Sports Features of Monday, 11 February 2013

Source: Abagna Jose Nelson

Oh my Black Stars, when again?

Over the weekend, the senior national team, Black Stars failed in the attempt to win the CAF Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in over three decades. And this has prompted the question: ‘So when again will Ghanaians lay their hands on the most coveted Africa tournament trophy, the nations cup? And this article.

The 31 year wait for another trophy was dashed when the Stars lost the semi final match against the Stallions of Burkina Faso at the Mbombela Stadium on February 06/02/13 in South Africa. However this is now something of a worry to most lovers of the national team.

The last time the Black Stars won the Nations’ Cup trophy, I was not even born and that is some 31 years ago in Libya which the current team coach James Akwasi Appiah was a squad member of the team.

The Black Stars after that triumph had come close to winning it on two occasions, in Senegal’92 where the team lost the final to Ivory Coast after a record marathon penalty lottery.

With great players like Anthony Yeboah, Tony Baffoe, Abedi Pele, Edward Ansah, Samuel Opoku Nti among others who were coached by German Otto Pfister in the 1992 championship, most Ghanaians were very optimism of the team coming back from Senegal where the tournament was hosted with the ultimate trophy, but that never happened as the team lost in the final to Ivory Coast on one of the longest penalty shootout the tournament had ever witnessed’ in its history, where all the 22 players on the field of play took part in the shootout. Ivory Coast eventually won 11-10 against Ghana after the game ended goalless. And also at Angola 2010, a relatively young side made it to the final only to lose by a solitary goal to the defending champions, Egypt. The team had also made it to the last four of the championship on five times, in 1996, 2008, 2010, 2012 and the just ended edition in South Africa where the team placed 4th after losing the 3rd place game against Mali last Saturday by 3 goals to 1.

In 2008, Ghana staged the championship with one sole aim of host and win. But the team’s hopes were dashed in the semi final by Cameroon at the Accra Sports stadium. When Ghana lost the match by a lone goal, the team went further in 2010 in Angola with the popular ‘One Goal Project’ under Serbian Coach Milovan Rajevac, when it got to the final with a very young team which included ten debutants. Just like the current team that played at the just ended championship in South Africa. The Stars lost the final to a more experienced side who were by then the defending champions, Egypt by a lone goal.

However the team which were tipped by sports pundits including BBC as one of the hot favourites to win the championship in the absence of some heavy names in the 2012 edition in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, including the defending champions Egypt, rather came short of even equalling what the 2010 team did in reaching the final when they were bundle out in the tournament by eventual winners Zambia at the semi final stage, which also saw the ended of the regime of Serbian trainer Goran ‘Plavi’ Stevanovic when he failed to win the trophy for us.

The 2013 edition of the championship was no different as Ghanaian as usual were much expectant of their team bringing home the ultimate trophy, with the notion that the previous four trophies were won under local coaches and for that matter with our own James Akwasi Appiah who also have been a former player of the side will help bring out the best in the team to enable it win the cup.

But it turned out to be the worst outing by the Black Stars in recent times even though the team finished in the fourth position just like the last one in 2012. For me Ghana even got to that stage due to ‘lady luck’ even though others will argue that luck is part of the game but to the extent where a team solely relied on it in all its matches is something of a worry.

Immediately our hopes were dashed in the semi final stage by our neighbor to the north, Burkina Faso when they defeated Ghana on penalties to advance to their first ever nations cup final, the debate as to whether Coach Kwasi Appiah should stay or get the sack by the football governing body started and I know very well that the FA will come out defending Appiah. Mind you, if they don’t do that then it will countermine to hypocrisy by the FA because, at the first time, I find it very difficult to understand how any individual or professional body that really knows and understand Association Football, appoint a Head Coach with very limited coaching qualifications and equally relatively limited experience, then go on publicly to place a very arduous target on that coach by declaring that he must win the African Cup of Nations at his first attempt.

To say that Coach Akwasi Appiah made mistakes throughout this tournament is an understatement. However, the truth is that from the selection of the 23 man squad to the ability to read the game during friendly and subsequent tournament matches has always been the issues with most of our local coaches. For me looking at the impending 2014 World Cup qualifiers on the horizon and moreover some kind of continuity is needed in our team after all Rome was not built in a day, and Coaches like Hassan Shehata formally of Egypt, coached the Egyptian national team from 2004 to 2011, led them to three successive titles at the African Cup of Nations, in the years 2006, 2008and 2010, to become the first African nation to achieve this streak. Why can’t we do same with Appiah?

Even though I know most Ghanaian will not agree with me on this, that Kwasi Appiah should be maintained. For me the problem of the Ghana Black Stars is not who is the coach. There are other key and important factors that continue to be overlooked. For example how our players are selected into the national team, we keep changing our team for every tournament so there is no consistency from the team making it very difficult for team cohesion. However, until we start to build our team on that level, we will always get these results for ourselves. Another issue has to do with those who make up the technical team with the head coach as to whether they perform their roles to satisfaction. Not forgetting the rumour that some players use ‘juju’ on each other to slow each other’s performances. One other point I will want the government and the GFA to consider is to also revise the winning bonuses of the players. At this AFCON tournament, 12.5 thousand dollars was awarded to each player which I think was too much. Sometimes the players themselves do know very well that they will be smiling when going to the bank to harvest Ghanaian taxpayers’ money after such shambolic performance. However based on all this factors I think Coach Appiah should not be the sacrificial lamb led to the slaughter; after all the expatriate coaches have not been able to win us the Nations Cup.

I think we should rather be looking forward to the 2015 Nations’ Cup in Morocco and most importantly win our three matches in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. I personally think players like Derek Boateng and John Paintsil have played their last tournament and probably should be phased out for the team to be rather built around the returning Ayews brothers, Wakaso Mubarak, Rabiu Mohammed and Christian Atsu. With this, I’m quite confident that in the 2015 Nations’ Cup in Morocco, the Black Stars will win their 5th Africa trophy.

Let me end my piece on this note that if we don’t work on always taking the best players to the tournament and impose trust in our coaches, and also our local based players just like Stephen Keshi did with Nigeria when he took 6 local players to South Africa and we all saw the end results.

Whilst football fans must also accept the three deeds of football, that is Win, Draw or Lose, these are the results we will continue to churn out for ourselves when it comes to the Africa Nations’ Cup. Let’s start our homework right now till the 2015 edition in Morocco and put in place structures that will enable us end our Nations’ Cup trophy drought.


Credit: Abagna Jose Nelson, Gbc Ura Radio Sports, Bolgatanga