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Sports Features of Friday, 11 August 2006

Source: Maafo, Frederich

What Next for Ghana after a good World Cup (II)?

Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed the training of local coaches, good remuneration for local referees, investment in our infrastructure and the impact of foreign coaches.

1. Investment at the Grassroots: Building more football parks, investing in sports at schools and encouraging local teams to invest in good foreign players will raise the level of the premier league. Teams should also be encouraged to seek patronage, cultivate the habit of investing in football training schools, and market their football gear.

2. Gradual move away from Government Influence - In Africa, governments have always had the desire to have a say in how the various FAs conduct their affairs. For many, particularly those familiar with the saying, 'he who pays the piper calls the tune', the government's position is not altogether unreasonable given that it bankrolls the FA. Although for now, it would be a bit rich for the GFA to seek independence from the very institution that finances its activities, I am of the opinion that the GFA should gradually move in that direction. Sports investment has to be long term and therefore cannot rely on governments, as politicians only think short term because of the election cycle. As long as it keeps going to the government with a begging bowl, the GFA can forget about independence. They should learn from South Africa, where the national team is wholly funded by commercial sponsors. Ghana?s economy may not be as robust as South Africa's but in the Black stars, the GFA has a very marketable brand, thanks to a splendid World Cup which appreciably increased the size of its fan base and international appeal. In short, it makes sense for the GFA to keep politicians at bay by turning the Black Stars into a money-making business. If Ghanaians were not so passionate about the game, maybe there would not have been so much money to be made from selling the Black Stars. However, Ghana is a football-mad nation and big companies there are constantly looking for opportunities to convey the message that their product is the best. Only with clever marketing of the national team can the GFA realise its desire to be independent of the government and unleash the game's full potential. What Ghana needs now is a group of clever marketing men and women who will turn the GFA into a self-financing body.

3. Changing Laws and Regulations in the Sport to protect the game - Stringent laws and regulations should be introduced to the management of the game to protect footballers and everyone associated with the game. For example, the legal age for players who turn professional should be increased to 18 to discourage young talents from being shipped abroad and taken advantage of at a tender age. This would also prevent our young players from making rash decisions, gain more experience and thereby increase their chances of success abroad. This problem has affected promising stars in South America who have been poached and sent to countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and the Middle East at a tender age. Some are not even playing football but languish in crowded dormitories waiting for their big break. Others are playing in the leagues of certain countries whose football standard is much lower than our national standard. Players returning home from strange leagues should remind us of how much talent we throw away by this means. These players return after a few years and are a shadow of what they used to be. Stephen Baidoo, Ebenezer Hagan and Skelley Adu Tutu are the latest arrivals from unsuccessful experiments abroad to kick start their careers at King Faisal and Sekondi Hasaacas respectively.

Agents should be legally bound to return players if they are not able to place them in clubs abroad within a set time. Their local team will then have the right to request the player back home to his local club. That will protect players against dubious agents who keep them in dormitories for years doing all sorts of menial jobs until they are completely wasted. Some are even reluctant to return to the premiership because of the shame and therefore stay on and live in limbo. The GFA should set up some kind of liaison department so that promising players taken away are kept in touch, monitored regularly and protected.

National coaches should sign a contract not to double up as agents for any player under their care. A national coach should concentrate on his job as coach and any irregularities should lead to some kind of discipline or contracts being revoked.

4. Mentoring: Young players need mentors. I was impressed with the support the stars got in camp from Abedi, Tony Yeboah, Tony Baffoe, Kwasi Appiah etc and all those former black star players. This should continue in Ghana. Young talented players always have agents behind their necks promising them big money. As a young player, that opportunity is tempting but there are obvious pitfalls that have robbed the nation of a lot of our promising young players like Nii Odartey, Isaac Asare, Ismael Addo, to mention a few. We should make young players aware of the dangers so that they can be better prepared to avoid such contracts. We need mentors to encourage our boys: Tony Baffoe, Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, Marcel Desailly to be given any role that would benefit the team not just at national level but at team level where former players like Razak and Ahmed Polo could visit camp and encourage the boys, warning them about the dangers of rushing to leave the country to play just about anywhere. That their patience in staying and excelling would give them better opportunities abroad. We also need to give them the necessary incentives to make use of their services and take advantage of their potential.

