Sports Features of Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Source: Albert Kontoh

Ghana World Cup of Shame! Part 1

FIFA World Cup 2014 ended successfully in Brazil with Germany deservedly winning the ultimate prize. On the opposite side of the scale and unlike previous campaigns, Ghana flopped miserably. The Black Stars underperformed, languished at the bottom of their group and exited early.

They, however, surprisingly came home with a trophy. It was a befitting trophy, awarded incontrovertibly and adjudged by many as the "World Cup of Shame". The associated “medal of shame” hangs in the necks of the coach and his technical staff, the players, GFA and NDC officials acting in concert with each other. The Black Stars were overhyped. They let down their worldwide fans and dragged African football deep through the mud.

We have to make painful and unpalatable changes to our football – from the technical or coaching side, player selection and general administration to the grass root of football. Unless we implement the necessary changes forthright, the likelihood of healing this gaping wound of shame and redeeming our lost dignity would ever remain shrouded in obscurity. In this article, I will examine some of the ugliest scenes that occurred in Brazil and give an opinion without prejudice from the perspective of a football fan.

Based on form, Adam Larsen Kwarasey was our undisputable number one goalkeeper. He played all season and captained his Strømsgodset side to clinch their first Norwegian League title since 1970. Many football writers praised his outstanding contribution in helping his club to the rostrum after all their efforts proved futile over a period of 44 years. Moreover, he shadowed the previous goalkeeper, Richard Kingson, without ever complaining and became the de facto replacement on merit. Why did the coach demote Kwarasey to the bench for Dauda after the first match?

Dauda never played competitively all season. He only warmed the bench for his South African side as a substitute goalkeeper. Footballers who were not getting sufficient game-time last season changed clubs to improve their fitness and likelihood of selection to feature for their respective national sides as the world cup approached. Our own Jordan Ayew did just that and won his place back in the team. However, his compatriot Dauda continuously sat on the bench in South Africa and made no effort to sharpen his goalkeeping skills. Despite Ashley Cole being the most capped left-back for England, Roy Hodgson did not include him in the squad for Brazil because he had not played consistently for Chelsea in the season. His impeccable performances on the few occasions that he played for Chelsea in the Champion’s League were insufficient to guarantee him a place in the world cup squad.

Rumours circulated that the coach axed Kwarasey not for footballing reasons but somewhat for his inability to speak a local language fluently. We read that his name disappeared from the team list just a few minutes before the match between Ghana and Germany started. When did one’s ability to shout the loudest in Ga or Twi become a selection criterion for the Black Stars? This is not in any rulebook. The Black Stars are the only National side in the football fraternity where statistical records on the most in-form players are irrelevant in player selection.

In my opinion, it is utter discrimination against a skilful young man, born outside of Ghana, who opted to return to his roots to render a valuable service with unmistakable allegiance. When we approached other foreign-based footballers with Ghanaian family roots in the past for their assistance, what happened? They had no hesitation in humiliating our national side and treating us with open scorn and discourtesy.

Many children are born every year to Ghanaian expats or families living and working abroad. Some of these children and their descendants may return home in their capacity as citizens of Ghana with the view to contribute towards the socio-economic and cultural development of the country. We therefore have a pool of resources with an array of skills to nurture and tap into for our benefit. Ghana would be disadvantaged immensely if fluency in a local language becomes a benchmark for recognising the expertise of descendants returning to their roots from abroad.

In my opinion, Kwarasey sacrificed inestimable privileges to switch from his former Norwegian camp and be legally permissible to play for the Black Stars. His treatment in Brazil was an injustice and a betrayal of trust. This should not have happened in the annals of the history of our football. Our coach sent out the wrong signal that constituted a grievous lapse in judgement. In my humble opinion, Kwarasey deserves an unconditional apology from the people of Ghana.