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Opinions of Sunday, 25 July 2010

Columnist: Frimpong-Manso, Kwadwo

Discipline, Devoid Of Mercy, Is Misapplied

: Rajevac's Handling Of Muntari, A Lesson For All Leaders

It is really sad that some refuse to see discipline as a two-way traffic on which the etymology of the word itself compels the disciplinarian to guard against excesses that would expose him as a sham. It is inarguably true that no organization can succeed without discipline--a system that subjects the will of individuals to a code of ethics, called bylaws, or rules, or policies, accepted by all involved. Ironically, though, these rules are meant to be broken otherwise adjoining punishments would become meaningless. By implication, the fact that laws or rules or policies, are broken is perhaps unavoidable, and not a big deal, albeit never on anyone’s wish list, so long as sanctions are appropriately applied.

Mercy comes into play in the event punishment has been allowed to take its course. Mercy calls for total forgiveness of the infraction once the penalty has been paid. And this is what oftentimes calls for much more discipline on the part of the so-called disciplinarian whose duty it is to let go the consequences of the offence. For me, the failure on the part of leaders to rid themselves of their venom even after sanctions have had their due course constitute a more serious case of indiscipline that needs to be looked into.

Rajevac Deserves the Accolades

The national soccer coach has rightly been acclaimed the best the national soccer team has ever produced. His achievements include not only the milestone arrival of the national team at the quarterfinals of the fifa soccer showpiece in South Africa but also their silver medal berth in the Africa Cup of Nations. Among the excellent roles the coach played which many may have lost sight of is his search of all corners of the world for talented Ghanaian players to be wooed into his team. Fresh in the memories of readers would definitely be his row with the Ghanaian born Baloteri who would not be persuaded by the coach. All these the coach did in the interest of our nation. One of his most admirable attributes and probably the hallmark of his success is his much-talked-about firmness of decision which became evident in his exclusion of Kingston Leayeah, whom some thought should have made the cut, from the 2010 World Cup team.
However, I was surprised to read from the Yahoo! Sports page, the eve of Ghana's match with Uruguay where a sportswriter, fuller aware of Muntari’s sporadic featuring in substitute positions, quibbled after having lauded the sterling performance of the team, that Ghana had been playing without two experienced players, Michael Essien, ousted by injury, and Sulley Muntari, who would not be featured due to his poor relations with the coach.

No matter how debatable it may sound to give credence to the sportswriter's comment, I think the coach would need to do a lot more if he could convince the global soccer audience and analysts that his sidelining of Muntari in a team he himself claimed lacked shooters had nothing to do with a bad blood that ran in his veins towards the youngster resulting possibly from an offence he may have found difficult to pardon despite an outward show of forgiveness.

Highway versus Byway Birth
One of the facts that have helped shape my personal philosophy in handling such situations is the understanding I have that not all people are fortunate to be born and bred in disciplined or God-fearing homes. And, by this, I hope to be judged from the standpoint of my ignorance regarding the background of Sulley Muntari. An internet search on his upbringing came back with nothing substantial, except that he was born at Konongo, played for Liberty Professionals and joined the national U20s at age 16. There is a group of people I call born onto highways, who had everything cooked for them. They had disciplined and God-fearing parents, they attended good schools which highlight high standards of morality, and were bred in disciplined neighborhoods. Consequently, imbibing appropriate social skills became easy for them. On the other hand, some are born onto byways. Their parents may be drug addicts, sociopaths or psychopaths. They neither attend good schools nor get to sit under scrupulous teachers. Besides, they live in poor neighborhoods where anything passes for morality. These have hard time getting their lives into good shape after inheriting screwed-up behavior patterns passed on to them by both nurture and nature. I think such are people deserving much praise if they should succeed in life. Sulley Muntari may fall into one of these two categories but would deserve more of our sympathy if he does to the latter.

