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Sports Features of Monday, 21 April 2014

Source: Owusu-Barnes, Carl

World cup 2014 (Brazil) – issues worthy of note

Once again the Black Stars of Ghana have made us all proud by qualifying for the World Cup (WC) for the third consecutive time, and first under the stewardship of the even keeled Akwasi Appiah. To say Ghanaians are elated to have the opportunity to showcase our soccer artistry once again on the international stage is a gross understatement. I have been observing closely from the sidelines in the hope and anticipation that the ghosts of our predicaments will be exorcised to ensure that we not only perform creditably but put ourselves in an enviable position to cause a ‘soccer tsunami’ by being the first African country to advance past the quarter-final stage and ultimately win the trophy. However, like the sages say ‘you cannot prevent people from themselves’, and thereby worried to my bosom that the ostrich headed ways of thinking and doing things are permeating every facet of our preparation towards the global showpiece faster than the speed of light, and thus cannot sit insouciant as we meander our way once again into the abyss of failure.
There are miscellanies of issues to discuss but will focus on just a few that do not bode well for unflinching support and success. Without sounding brush why can’t our leaders and officials for once create an atmosphere of unbridled and overwhelming moral support for our teams devoid of accusations embedded in abject lack of transparency and integrity? How could taxpayers’ money in support of a soccer team be a “State Secret” per GFA’s Communications Director Saani Diarra? Why is the Ministry of Youth and Sports conniving and colluding with the GFA to perpetrate such ‘heinous’ crimes on the people? Why can’t we ever have a scandal-free tournament even, if they’re mere allegations, by being forthright with the people and laying things bare for everyone to see? Are there no Select Committee Members on Sports in Parliament to come to the aid of the mass voices ‘crying in the wilderness’ by resisting any clandestine attempts to shroud this issue in secrecy? I’ve been on record in the past shedding light on similar issues during the tenure of then Youth and Sports Minister Akua Sena Dansua in regards to WC 2010 in South Africa. Enters Elvis Afriyie Ankrah and voila we have the wheels of the circus in full motion once again. Sometimes I’m tempted to say the lyrical aptness of the song which when literally translated states ‘the more you cry the more invigorated I become to exacerbate your pain” is very epitomic of football administration in Ghana. I know a whole lot of people who have thereby become blasé in their support of all things Black Stars because they view any advancements or achievements as fertile grounds for underserving people to reap where they haven’t sown. We are pleading with the GFA, Ministry and Minister for Youth and Sports, and Sports Committee Members in Parliament to heed the clarion call of the people for transparency and accountability to be a watchword.
I’ve been reading in bewilderment on social media and listening to analysts and sports commentators on radio the psychological frailty with which this tournament is going to be confronted. Immediately the WC drawings came out the ‘woe is me’ mentality of the Ghanaian was activated, placed in overdrive and people started pity partying with ‘we’re in the Group of Death’ sentiments. Next the soccer ‘lotto doctors’ went to work with the following permutations – Ghana will beat the US, draw against Portugal and ‘force’ a draw against Germany (notice the difference between drawing against Portugal and that of Germany?)….Germany will beat Portugal and US and draw against Ghana…..Portugal will lose to Germany and draw against Ghana and US…….and the US will lose to Ghana and Germany and draw against Portugal….meaning Germany will have 7 points, Ghana 5, Portugal 2 and USA 1. So the question then is: what is the correlation between the thinking of the fans and the psyche of the players? It’s only the naïve and uninitiated who would think otherwise. I can say unequivocally that the players, coaches and administrators have all heard these and psychologically the same thought pattern is rearing its ugly head, and needs to be stemmed before the disappointing happens. This is a defeatist mentality and a recipe for failure. To this end the team psychologist and technical team will have to disabuse the boys’ minds of any such thoughts and ensure that there’s no pendulum swing in emotions as regards the matches. The hallmark of any good coach isn’t just the ability to master the X’s and O’s but more importantly the ability to effectively manage the intangibles –how to positively channel adrenalin, how to get players to buy into your system, concept, vision etc. There cannot be any drop off in mental and psychological fortitude. There must be a ‘Can Do’ spirit instilled in the boys to confront every game with the mental focus and alertness needed without any respect for ‘higher soccer powers’ or complacency against perceived ‘weaker foes’. The Black Stars should take each game one at a time, not get ahead of themselves and at no point in time whatsoever should the focus, drive, commitment to excellence and attention to detail oscillate between games.
Last but not the least, the technical team headed by Coach Akwasi Appiah will have to go above and beyond themselves to map out effective strategies to neutralize the strengths of their opponents and capitalize on their inefficiencies. Yes a ball ricocheting off an opponent for an own goal, mistimed kick etc. are some of the fortunes we can all hope and pray for but under no circumstances can “LUCK” be a substitute for effective “STRATEGIZING”. Sorry to say this but the performances of Akwasi Appiah and Stephen Keshi of Nigeria are going to affirm their statuses as ‘also belongs’ and make a case for other local coaches across the continent or forever enslave them to the vindicatory mercies of their doubters.
I wish Ghana Black Stars all the best in Brazil 2014, and let the mantra for the tournament be that of President Barack Obama’s – YES WE CAN!!!!!

Carl Owusu-Barnes
Maryland, USA.

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