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Sports Features of Sunday, 29 August 2010

Source: Elijah Agyapong

Essien is on hiatus from Black Stars: who’s to blame?

I have been following with alacrity news on Ghanaian footballers but most often than not I get disconcerted by some gratuitous comments passed by folks who consider themselves not only experts on the rules of the game but also unofficial ‘advisors’ to most, if not all, Ghanaian international footballers.
I will spare these detractors any prejudices about this piece by stating emphatically that I am not a football mogul, neither am I adept in the game. In fact, the last time I played football was in high school but my background does not preclude me from passing an educated comment on football or any other sports. I give credit to Nathan Gadugah for his article, “Must we demand patriotism only from our footballers”, posted on my joy online on Friday, August 27, 2010. At least, I found someone among the lot who is neither biased nor acerbic in his remarks. For the sake of that article, I will be succinct with this one so that readers will not be bored.
Without any allusions, I think Ghanaian critics should be quite solicitous when lambasting our dear footballers who have sacrificed dearly, and are still going to sacrifice in years to come, for our beloved country. What critics fail to recognize, however, is the fact that incessant derogatory remarks and unconstructive comments do not only kill the spirit of their prey but could also send them ‘aloof’. I will cite two cases to buttress this point.
During the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana, Asamoah Gyan nearly left camp after receiving countless insults for missing so many shots at goal and for not playing to the ‘expectations’ of unofficial Ghanaian ‘coaches’ most of whom only watched matches on their TV screens. We were thankful to the ex-president, Kuffour, and other insightful officials who encouraged the boys to fight forward and keep the team spirit. Although I missed a few, I was at the stadium for most of Ghana’s matches and saw how our players gave their all to lift the name of Ghana high. It was rather unfortunate we lost painfully to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, denying us a place in the finals.
Sadly, Essien’s recently declared his intention to take a short break from his international career yet giving ‘restless’ critics another meat to feed on. I am not in a position to discuss whether his decision is good or bad; but who am I to decide what is best for Essien. I am only a concerned citizen appalled by pointless and unhealthy criticisms leveled at some Ghanaian footballers and believe many share the same sentiments. If people so cherish him that much to be startled by his absence from the national team, why do they keep driving him away by their insults. Anyway, Essien has received enough attacks to warrant a break, so that he could recuperate from the shocks of his critics and decide for himself how best to give ‘enough’ sacrifices for his country, so to speak.
Readers should not miss-read me. I am not saying people should not criticize. I mean people should be circumspective with their criticisms. It is natural to acclaim victories and decry defeats but if we are always unappreciative for the services of our footballers, we will have ourselves to blame when they are forced to retire from active duty in the national team either for a brief period or indefinitely.
I only hope that Essien will reconsider his decision.

Credit: Elijah Agyapong
Alexandria, Virginia, USA