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Sports Features of Monday, 21 January 2019

Source: James Mensah

Winning AFCON 2019: Why Kwesi Appiah should recall the 'gang of four'

Ghana’s participation in the World Cup’14 held in Brazil ended on a very sad note. Ghana could not progress beyond the group stage of the competition. Ghanaians were ridiculed where ever they found themselves as a result of the behavior of the players in camp and the embarrassing display of fiscal indiscipline by officialdom.

Various reasons were adduced for the abysmal performance of the Black Stars’ early exit from the competition. Among them was the non-payment of the players’ allowance on time which led to an unfortunate behavior by a star player, Sulley Aliu Muntari, who possibly out of frustration, physically abused one of the team’s managers. Other things followed. The government hurriedly flew some millions of dollars to Brazil ostensibly to pay the players who had then threatened to boycott their game against Portugal.

Three players, Sulley Aliu Muntari, Kevin Prince Boateng and Michael Essien (Bison) were suspended indefinitely for their infractions during the period. A fourth player, Goalkeeper Adambathia Larsen Kwaresey, chose not to play for the Black Stars again.

He was emotionally hurt, when as a first-choice goalkeeper in the Norwegian League, he was benched and his place taken by a third-choice goalkeeper in a South African League in World Cup matches against both Germany and Portugal.

Since that time a number of developments have taken place. Black Stars’ coach, Kwasi Appiah, was subsequently relieved of his post and replaced by Avram Grant (2014-2017).

The ruling party at the time, National Democratic Congress (NDC) lost power in 2016. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) was dissolved and its president, Kwasi Nyantakyi, lost his positions in both FIFA and CAF. Ghana could not qualify for Russia’18 and exited AFCON’17 at the semi-final stage. Avram Grant lost his position as the coach of the Black Stars.

A new phase of Ghana football is being written. Kwasi Appiah has been recalled to take charge of the Black Stars. Ghana technically qualified for AFCON 2019 before the last match left to be played at the Baba Yara Stadium in March 2019 against Kenya.

For such matches, coaches usually call “other players” to justify their inclusion for the impending competition, in this case AFCON 2019 to be held in Egypt.

It is on the issue of “Other Players” and Ghana’s desire to win the competition that coach Kwasi Appiah was being called upon to end the indefinite suspension and recall the three experienced players, Sulley Aliu Muntari, Kevin Prince Boateng, Michael Essien and Goalkeeper Adambathia Larsen Kwaresey back into the Black Stars. Too much of everything is bad.

For a start readers are referred to an article: https://ghanasoccernet.com/black-stars-coach-kwesi-appiah-needs-cultural-sensitivity-education, written in 2014 in the heat of the world Cup’14 debacle. Kwasi Appiah was expected to evaluate his relationship with his players as a coach for the Black Stars.

If Kwasi Appiah reflected passionately on the behavior of Kevin Boateng in particular, he would find out that the guy’s statement was not meant to hurt him in anyway based on his background as someone brought up in the German tradition.

Again, one of the conditions for the recall of the players was for them to render unqualified apology to the coach and the nation. Incidentally, Sulley Aliu Muntari had not been recalled to rejoin the Black Stars even though he had since apologized as expected.

Probably if he was called back after his apology the rest would follow. Kwaresey was recalled for a friendly match but when Ghana lost by a lone goal to Russia, he had not been re-invited.

A lot of water had passed under the bridge since the 2014 incident. Kwasi Appiah had been given a second chance to redeem himself as Black Stars’ coach.

What would prevent him from giving same chance to those he suffered similar fate with? If he continued to hold on to the events of that period, he would not be fair to himself.

One observed with keen interest the desperation and the need for the Black Stars to win their last match against Ethiopia and the extent to which Kwasi Appiah went to fill the team with seasoned players.

He realized that a lost in that match meant his days with the Black stars were over. A loss in the game meant Ghana would possibly not qualify for AFCON’19, one of the conditions for his continuous stay with the team.

Has somebody examined why some foreign-born Ghanaians recently decided against playing for Ghana?

Among other things their parents might have compared the treatment meted out to both Kwaresey and Kevin Boateng and had decided to let them play for their adopted countries.

Both Gerald Asamoah and Jerome Boateng opted to play for Germany and they all had the chance to play in the World Cup finals in 2002 and 2014 respectively.

Marcel Desailly(bornOdenke Abbey) also played for France in World Cup ’98.

This is the dream of every professional soccer player. Kevin Boateng on the hand chose Ghana and he had been prematurely retired from international engagements on grounds that he could not differentiate between what is considered the right behavior in Germany and an affront to a Ghanaian elder, even though he had not been taught so by anybody.

Adam Kwaresey was openly discriminated against, if not humiliated, by the Black Stars’ coach for no apparent reason other than the fact that he could not speak his language.

This negative impression would change if they were recalled to join the Black Stars.

Ghana has been struggling since 1982 to win the African Cup. The Black Stars lost the finals against Egypt (2010) and on two occasions against Ivory Coast (1992 and 2015).

Goalkeeper Adambathia Larsen Kwareseyis still doing well with Vålerenga Fotballin the Norwegian top-tier while Kevin Boateng is scoring goals for Eintracht Frankfurt.

Muntari has openly apologized for his infractions while Essien would jump on the offer in a second.

These are very seasoned and well-conditioned athletes who any nation in our present predicament would love to call to her national team.

They would provide Ghana with the depth needed to scare the hell out of any African team. Boateng and Muntari would score the goals needed, while the “Bison” controlled the midfield, Kwaresey would “lock” the goalposts.

AFCON’19 is a do or die for Black Stars’ coach, Kwasi Appiah. It would determine his continued stay in the helm of affairs for the national team. His mandate is to win AFCON 2019.

A good tactician in this position would consider “shock and awe” as one of his strategies.

It would be appropriate for him to use overwhelming power to put fear in his opponents to win the trophy in the end.

Ghana stands the chance to win AFCON’19. The only stumbling block would be Kwasi Appiah’s unforgiven behavior and his bruised ego. Other than these the “Gang of Four” would be re-called to augment the Black Stars.

On January 18, 2019 the Abudus and the Andanis agreed for the first time in many years on the choice of a Yaa Naa and the Great Dabgon is back.

If coach Kwasi Appiah forgave and re-called the “Gang of Four” back into the Black Stars squad for AFCON’19, the Black Stars would shine again in Africa and the world. A forgiving coach is a winning coach.

LET THE BLACK STARS SHINE AGAIN.