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Opinions of Thursday, 1 March 2018

Columnist: Nana Ampomah

Kudos to Mercy Tagoe, indeed the future is bright

Mercy Tagoe-Quarcoo Mercy Tagoe-Quarcoo

The initial message was: "go and do your best" And it came from no other source than the hierarchy of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), the body which nominated Mercy Tagoe-Quarcoo as the stand-in coach of the national women's senior team, the Black Queens on the sudden departure of the substantive coach, Mas – Ud Didi Dramani.

Mercy Tagoe was the assistant coach and even before the assignment was handed over to her, there were rumours that one-time internationally acclaimed under-20 national men's team coach, Sellas Tetteh, had been pencilled to step in the shoes of Mas – Ud Dramani.

The popular Borbor's assignment was to lead the Queens to the inaugural West African Football Nations (WAFU) zone B Women’s tournament in Cote d'Ivoire from February 14 to 24 to be followed by preparation towards the 2018 women's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which would be hosted in the country in November this year.

Not quite 24 hours later, the story of the new appointment was taken off the GFA’s website for fresh negotiations, and obviously, for lack of time, Mercy, the assistant coach, was the choice to stand-in for the assignment.

A football icon by all standards, Mercy, one-time prominent member of the Black Queens squad, a retired FIFA referee and holder of advanced qualification for coaching, had to step in but she had very little premonition to conquer all the eight nations that qualified for the campaign and stand out triumphant in the inaugural exercise. Even before winning their gold medals, Mercy stated humbly that "given the time of preparation for the exercise, our target was to go and do well."

Mercy is a popular figure in the game of football, and you might even marvel how she handles men's football matches as a referee, always winning admiration from both teams. Indeed, with her wide knowledge about football, if one is to ask President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo to name one woman he remembers well in the game, his immediate answer will no doubt be Mercy and women's football is all about her.

Yes, Mercy is the 11th coach to handle the Black Queens since the team was inaugurated in the 1990s and she comes after all men stalwarts such as Anthony Edusei, Jones Ofosuhene, Emmanuel Kwasi Afranie, Okoe Aryee, John Eshun, Isaac Paha, Kuuku Dadzie, Yusif Basigi and Mas-Ud Dramani. Of course, with her experience as an astute defender during her playing days, she was able to stand out against all intimidations and beat nations like Burkina Faso and Niger in the Group stage after the initial defeat at the hands of the host nation, Cote d'Ivoire, and in the semi-finals conquered their nemesis, Nigeria before crossing over to face the same Ivorians in the grand-finale last Saturday.

The Black Queens caught their hosts off-guard and took an early lead before their opponents settled down to play their own game and that was where Mercy showed her true character as a fighter, issuing instructions and encouraging her charges to fight like wounded tigers for 90 minutes. With Asante Kotoko’s recent penalty kicks nightmare at the back of their minds, the young Queens stood their grounds stoutly and you could imagine the pleasure of winning the trophy from the hands of the host nation in the final, exactly like what the Black Stars did in Tunisia in 1965 and 1982 in Libya.

Well, has Mercy not done what her male counterparts did in some years past, and following that, can we not be assured that she deserves the post of the head coach to continue with her effort? As she has already said, "having won the WAFU, we can confidently say that we are on track in our preparation and with that momentum, we should be sure to host and win the AFCON competition come November."

The FA's decision to hand the baton over to Mercy at this trial moment has been vindicated, and for sure there is no way to do the most untenable by throwing her out of the post to the dismay of her charges who feel very comfortable working with her.