New Year, New Black Stars?
Well, it’s a New Year – 2023. We are just four days into the year.
March 23, 2023 presents another opportunity for every football-loving Ghanaian to watch the Black Stars once more, after the just-ended FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
2023 AFCON qualifiers is imminent, against the Giant Sable Antelopes of Angola – back-to-back matches, before engaging Central African Republic & Madagascar in the final two hurdles.
A respectable finish in these games in Group E will send us through to the 2024 AFCON in Cote D’Ivoire early January.
Let’s veer off a little bit from that tournament commencing in about a year’s time.
I believe most Ghanaian football fans out there, are not particularly ecstatic about the Black Stars at the moment given the team’s recent outings.
HIGHLIGHTING 2022 – Two major tournaments, all ended in group stage exits for the West African country.
First at the AFCON in Cameroon, early January – it was an early exit for the first time in the group stages since 2006, after two losses to Morocco, who finished 4th at the Mundial in Qatar and another against Comoros who, at the time, were 132nd according FIFA rankings.
The team accrued just a point in the group, much to the disappointment of Ghanaians, under Serbian tactician Milovan Rajevac.
Second was the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Pitted against old nemesis Uruguay, 2016 Euro champions Portugal and South Korea in Group H, exiting with three points.
The Black Stars have begun to look unattractive. Ghana no longer a fear factor heading into competitions, which also has affected its position on the FIFA rankings.
In this article, I outline solutions for the national team as we bid to return to our days of glory once more, and perhaps chant Manchester United would “glory, glory.”
Let’s start off with APPOINTMENTS OF COACHES – It seems to be the famous “ma try ma kw3” has taken a very lasting effect on appointing coaches for the national team in recent times.
With no blueprint or whatsoever, the Black Stars have struggled to have coaches stay on for a longer period, as a results of poor performance of the entire team at major tournaments leading to the axing of coaches.
Think about the immediate ex-coach Otto Addo who stepped down just moments after Ghana exited the Mundial, to Milovan Rajevac who failed woefully at the AFCON, and Charles Kwabla Akonnor – these all failed to live up to the expectations of many.
The question is how long are we going to lay off coaches or have them resign?
To solve this, I really do think a well-structured plan should be laid down for the national team and that obviously should be to look at the profile of the team at hand and if that fits into the choice of coaches we hire.
Quality Does Not Come Cheap!
If we want to have a ‘top coach’ appointed, it means we must be ready to spend in the region of $80,000 to $120,000, thus raising our budget for appointing these coaches, expatriate or local.
Coupled with that, the appointment must be a long term one, meaning we will not be fixated on immediate success which has historically backfired.
If we are adamant, we will continue to settle for mediocrity, which has been the prevailing narrative with the Black Stars.
Is it a short-term or a long-term gain we want as a country?
Consider what AFCON champions Senegal have done with Manager Aliou Cisse.
Early March 2015, Cissé was officially appointed as the head coach for the Teranga Lions and has stayed on till now, leading the country to victory at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) where they clinched their first title, thus redeeming himself after two previous final defeats.
I guess you are wondering why he wasn’t sacked by the Senegalese Football Federation; it meant that, there was a clear plan for the team.
He then qualified Senegal to the 2022 World Cup and led the team to the knockout stage of the tournament for the first time since he was a player in 2002.
Isn’t that remarkable, in the space of seven years?
All I am trying to point out here is that, with a clear and well-structured plan, our Black Stars can reap similar achievements.
It is the small details that matter: having a core team, coupled with appointing a ‘competent coach’ with clear imprints on the team thriving on a long-term project.
The second thing I want to touch on his PLAYER SELECTIONS.
It brings me to the famous interview granted by the GFA President Kurt Okraku to JoySports’ Gary Al-Smith two years ago during Charles Akonnor’s tenure as Head Coach, where he emphatically stated that “call-ups to the national team run through a section of Executive Council Members before the final announcement is done by the Head Coach.”
This statement certainly did not sit well with some journalists and football fans, cementing the perception of leadership meddling unjustifiably in player selection.
That’s certainly not the way forward.
It’s as simple as this – player selection for the national team should be done by merit and should solely be done by the technical handlers.
Is that not why every national team has scouts? What is their role in the national team? Why should a competitive squad be vetted and approved by the FA President or whoever when they are not mandated to do so?
Thirdly, our GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL is IN TATTERS, our FEEDER NATIONAL TEAMS NEED FIXING.
How many 2021 U-20 AFCON champions can you name in the current Black Stars squad? Just three, right?
Danlad Ibrahim of Kotoko, Fatawu Issahaku of Sporting Lisbon who emerged as the MVP and Daniel Afriyie Barnieh who’s been arguably the best talent on the local scene in the last two years – which has earned him a big move to Swiss side FC Zurich.
Our junior teams have not been the best, we must admit. We clearly cannot compete with our peers in major encounters.
The current U-20 team failed to qualify for AFCON proper slated for this year, and it isn’t looking good at the moment.
Proper transition for players have not been done well, with some good talents not well catered for and left to rot and forgotten.
Morocco is one country that can boast of good transitions for junior players, coupled with huge investments done in their grass roots football by Moroccan FA President Faouzi Lekjaa and guess what, they are reaping good fruits.
It is prudent to start picking cues from what other countries are doing, otherwise let’s forget about the Black Stars wining the AFCON anytime soon – it has eluded the country for 40 years and counting.
If our junior teams are failing, how do we expect the national team to thrive? What it means is that, we’ll forever be chasing players and asking them to switch allegiance, which isn’t a solution.
Look, Ghanaians are livid about the Black Stars. You cannot fault them. They love to see the national team competing amongst the elite. Anything less will leave them… livid!
If we don’t move away from these existing problems that have hampered the success of the Black Stars in recent times, I fear to say the future looks bleak.
Reminder: We are just some few months away from the 2023 AFCON qualifiers.
In conclusion, I hope the search for the next gaffer is done at a faster rate with the objective of settling for the right candidate this time around who will be handed a long-term project to take this current young squad to the level everyone hopes Ghana can get to.
It is never too late to rebuild – the future looks good with the likes of Mohammed Kudus, Kamaldeen Sulemana, Tariq Lamptey, Salisu Ibrahim and other young talents.
Get them someone to guide them. And that should begin in this New Year with the 2023 AFCON qualifiers, then we pick the pieces from there.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.
Source: classfmonline.com/Gabby Ofei
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