Saturday, 13 April

Are the Black Stars at a crossroad?

Feature Article
Black Stars players

At best, turbid. At worst, downright embarrassing.

That was the description of fans at the Felix Houphet Boigny stadium following the catastrophic start to the AFCON by the Black Stars.

How the team lost in the dying embers with the possibility of snatching a draw has been difficult for many at home and abroad to comprehend.

It is fair to say that the team has been erratic and inconsistent in the last couple of years, struggling to get results against teams like Angola, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Comoros and the list goes on.

The question on everyone’s lips is why the team appears to be on such a downward spiral with others appearing to be taking their football to the next level.

 HISTORY

The Black Stars have only won one out of the last 10 matches at the AFCON.

That was the final group game against Guinea Bissau in Egypt 2019.

Since that time, the team can’t seem to find their way on the pitch.

For a country that has the proud pedigree of being the first to win the cup for keeps and the first to win on four different occasions, never mind the last being 1982, the struggles have been immense.

The failure of the team to win a single game in Cameroon two years ago is not lost on our minds either.

That was Ghana’s worst performance in 40 long years.

The last was that horrific disaster incidentally in La Cote D’Ivoire in 1984.

History they say is a guide for the future and on the back of the historical performances of the Stars in the last few years at the AFCON, you bet the doubting Thomases are not confident of the progress of the team. For a team that consistently made a semi-final or better between 2008 and 2017, it’s a crazy conundrum how the side has plummeted to such low heights.

 PLAYING BODY

The lads have simply not been good enough in the last few years. Gone are the days when the Black Stars navigated through games with ease never mind the quality of opposition the team came up against.

These days, the performances have just been turbid.

The argument has been made as to whether the players we have today are of the highest quality or otherwise.

Yes, we have had the Asamoah Gyans, the Laryeas, Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien and the list goes on.

These guys not only played at a high level for their clubs but they consistently showed that in a Black Stars shirt. It is fair to say that the current generation plays at a decent level.

What is hard to comprehend is why they just can’t seem to make things happen on the pitch.

Is it a case of the quality not being good enough or is it more to do with the inner desire of these guys to leave everything on the pitch? The body language of some of these players is not the greatest.

It's about time the intrinsic side of the conversation gets the lads to perform. At the moment, a number of them do not appear any better than Nii Armah or Kwabena Apalahalah at Mantse Agbona Park or Asaam Park respectively.

 TECHNICAL BODY

Coach Chris Houghton and his predecessors have been vilified and lampooned for their inability to get the best out of the materials available to them.

Houghton is the gaffer at the moment and we will stick with that.

He will be the first to admit that performances under his watch have been far from great. '

In over ten games in charge, the team have not been playing to any set pattern, to be honest.

The inconsistencies with respect to team selection have not helped either.

It has been difficult trying to work out any pattern of play when the lads hit the pitch.

Yes, he has only been around for a year but he has been around the team as a Technical Advisor and had an understanding of these players before taking the job. Unless he argues that the lads are not of a certain quality.

Truth is, once he accepted to do the job, he has got to take the team to the next level.

At this point, it has been a painful watch.

His assistant coaches cannot be left out of this conversation in my opinion.

What exactly have Didi Dramani, George Boateng and Richard Kingston added to the team?

They have been assistant coaches for a while and cannot be excluded from the barrage of criticism.

Didi’s accent to this level has been his success at Kotoko in the past and his nurturing of various young talents. George got this job on the back of stints with the junior side of Aston Villa which says a lot about how he got the job in the first place.

I don’t know what exactly Kingston is doing beyond the goalkeeper’s department.

The last time I checked, his coaching credentials were not of any high level never mind his quest to manage Barca. The team collectively have to up their game if we are to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.

 MANAGEMENT

Since winning the elections in October 2019, The Kurt Okraku administration fired Kwesi Appiah (not renewing his contract) and has since hired former Stars captain C.K Akunnor, Milovan Rajevac, Otto Addo and now Chris Houghton. Now that is an average of coach every other year. Which club or country will be successful on the pitch with this turnover?

Why have they been so poor at getting the right manager for the job?

The first four names are primarily down to them. It was not surprising when Kwesi Appiah's contract was not renewed upon the assumption of office by this administration.

The ‘receipts’ of Kurt's public castigation of Appiah and that of his assigns especially in 2019 is well documented. C.K Akunnor was clearly their appointment.

What was his pedigree in landing the job? His subsequent comments clearly told us who was in charge.

Rajevac got the job on the back of his successes with the team over a decade ago.

This was a manager who was enjoying his retirement in Serbia and had not been in any managerial capacity for almost five years.

The FA still found it prudent enough to give him the job.

We saw the embarrassment in Cameroon.

Otto Addo’s appointment was always going to end the way it did.

He was not prepared to stay in here as he had a good job with Dortmund with his family settled there as well.

That part-time relationship was never going to be feasible in the long term.

Everyone in the Inky fraternity knows how Houghton landed the job.

It came from the top. The very top. We get that but someone should spare us the talk of him not being fired because of the quarters he belongs to.

If managers of the team have come to the conclusion that he is not good enough with comments of the top hierarchy of Ghana Football giving him away, then fire him. 

FUTURE OF THE TEAM

This is a tough one. Gone are the days when we had a generation of players always coming through because they excelled at the Junior levels, ie, U-17, U-20 and U-23 with a number of them transitioning into the senior national team.

The junior teams have not hit the juggernaut in recent times beyond winning the African U-20 a couple of years ago in Niger.

We now have to depend on lads who are surplus to requirements in their countries of birth.

I am not suggesting that is wrong but that cannot possibly be the best of approaches.

Cultural barriers make it difficult for some to excel while some struggle to fit in(weather, pitches and more).

A few success stories in the past but surely local talent coming through should be the first point of call.

We are in a very difficult situation with our national team. Qualifying for tournaments is not good enough. Qualifying and making a strong impression is our stock in trade.

Sadly, this is gradually slipping away. At this point, we desperately need results from the Egypt and Mozambique games.

Anything else would be disastrous.

 The writer Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang is Head of Sports at Class FM and an adjunct lecturer in Communications.

Source: Classfmonline.com/Kwame Dwomoh