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Sports Features of Thursday, 10 August 2006

Source: Maafo, Frederich

What Next for Ghana after a good World Cup?

Part 1

After a wonderful showing at the World Cup by Ghana, I believe Ghanaians have now tasted the pride, influence, and the benefits (both economic and social) the game can bring to a country, a nation, a people and a society. I believe as Ghanaians, we would want to hold on to this dream and work ourselves further to achieve greater heights in football. Ghana has always been known across the continent as a football powerhouse but we have struggled to show the world what we can do. We have waited so long for this opportunity and when it came we did the country and the continent proud as expected. In actual fact, we exceeded some expectations. I believe we shouldn?t let this glory fizzle out. It?s time to break the jinx and seek greatness. It?s time to resurrect the aura of invincibility that made us the ?Black Stars? of African football.

The next African cup is coming to Ghana; the next World Cup is coming to Africa. I believe Africa?s best chance of making history by winning the World Cup or at least getting to the semi finals is definitely the next World Cup 2010. I pray we all live to see World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

For Ghana, there is no doubt that this is our greatest opportunity to even make great history. For the first time in our history we have a team that has stuck together and has been consistent over the years in achieving greatness at the world stage. In 1999 this group of players were the starlets who represented Ghana at the Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand (where Ghana came third). At the U-20 level in the world youth championship (Argentina 2001) they were the Black Satellites who won the silver. This same team also made an appearance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Though they did not go past the group stages they put on a great showing. Nevertheless, they have now made history by making an appearance at the World Cup at the national level and as the Black Stars.

The next African Cup is in Ghana and according to the statistics of the African Cup, we have the best chance of winning at home (11 host nations have won the cup and 3 got to the finals). Also according to FIFA?s analysis of past World Cups, teams that have won have always had an average age of 27. At the next World Cup, this group of Black Stars who have already made history will have the right average age of 27

For Ghana, this is great news but in spite of the fact that the future looks bright and even the stars in the sky all signal good fortunes and glory for the Black Stars, Ghana has to prepare very well to see this good omen come to pass. in the several phases of Ghana football where all seemed bright, we let the opportunity to excel slip through our hands due to poor preparation and short sightedness.

How can Ghana prepare adequately for glory, avoiding the problems of the past?

These are my suggestions:

1. Coaches need Training. For years, it has been alleged that Ghanaian coaches have cried out for the opportunity to pursue coaching courses in Europe and South America to align themselves with new ways of getting the best out of our boys, however, these pleas have fallen on deaf ears at both club and national level. It is heartbreaking and at the same time surprising to find that a nation so determined to make a mark in football at the world stage does not find investment in their local coaches imperative but would rather gladly pay the exorbitant salaries of a foreign coach. This beats me, but I am sure Ghana being Ghana, we have a very good excuse for that.

After the two legendary coaches of Ghana, C.K. Gyamfi and Fred Osam Duodo, the only credible coaches around have been Cecil Jones Attuquefio (of Liberty Professionals), Emmanuel Akwasi Afranie of Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Sam Arday (Technical Director of Feyenoord Soccer Academy ). In Europe, coaches have to possess a current UEFA Coaching license to be able to manage a premiership club. Let?s begin to set a similar standard and give our coaches the support they need to excel in the technicalities of the game, where we are obviously lacking. Investment in coaches is paramount to raising the standard of our football.

2. Investment in our Referees ? Occasionally our referees have attended few sessions at the ?Centre of Excellence? in Accra to update or familiarise themselves with the ever changing rules and regulations in football. This is a step in the right direction and must be commended, but I believe this should be improved with the sole aim of updating the knowledge of the referees and improving their ethics. It is sad to note that for a participating team at the World Cup, Ghana?s only official was Justice Yeboah (of Nsawam) who was used as part of FIFA?s ?support and development? group (what ever that means!).

