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Opinions of Thursday, 16 September 2021

Columnist: Kwadwo Boakye

The downfall of the Black Stars

Is it a crisis or is it a wake up call on the current situation of the Ghana national football team? After watching the abysmal two performances against Ethiopia and South Africa respectively in the World Cup Qualifier, it makes me wonder, what is going on with football in Ghana?

Yes, it is only two games into the World Cup Qualifiers for 2022 and C K Akonnor’s 11th match in charge of the Black Stars but for fans to call the sack of the coach is quite unfair.

Lets face it, the Black Stars were lucky against Ethiopia and if it wasn’t for a hopeful Mubarak Wakaso long range shot and a disastrous error from the Ethiopian goalkeeper – Teklemariam Shanko, the Black Stars were heading towards a draw.

Despite majority of the Ethiopian players being home based, at times they showed Ghanaians how a team should perform as underdogs. The match against South Africa was no different and the Black Stars looked clueless across the pitch and paid the price when South Africa took one of their chances to win the match.

Many Ghanaian fans are crying for local based players to represent the Black Stars team but as a follower of the game, we have to ask ourselves, are they good enough to wear the shirt and face other international teams? It may sound harsh but compared with other leagues in the world, the Ghana Premier League is nowhere near the standard that we would compare to leagues such as the English Premier League (EPL), Bundesliga (Germany), Spanish La Liga and the list goes on.

How can the people at the top of the pyramid make sure the local leagues catch up with the rest of the leagues in the world and produce quality football where it can attract Ghanaians and foreigners to watch? It starts from the grassroots level where the government and the Ghana Football Association should focus their investments in.

Instead of heavily pumping money into the Black Stars, why not distribute the investments into youth and women’s football so we can produce more talented players for the future. It is easy said than done however investing in state-of-the-art facilities like 3G/4G pitches to improve the skill level of players and introducing more advanced coaching courses to help with the progress of developing good Ghanaian coaches instead of relying on foreign coaches to manage teams, are steps to see development in football at the local level reach its potential.

Simply, there is lack of a national developmental plan for the sports sector in Ghana not just in football. If there is a plan put in place, it is clearly not being followed otherwise we would see good results across the teams from the first team all the way to the U17’s. If there is no national development plan put in place, failure will surely happen and Ghana will continue to suffer if there is lack of leadership and vision. Ghanaians should now come to a realisation that currently winning the African Cup of Nations is something which is out of our reach.

The Black Stars have not won a major tournament since 1982 and Ghanaians need to question why this is so? Is it due to not appointing the right coach, poor decisions from the Ghana FA, the players not good enough or just no luck? For me it is a combination of all but we need to look at the bigger picture and set goals that match with what we currently have.

Looking at the FIFA rankings, Ghana are positioned 52nd in the world which for our pedigree is not acceptable. For the last 20 years, the Black Stars highest ranking was 16th and it was no surprise it came from the team who were infamously knocked out of the quarter finals of the World Cup in South Africa.

To be honest, under the leadership of Kwesi Nyantakyi, Ghana were a solid force and managed to enter their first World Cup ever in 2006. Continuously, Ghana then qualified for 2010 and then 2014 however it was unfortunate to witness the corruption scandals against him otherwise Ghana would have continued to go far. On the plus side, we can at least celebrate the World Cup win in Egypt 2009 when The Black Satellites (U20’s) beat Brazil in penalties thanks to Emmanuel Agyemang Badu’s cool composed spot kick to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.

What gave it an extra touch, was the fact that the coach was managed by a Ghanaian – Sellas Tetteh who at the time managed the U17’s previously. It shows that if the black man is given the chance he can manage his own affairs, as quoted by Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah.

All Ghanaian fans are asking for from the national team is to see players showing passion to play for the Black Stars and not just to play to receive bonuses. Whether the players are local based or foreign based, they are all Ghanaians representing the country. Ghanaians need to continue supporting the team and not give up hope. Again the sacking of Charles Akonnor was unfortunate and not all the blame should be on him. He wasn’t even paid for the last year! It is only recently that the Minister of Youth and Sports announced that he had paid some months of his salary.

This doesn’t create a good image for the country and it is hard time that the personnel at the top of the pyramid fix their act and put things together right. The players should take responsibility of their performance on the pitch as it wasn’t good enough. What next for the Black Stars? Should we still stick to hiring a Ghanaian coach or look into a foreign known coach? In my view no matter who coaches the Black Stars, are the players good enough to compete against top international teams?

At this stage, the answer is no otherwise Ghana should proof me wrong. In terms of development of football in Ghana, the country still has a long way to go but if Ghanaians want to see a repeat of the glory days in the past, see top players like Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah, Asamoah Gyan, Samuel Kufour gel through the ranks then start investing in our youth and eventually Ghanaians will see results flourish in the future. Plan, plan, plan!