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Opinions of Monday, 1 May 2017

Columnist: Aristo Dotse

Kwasi Appiah's return is not inspiring

Once again, Kwasi Appiah is the head of Ghanaian football as Ghana coach in a second spell. This is just over two and half years after he was sacked in September 2014 and succeeded by Avram Grant, who he (Appiah) has taken over. This merry-go-round for Appiah, in relation to the Black Stars' coaching post is funny and more importantly uninspiring.

It so, so funny that after Ghana relieved Appiah of his post in the aftermath of the Black Stars disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil, Ghana has gone back for him in replacement for his (Appiah) successor in a remarkable turn of events. Thus, Kwasi has quickly returned to the job, taking over from the man who took over from him.

It is again funny that Ghana has gone in for a coach who they fired only recently for poor performances and incompetent managerial ability, on and off the pitch.

What special or remarkable thing did Kwasi do since he was sacked the last time for him to return so quickly to the job? So Ghana want to tell us that of all the coaches in this world, including Ghanaians alike, there's no one capable of taking charge of the Black Stars than the one they had very recently seen as incapable of taking the Ghana team forward?

It tells of a confused, desperate decision Ghana may live to regret, as truly, on balance of probabilities, Appiah is not the right man to lead Ghana again so soon. Decisions and situations like this where one is dismissed for poor performance and ineffectiveness and immediately gets the job back from his successor don’t inspire truth and honesty.

These days in Ghana, politics has unfortunately and dangerously become the order of the day and is dominating everything. Thus, the Black Stars coaching job becoming a politician decision or influence rather than a footballing decision is a serious matter of concern, especially to the true football follower.

Inside sources or information suggested the GFA, who ran and governs Ghanaian football, was in not in favour of a local coach, let alone Appiah replacing Grant but clearly a local coach and for that matter Appiah was forced upon the GFA as the new Ghana coach.

Of course, it's not the first time Appiah is getting into the Black Stars rank, this time as the head of the technical team, under an NPP government. In 2008, President J.A. Kufour - who was Kotoko chairman for a while when Appiah was captain of Kotoko and recently spoke in favour of Appiah returning as the Ghana coach before he (Appiah) was given back the job, influenced things and Appiah - who was then in London doing no serious football activity - was brought in from nowhere as assistant to then Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac in replacement for Sellas Tetteh, who was demoted to the Black Satellites.

As man is no God, Tetteh accepted that demotion in good faith and went on with the Ghana Under-20 team to win the 2009 Africa Youth Championship and ultimately the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. He is still one in a million - the only African coach to win the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, previously known as the FIFA World Youth Championship, and World Youth Cup, which started in 1977 in Tunisia.

Thus, tellingly, it is never good looking at the circumstance under which Appiah has returned to the Black Stars. And this is not inspiring at all. It is never good at all for the Ghana team to be run on political lines, with government authority, rather than football officialdom, deciding who the Ghana coach should be. It is the GFA that is in charge of our football and knows better than everybody else in Ghana's team affairs. Thus, their opinion should hold sway over any other opinion, even from government authority.

Looking at the circumstances that led to Kwasi Appiah's sack in 2014, it is amazing that he is quickly back in control of the Black Stars. In the first place, Appiah failed in his first spell in charge of Ghana. He did something great by taking Ghana, against initial odds, to Brazil 2014 to become the first Ghanaian coach to qualify Ghana to a World Cup finals. But it also very true that under him in Brazil, Ghana achieved its worst World Cup record, on and off the pitch. Going out in the first round for the first time in three World Cup appearances, Ghana did not win a game in Brazil, first time ever, taking only a point in two defeats and a draw from three matches.

Truly, Appiah, who the GFA sent on numerous tactical attachments or visits in England mostly with Manchester City and others like Liverpool, was found wanting, tactically, in his first spell. In a telling observation, the former left-back defender, for instance, couldn't solve Ghana's then persistent problem at left-back, a position he played with distinction for both Kotoko and Ghana. Rather, he chose to play Ghana's most creative midfield force and playmaker Kwadwo Asamoah in that role in two major competitions - 2013 African Cup of Nations and 2014 World Cup - in trying to solve the puzzle to no avail. Interestingly, that improvised move was to blindly copy the player's role at his Italian club Juventus in a failed move that suggested a serious tactical naivety or lack of tactical awareness on his (Appiah) part.

Aside his tactical failings, for instance in Brazil 2014 in the opening loss to the USA, a damaging defeat that spelt our doom, he was simply not up to the task.

Off the pitch, Appiah was short as well, unable to effectively handle player egos and indiscipline, leading to one of the embarrassing World Cup stories in relation to confrontations with the likes of Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng, the latter of whom would be so important for Ghana now but has been unavailable due to the Brazil 2014 scuffle. Appiah will be excused for the Sulley Muntari issue, as that was something beyond him or not concerning him.

A year earlier at South Africa 2013, Appiah had failed woefully and contributed to our eventual semi-final exit to Burkina Faso in a tournament which represented one of the best opportunities for Ghana to win the Nations Cup again since 1982. Again, his tactical naivety in poor squad selection for the tournament in the first place, and subsequent bad player selection and team technology cost Ghana as Burkina Faso destroyed the Black Stars in the semi-final in Nelspruit and deservedly won on penalties in a game they should have won in regulation time to reach the final in Johannesburg against eventual champions Nigeria.

With all these in mind, it really beats imagination why Appiah is back so soon as Ghana coach when there were or are better options available. Only time will tell if he has improved from his time in Sudan in charge of Al Khartoum after his sack in 2014, or is still the old coach we saw in his first spell with Ghana. Whatever, his quick return as Ghana coach, on order from above, is funny and uninspiring.