To be fair to both parties, society expects any good leader to treat people fairly regardless of which side they may fall. Leaders are expected to hold people accountable for their actions but never to stretch the rules to cover their personal paradigms of discipline. The hand that does well to punish for the purpose of righting the wrong, should deem it a duty to also restore the sinner back to the position of acceptance if it should not bow in shame of committing a similar offence.

The young man’s offense could be as serious as flaunting the orders of the coach, refusing to respond to a call to play a friendly match, or even suggesting the replacement of the coach. Whichever the offence, I think the coach would have seriously erred if he did allow the settling of personal scores to get in the way of decisions that affected the performance of our dear team in this important tournament.

Mercy Not to be Mistaken to Mean Frivolous Compromises

It will sadden my heart for someone to misjudge me as advocating those creeping compromises that have caused the downfall of most third world countries where many crimes go unpunished under the guise of sympathy. I have witnessed instances where people get away with crimes like defilement and rape simply by hiding behind important personalities in the Ghanaian society acting as "dwanetoafoo," mediators. This I judge as travesty of justice, and it is none of what I stand for. The most shameless statement I ever read about my country was made by a sector minister who lamented over thievery of cargo at the Tema port, calling it most unfortunate. I call his speech “shameless” because he did not end up lowering the axe on anyone. None of the directors working under this minister who directly supervise work at the port got fired. People would have started calling for the resignation of the minister if this happened here in the United States. If the sector minister is aware that directors in his sector are turning a blind eye to corruption at the port and all he could do is deliver a speech, then what good is the power of the office he wields? What name would he give himself, a toothless bull-dog?

Please make no mistake about this; I think a leader is irresponsible and undisciplined if he would not punish crimes committed within his purview. I hold no brief for any act of indiscipline. My interest lies solely in reconciliation and acceptance. Discipline must always have its course. But it should be followed with mercy and forgiveness. To this end, the expectation of the disciplinarian that the culprit accepts the punishment in good faith behooves him to also drop the charges and its consequences when served in good faith.

The Way Forward

What then will I suggest as the way forward? I personally agree with all who preach the retention of the coach. He has proved to be a winnable trainer whose replacement would cost a fortune. Do we send him away after leading us to achieve such a fabulous feat? My answer is no, unless we cannot afford the cost of his retention. Barring any signs of his own desire to quit, I suggest we keep him. But signing of any new contract, in my opinion, should not precede without an attempt by the leadership of the soccer association to tackle headlong the issues raised in this article. Who knows how much good it would be to the coach’s own reputation internationally if he is helped to change his way of handling characters he may deem difficult to handle. He needs to be sat down on this issue. Come on, the leadership should not shudder when confronted with testy issues. Besides, they should not be intimidated by the idea that issues involved are too technical to be handled by lay hands.

I do not claim to have the technical knowhow to determine whether the coach erred or not, but I am capable of using my sense of logic. For example: If he who claims to be tactic savvy decides, after confessing his team lacks excellent shooters, to sideline one of the most excellent shooters on his team then common sense makes it imperative for him to have questions to answer. But at the end of it all, I do not rule out the possibility of being proved wrong by the soccer tactician. However, until that is done, I am convinced that the dust surrounding Rajevac’s handling of Sulley Muntari will refuse to settle in the minds of most lovers of the sport. It is my hope that the leaders would exercise discipline by:

1. Ensuring that the coach and of course the entire team and handlers are shown a fitting appreciation that commensurate with the success they led the team to achieve.

2. Confronting the issue and ironing out all misunderstanding with the view to restoring all players back to a good working relationship, at least good working relationship, with the coach.

3. Ensuring that none of the players is mistreated under the guise of football tactics that could diminish our chances of excelling in future tournaments.

Long live the republic of Ghana!

By Kwadwo Frimpong-Manso.

Kwadwo is a student, pursuing doctoral studies in Education (Administration and Leadership), La Sierra University, Riverside, California. He hopes to be back to join the excellent people of Ghana in championing the cause of the country he cherishes. You may send your comments to pastorkfrims@gmail.com. You may also get hold of me on facebook.