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Opinions of Monday, 13 February 2012

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

The Abysmal Performance of the Black Stars in AFCON 2012

By Alex Bossman Baafi

Football really has no room for mathematics. How will one explain the logic behind the abysmal performance of the national team, the Black Stars, in ongoing 28th African Cup of Nations in Libreville in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea? What really accounted for the shameful defeat at the hand of the Chipolopolo Boys of Zambia. What about the 2-0 defeat we suffered from Mali’s Eagles, days later after having whipped them the same margin at the group qualifying stage?

Perhaps what is worrying is that, having suffered the ‘Cup famine’ for over three decades, and in the absence of the powerful keen competitors like Cameroun, Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa, if the Black Stars could not make it a duty to even win a bronze, for the football loving fans and the good people of this country, then when would they rise to such a glorious occasion again?

If you assembled the stars that we have especially those in our mid-field and still displayed such mediocre performance, will you say that football is easily predictable? In deed, these nagging questions keep on waking me at night. Obviously, some things were not right and we need to find and fix them so that we do not suffer such continental and international football competition disgrace anymore going forward.

In my opinion, a lot of thing went wrong but I will talk of complacency, indiscipline and tactical bankruptcy. Yes, our boys were swollen headed because they thought that in the absence of the powerful nations mentioned earlier in the competition; at least the Grand Final would be reached automatically with only Cote d’Ivoire posing a possible threat to their dream. Out of complacency, they underrated their opponents and thought that they were minnows because they do not have the experience and pedigree they (Black Stars) have. With that mindset, they struggled throughout in their matches. Cast your mind back about their encounter with Botswana and Guinea. In football that is the price, you pay if you become complacent and underrate your opponent because again, football has no room for mathematics.

Our players were undisciplined professionally. Indiscipline has no place in any field of endeavour whether academic, recreational, apprenticeship or sports field of this nature. Players got booked with two yellow cards and have to miss next matches. Our players got red cards in virtually every game they played and that disrupted their game plans, reduced their confidence levels and weakened their team spirit. They should have known that indiscipline was militating against their progress in the tournament from the very day the skipper got red card in their opening game against Botswana.

Let me talk a little about what I mean by “tactical bankruptcy”. In planning to beat and stay on top of a competition of this nature, your tactics or strategy must start from you preparation. You must have adequate preparation. Assembling your team is critical and it is part of the preparation. You must get the number-mix of the various department of the game right. For example, we went into this competition with only 2 strikers, one-half fit and the other not skillful enough in the striking role in addition to 9 defenders. What informed that selection? Could we not have got well-seasoned young fit strikers to spearhead our attacks? When you are playing a crucial semi-final match, you were down with 10 men and you conceded a goal in the 78th minute would go ahead and substitute your key players for no apparent reason? That was exactly what happened in the Ghana – Zambia match. Technically we were bankrupt right from our selection process and our destiny rested on undisciplined players therefore we got the shameful result.

I have been careful not to mention names so that individual or group of individuals would be singled out to blame or be victimized in one way or the other. Going forward I suggest that we have a holistic view of the composition of our team. Let us bring in some of the young people who annexed the under 20-world cup for the nation in 2009 from Egypt and substitute them for some of the old hands. We should also discount the idea that foreign coaches will have the magic wand to win trophies for us. I personally have the feeling that our local coaches given the necessary training and logistics are capable to lead our teams to achieve our dreams. History is there to support this fact.

I hope the football authorities will learn their bitter lessons from the abysmal performance of our national team from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. They should be quick to reorganize the senior national team, Black Stars, so that the 29th AFCON competition in South Africa next year (2013), the good people of this country and numerous football-loving fans will not suffer the same broken-heart some of us are brooding over today.

Email:abkbossman@yahoo.co.uk