You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2012 06 05Article 241025

Sports Features of Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Source: Joe Aggrey/Finder Sports

Perfect start for Appiah and his Stars

This was supposed to be Kwasi Appiah’s baptismal match as the first Ghanaian coach of the Black Stars in almost a decade and the record books will tell posterity that poor Lesotho were the hapless sacrificial lambs to provide the perfect setting for the launch of his career.

Appiah’s charges romped home to a 7-0 victory in what incidentally was the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi last Friday, June 1, 2012. Never mind that Lesotho’s Crocodiles are no football heavyweights, but to put seven goals into the net of any opposing team without conceding any is as perfect a start to any campaign as one can wish for, much more if it is the beginning of the road to the World Cup in Brazil.

And so it happened, except that at a certain stage, it was almost marred by what could be described as a force majeure in the shape of an unprecedented floodlight failure which nearly truncated the match. This was when the Black Stars were four goals up and everything pointed to what eventually was to become Ghana’s unprecedented goal harvest in a competitive match since Nigeria’s Green Eagles then, were walloped by a similar 7-0 tally in a Jalco Cup match in Accra in 1955.

To say that there was absolute fear and panic when the floodlights virtually refused to respond to prompts to lite the Baba Yara Stadium when the mismatch was 54 minutes old is to state the obvious. According to what I have been told, there was near hysteria as officials, high and low, ran helter-skelter, in an effort to get the embarrassing situation to change.

As is typical of most things Ghanaian, conspiracy theories started to emerge with the usual dose of politicization thrown in for good measure. Someone who doesn’t like the government might have tampered with the power generating plant so it couldn’t power the floodlights was a suggestion that was mooted. A chorus that ‘ heads must roll’ soon became the rallying call and it might not have surprised political watchers when the intrepid Presidential spokesman Koku Anyidoho managed to introduce his boss into the drama that was unfolding.

The man, who knows how the President feels and thinks at any given time, told a radio station in Accra that Prof. J.E.A. Mills was so embarrassed by the happenings in Kumasi that he had asked for the suspension of the Ashanti Regional manager of Electricity Company of Ghana.

Mr. Anyidoho would later recant, telling a confused nation that his boss had no hand in the ‘suspension’ order, after all. As it later turned out, the much-maligned ECG this time had nothing to do with the floodlight failure. If anything, it was engineers of the company who came to the rescue of the embattled stadium authorities as they sweated to fix the problem after almost one hour stoppage for the game to resume.

As usual, a probe will be set up to investigate whatever happened and it is hoped that for a change it will bring out the truth and nothing but the truth. Even more importantly, if there was negligence anywhere, anyone found culpable should be made to pay for it without fear or favour. The implications of the floodlight fiasco were too dire to allow this issue to be swept under the carpet.

Indeed, the nation owes the Senegalese referee, the match commissioner from Kenya and indeed the Lesotho delegation for adhering to the rules and not taking the hasty decision to call off the match after half an hour as it is stipulated in the regulations. As referee Baderu Diatta later explained, his decision was based on the provision that he had assured himself by inspecting the facilities at the stadium the night before and found them to be okay.

Following that he was obliged to give the stadium authorities the opportunity to rectify the problem within the timeframe they had requested.

Otherwise, if the match had been abandoned, it would have meant replaying it within 48 hours. And apart from having the 4-0 lead erased, it would have thrown the team’s travelling and training plans for the second match against Zambia in Ndola next Saturday completely out of gear. Who knows, the ‘gargantuan scoreline’ might have gone with the wind and Kwasi Appiah might not be today celebrating an historic victory on his debut as Black Stars coach.

Perhaps, this was how it was supposed to be, with all the drama, suspense and the roller-coaster feelings it generated. What happened last Friday night will remain etched on the memory of most soccer lovers for a long time to come and with it the name of the first Ghanaian coach to lead the Black Stars in almost a decade. Every Ghanaian must share in the joy of this quiet, unassuming man on whose shoulders rests the destiny of the Black Stars as they attempt to make a third consecutive World Cup appearance.

Of course, as has already been pointed out Lesotho cannot be the yardstick with which one can base an objective assessment of the strength of the current crop of stars assembled by the former assistant coach. Nevertheless, such a solid win can’t do the coach and his team any harm. If anything, it should serve as an inspiration as they head for Ndola to face the reigning Africa champions.

That, of course, will be a real test of the character of the team, especially when Zambia lost their opening group match 2-0 in Sudan last Saturday and would be determined to pour their venom on Ghana whom they defeated in the semi-finals of the Cup of Nations only last February.

There is no doubt though that Appiah has set out to build a team that will be a combination of the old and new stars. His introduction of players like Christian Atsu and Jerry Akaminko , both of whom scored on their debut, is an indication of the direction in which he intends to take the team. He has displayed a strain of courage which can only be encouraged as he shows that he will be his own man.

We can only wish him and the team well on the journey to Brazil 2014.