appears, however, that the pair giggled over an observation and the laughter touched the raw nerve of the coach. From my experience of living outside the country and interacting regularly with the youth, it is so easy to misunderstand and misinterpret as insults, frank statements and actions from the young, especially those who are unfamiliar with Ghanaian culture and etiquettes. None of Kevin’s former coaches has ever accused him of such insolence before and it seems there is insufficient evidence to establish this allegation on a balance of probabilities.

We have read various accounts of Sulley’s altercation with Moses Armah, a tycoon and owner of a football club in Ghana. How did the owner of a local football club find himself in the camp of the Black Stars and playing a technical role? It is incomprehensible for such a person to have an unfettered access to the national team – coach, players and the management structure. This is a miscalculation, and a conflict of interest exists here. I cannot imagine the owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich or Karl Hopfner, the president of FC Bayern Munich, ever having a technical role in the England or German national side respectively. We should have foreseen this as a major clanger and avoided it! This man seems to have friends in high places that could be an advantage for the club he owns.

Sulley is always determined to win. In my view, he is one of the hardworking and most patriotic players in the national squad. His left foot has bailed Ghana out on numerous occasions. Kevin and Sulley have been heroes for the team before and we are forgetfully crucifying them and smearing their reputation with filth. We vilified the pair to the world as if they were career criminals who got into our camp by some nefarious means. Majority of our foreign-based players made disparaging comments about the size and make-up of the technical bench and the non-essential staff, amongst which was Mr Moses Armah. Perhaps this was the root cause of our woes and subsequent shame. The technical bench and the coach behaved like a man with a hammer who sees everything as a nail.

I am not a psychologist but my mind tells me that the players were worried about the personalities with no definitive role, who were trying relentlessly to feed off their backs without having worked for it. Sulley probably sacrificed himself for the rest of the team due to his instinctive determination to win. A lot of pent up pressure comprising anger and frustration needed venting and to-date none of his teammates has found any reason to condemn his scuffle with Mr Armah.

Just imagine that there were 23 players in our camp, and the NDC government airlifted three million dollars to Brazil. We know each player received hundred thousand dollars. Which group of people received the remaining seven hundred thousand dollars? Presuming that the non-essential “technical entourage” shared it as a per diem allowance would not be far from wrong. It is theoretically reasonable to hypothesise that the non-technical group, who received this amount, contributed in part to the agitation in the player’s camp. I would go a step further and suggest that “some veranda boys” with particular political orientation in GFA skin, predominantly formed this group and their sole objective was to enrich themselves at the expense of the Ghanaian taxpayers.

The GFA ought to publish the names of the people who accompanied the Black Stars to Brazil, either as part of the technical bench or as supporters on taxpayers’ sponsorship. It would not take the brains of a rocket scientist or top forensic expert to decipher the political orientation of the selected few who went to Brazil. Setting up a committee to investigate the Brazil fiasco is a bold initiative and deserves commendation. However, is it not going to be yet another NDC machinery that would end up rubberstamping the existing GFA procedures and wasting another round of public funds? I believe it would be nothing but a smokescreen to pull the wool over the eyes of Ghanaians.

Mr Armah should have seized the occasion and made his experience count but he went in with a sledgehammer tactics and proclaimed he was “more of a gangster than Sulley and wasn’t going to be one of Sulley’s victims”. By this statement, he made a great foofaraw about the situation, dropped his guard too low and failed at the first hurdle in whatever mission he went to perform. He was clearly not a peacemaker and should not have been in Brazil on Ghana’s ticket. We learnt that Sulley’s punch was even a feeble one. It did not connect accurately to the target. I personally hate to advocate violence but in a situation like this, one has to do it properly for it work!

The commonwealth games ended in Scotland on a sad reality that Ghanaians cannot run, jump or swim. We accept our weakness in athletics with no qualms but we had a perfect platform and opportunity to achieve glory in Brazil. Sadly, incompetent GFA officials and their technical comedians, acting in concert with their NDC counterparts, scuppered our chance to fame.

Albert Kontoh, UK

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