People like Marcel Desailly and Toney Baffoe should be given liaison roles where they monitor our talented players abroad. They can serve as GFA contacts for these young boys who sometimes find it difficult to settle in foreign lands and sign contracts without any supervision which commit them to a life time of hardship and misery, killing their dreams and promise. These former players can also be used to help attract good foreign coaches to Ghana using their influence in the game.

Ghana should also work closely with top foreign clubs to ensure the smooth development of our players in their respective teams. By showing interest in our players, I believe teams would also treat our players with the regard and respect they deserve knowing that a country?s interest in their player is obvious.

5. The core of the Black Stars must be maintained: As new stars are identified they should be used to bolster the team rather than the occasional complete rehaul. There has to be that opportunity for budding footballers to aspire to. No politics! Players doing very well in the league should be given the chance to try their luck at the national level. That opportunity has to be there and should be transparent. The GFA should ensure talented boys in the league are given the chance.

6. Status Quo

Duya has now tendered his resignation to the disappointment of some section of Ghanaians who blamed the press for being harsh at times.

My comments: Duya has done his job and a great job too. I believe he would have resigned regardless. His criticism of the press may be genuine but just an excuse. The press is there to protect, to ask questions and share the nation?s concerns. They have also done their job well.

Duya has achieved what he wanted to achieve with Ghana. He has had the exposure every coach craves for. The world cup no doubt improved his CV and every ambitious coach would seek a new challenge and perhaps a bigger remuneration. Klinsman, Lippi, Guus Hiddick, Beenhaaker and Jose Pekerman all resigned after a good World Cup; Duya is no different.

Let?s look forward, Let?s move on. Continuing to employ a coach who thinks he has nothing to prove would be disastrous. That is not what Ghana needs right now. We need a fresh face, someone with a good reputation, a big name and with something to prove. We shouldn?t be intimidated by big names, if we want to achieve great things we should go for the best. Ghana?s achievement and display at the World Cup has put the Black Stars up there with the best teams ;every coach would want to be part of the team. The Ghana Black stars is one of the best African teams with a proven record in the African Cups, an old lion resurrected and has the qualities to attract any ambitious coach. We shouldn?t therefore be short sighted about it. Let?s show ambition, determination, and foresight. We shouldn?t crumple, we shouldn?t panic. This is not the time. We should be ambitious and positive about the state of affairs at the moment. As I have mentioned earlier, our choice for the next coach would show our ambition, our determination and our foresight.

These are my top 5 coaches:

Jose Pekerman: Coached Argentina?s under-20 team to win the FIFA World Youth Championship three times (1995, 1997 and 2001). He then took over the national team, and qualification for Germany 2006 was sealed with a resounding victory over Brazil in Buenos Aires. Despite the dramatic loss at the World Cup, Pekerman was still hailed both by pundits and fans as one of the most effective coaches. ?If it was up to me, I?d give Jose a contract for life.? These words, uttered by Julio Grondona, president of the Argentine Football Association, offer a good indication of the esteem in which the ex-Argentina national coach is held.

Dick Advokaat: Currently coaching FC Zenit in Russia, he has coached the Dutch national football team twice in his career. He has also coached PSV and Scotland?s Rangers FC. He was South Korea?s national coach at the recent World Cup finals.

Artur Jorge: Very experienced and highly regarded former Cameroon coach who has immense European experience having coached FC Porto, the Portugal national team and Switzerland?s national team before coaching Cameroon.

Ricardo La Volpe: Ricardo is one guy i also rate highly. Like Scorari, La Volpe has earned himself a reputation as a sturdy tactician keen on attacking football and unafraid to use young players. He is very good at bringing young players up to speed .At the helm of the Mexican team, he proved with defeats over Argentina and Brazil that he is actually a very good tactician. He has also got the reputation of fishing for talents.

Cecil Jones Attuquayefio: Very experienced coach. Led Hearts to two successful continental titles in five years making the Phobians the only Ghanaian side to have lifted both the Champions League (2000) and Confederations Cup (2005). He won the treble with the Phobians in 2000 and remains the number one choice for several clubs in the country, he is a holder of FIFA Management Advance Course, Preliminary and Advance Coaching Diploma from Brazil and Germany respectively.

Frederich Maafo, UK.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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