Increasing the salaries of our referees is also paramount if the standard of the premiership is to be raised. It will also curb the incentive for corruption. Also the GFA should regularly monitor referees' fitness and performances, grading them after each organised match similar to the European marking system and referees who excel at all levels of the game (premiership, first division and second division) should also be commended, honoured and encouraged in a form of a yearly award and by promotion to a higher division. This would no doubt make them feel appreciated. That in itself, is motivation for local referees to do well and also to become superstars should they consistently excel. This augurs well for global recognition.

3. Investment in our Infrastructure -

According to the budget prepared by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) submitted to the Ministry of Education and Sports (March 23, 2006, GNA), Ghana was going to need about four million dollars to prepare the senior national team for the 2006 World Cup.. The amount was to cover the cost of camping, training allowances, bonuses, pre tournament friendly matches and airfares among others. Also, Goldfields Ghana Limited (main sponsors of the Black Stars) later announced that they were shouldering one-third of the budget. The miners, since 2005 have been the official sponsors of the Black Stars, having signed a record sponsorship agreement of three million dollars with the GFA.

Ghana was also given $8.3 million by FIFA for the World Cup preparation. The team also had donations and sponsorship from several companies including Goldfields and sports outfit PUMA. Another $8M was earned for reaching the 2nd round of the FIFA World Cup 2006.

After payment of all expenses and bonuses, it is obvious that the GFA got far more money than they needed so, the rest can no doubt be used for sports development in the country ? mini stadiums, football playgrounds/parks, better remuneration to referees etc. Some can be used for the development of football, not only at the grassroots but to train the coaching staff (medical, physiotherapy, psychologists etc). Oti Akenten (current Hearts of Oak coach), David Duncan (coach of the Starlets), Mohamed Polo, Abdul Razak, Opoku Afriyie and other ex-footballers who are already coaching or have expressed interest in either coaching or other managerial functions should be encouraged. We should take advantage of their wealth of experience and give them opportunities to train abroad to compliment our game, make their contributions and improve our technical awareness ? which are areas that we are always found wanting at the highest level. This would enable us to have home grown qualified coaches, capable of taking over the management of the national team.

4. Foreign Coaches: The idea of foreign coaches is always debateable but perhaps with our lack of experience at the highest level, we should give it considerable thought whilst we get our home grown coaches up to speed. Investing in good, proven expatriate coaches for the national team is very important. We should always go for the best or none at all. The English have a saying that ?you get what you pay for.? If we are going for a coach we should go for top class, proven coaches who have a reputation to protect. This would avoid the alleged corroboration with corrupt GFA staff, player agents and coaches who have selfish interests in making sure their boys are given a go in the national team regardless of their form. There are rumours of money exchanging hands at our nation?s expense; I do hope it?s not true but if there is any truth in that, it should be curbed and I believe good top class coaches would avoid such dealings in order to protect their valued reputations.

We should also adopt the policy of having our local coaches as part and active members of the coaching staff even if a foreign coach insists on bringing his own assistant with him. In other words, every foreign national coach should agree to work with a Ghanaian coach from the premier league, who will double as an assistant national coach and a coach of his respective team. England?s former national coach Sven Eriksson for example, had a fellow Swede Todd Grip as his assistant but worked with Steve McClaren, a proven premiership coach who doubled as the coach of premiership club Middlesbrough and also Sammy Lee, premiership club Bolton?s assistant coach, who was also part of the coaching staff. That way, the experienced foreign coach will impart technical knowledge and exposure to our local coaches who in turn, will bring that knowledge into our local league.

The high cost of acquiring good foreign coaches should translate to appreciable gains in the standard of our premiership. The local national coach should also be given an opportunity to pursue formal training abroad as part of the perks. The position will then be attractive to our local coaches who will aspire to work hard to achieve the ?top job? .We should also pay our local coaches salaries comparable to that of foreign coaches especially when they get to the level of a national coach or an assistant . That is the only way they can improve.

In short, a coach excels in the premiership, stands a chance of becoming the national coach or coaching staff, obtains an appreciable pay rise and benefits from a formal training abroad. Local coaches who excel at the local level should also be honoured (both premiership, first and second divisions) and be given an opportunity to study abroad to improve themselves as part of the incentive. That in itself is motivation for local coaches to do well.

Frederich Maafo, UK.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.