Soccer News of Monday, 24 February 2003
"Send my regards to all Ghanaians, especially those who have a problem with me because it is they who have kept me on my feet. I can only hope that all of us would benefit immensely from this".
That was how new Black Stars coach signed off an interview he granted me from his Bonn base in Germany after getting the return to the national team that he has so desperately sought. Bukhard is back as Black Stars coach and he is thrilled by it. After facing the GFA interview panel he declared confidently that he had done enough to convince the panel he was the best man for the job.
That turned out to be true but what officialdom termed his stubborn nature, while here twelve years ago, nearly thwarted the return: In the end, it needed a strong FA chairman, and most crucially, the Ministry of Youth and Sports to reverse the situation and save the country's football officials more public criticisms.
Bukhard followed the developments. He spent days on the internet and as he learnt of the twists and turns of the drama, he, I could imagine, prayed that the intervention came. He has hidden his desire to come to Ghana.
On how he feels on his second coming, the German says: "I am satisfied for various reasons. First of all I wanted to get the job. I have the job and I am very happy with the support Ghanaians have shown me in all this. They believe I can do the job and I believe I can do it."
Top on his priority, according to Bukhard, is qualification for the 2004 African Nations Cup in Tunisia. Ghana's next game in that competition is at home against Uganda. Then, most importantly, for the German, is qualification to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
"That is where Bukhard wants to take Ghana even though there are a number of football officials who would have wished he never got his second chance. Bukhard's decision to take Ghana to the Federation of International Football's arbitration committee after he was sacked in 1991 meant for most officials that the German was unfit to come back here as coach.
It was and is still being asked: How can you employ someone who has taken you to court? But 12 years down the line, the German believes he did nothing wrong in dragging the football power men before the international body.
"I signed a contract with the FA that said that any party that felt dissatisfied could seek redress at Fifa's arbitration committee. I only took advantage of that after I was unfairly treated. How can anyone say I have taken the GFA to court?"
The German is in no doubt he deserves his second chance. "You remember after the interview when we chatted I told you if anyone better got the job other than me, then good luck to Ghana. From everything I read that wasn't the case. I am happy that the FA management board stood their grounds and that they have opted to give me a fair chance".
Fairness is a principle that Bukhard who previously coached the Zambia national team intends to apply religiously in his team selection. He plans on seeing as many games in the LG Top 4 competition when he touches down in Ghana on Thursday to start work by March 1 as he can.
Despite revealing he has sent an initial list of 63 players to the FA in search of more information, Bukhard refuses to discuss his plans in detail until he does that first with the football association.
But reading in between the lines, it is clear the German's second coming could trigger at least the return of another controversial figure to the Black Stars.
Bayern Munich's Samuel Osei Kuffour has not played for Ghana since he was sacked from the nation's cup in 2002 but Bukhard has spoken to him at length and the player is keen on returning.
On whether he would push for the return of the Bayern Munich player, Bukhard says "I don't want to discuss players for now but if we want to go to the World Cup, then we all must give away our selfishness and be prepared to forget the past.
Obviously if I am in charge as happened in 1991, I would want to start afresh with everyone on board". In another development Frank Muzzu reports that the Minority in Parliament has associated itself with President Kufuor's anguish over the abysmal performance of the Sports Ministry and the downturn in the nation's sporting fortunes.
Mr. Alban Bagbin, the out-spoken minority leader, who confided in Chronicle that he has no presidential ambitions, said the result of the inefficiency of the leadership of that ministry had affected "even football, the national passion for which Ghana has scored some significant successes in the past has taken a steep nosedive."
This steep deterioration in sports in the past two years had led to an outcry by some sections of the public for the scrapping of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, with the Football Association (FA) chairman calling for the suspension of all international competitions by Ghana football, he said.
What is even surprising, according to the leader, is the general lack of consideration and the rather numerous changes of ministers that have characterized the ministry during the last two years resulting in erratic planning and organisation.
Making an in-depth analysis of the situation, Mr. Bagbin said Mallam Isa, the first NPP Minister for Sports, was removed for his involvement in the $46,000 scandal and was replaced by Papa Owusu Ankomah, the same year while the present minister, Edward Osei Kwaku, also replaced him just after a few months.
According to the leader, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nadowli, the most amazing part of the issue is the ineffective presence of Mr. Joe Aggrey, the prolific sports writer and long-standing president of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana, and a fierce critic of all former sports administrators.
Hear him: "He must be realizing by now the truth in the adage, "talk is cheap" as his presence in the ministry does not appear to have impacted in any positive way on the fortunes of sports in Ghana."
Bagbin regretted that football which is the single most popular and significant sporting activity in the country has fared worse and deteriorated since the NPP administration started two years ago.
Giving a litany of mishaps on the sporting scene, the MP for Nadowli said Ghana was kicked out of the 2002 World Cup in 2001 amidst a bribery scandal involving $25,000, which resulted in FIFA sending a warning and caution letter to the Football Association (FA).
As if that was not enough, Asante Kotoko lost the final in the Cup Winners Cup competition to a Moroccan club right here in Ghana, while the juvenile sides at the national level also performed very badly and to crown it all, both the Satellites and Starlets were kicked out at the preliminary stages of the finals.
The MP blamed the lackluster performance of the Black Stars on the absence of a substantive coach, following the existing rifts between the minister and the FA chairman, which has reduced the ministry into a "rudderless vessel of confusion."
The minority leader noted that the situation in other sporting areas has been much worse and wondered why a contingent of only 25 athletes to the Manchester games were accompanied by 65 officials, adding, "clearly a waste of the nation's resources."
He, however, commended the national women's football team, the Black Queens, for qualifying once again for the Women's World Cup.