Africa Disappointed Brazil

star'sSO – suddenly, like the vanishing spray at free kicks, Ghana was gone – just like that.

IT so pathetic to see how a lofty dream could come crashing all because of money and to some extent player discipline. That is the sad story of west Africa’s biggest hopes at the Brazil 2014 World Cup – Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.

Indeed, when money is the primary motivator in sports, your team is frequently going to suffer when adversity befalls it. That is why the four high profile teams made headlines in direct correlation to bonuses and appearances fees – eventually dashing the hopes of fans and governments desperate to see success on the World Cup stage.

African interest, four years ago, extended to the quarter-final with Ghana. Indeed, but for the cheating cynicism of Luis Suarez – him again! – the Black Stars would have reached the semi-finals. But he punched Dominic Adiyiah’s shot off the goal-line at the end of extra time and Ghana lost their nerve and the subsequent shoot-out.

This time, at least, Africa did progress two teams from the group stage. Not the multi-talented and much-fancied Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – but Algeria and African champions Nigeria. The Nigerians were first to go, beaten 2-0 by France, so the pride of Africa was in the hands of Algeria and Les Fennecs, the Desert Foxes.

 

ALGERIA

So much pride was at stake for them against Germany. Famously, at the 1982 finals, Algeria had beaten then West Germany 2-1; infamously, a week or so later, the then West Germany and Austria conspired at a result which sent them both into the second round while pushing Algeria home.

Different days, different times. Back then, African nations were granted little respect. This time in Brazil, it has been different. Indeed, Germany might have even have been upset again. Algeria began brightly and took Joachim Low’s discomfited team all the way to extra time before losing first their legs and then the tie by 2-1. Even though the Desert Foxes failed to cruise past the 1/16th stage, their fans should stand tall. They showed great dignity. The mercenary attitude of the west African giants did not infect them and their results benefited from it.

As said earlier, roars of money disputes particularly killed off the African dream.

 

CAMEROON

The drama may have began with Cameroonian players initially refusing to fly to Brazil. Plane fueled and ready to go, the players took the opportunity to make their displeasure known regarding their fiances and the World Cup. The team refused to accept a flag from the prime minister and then held up the airflight’s departure for almost 24 hours. Instead of roaming free, the Indomitable Lions were stagnant in their hotel room as an increase in their bonuses were hammered out. In the end, both players and the government were happy with the agreement.

Then the plane landed in Brazil and it all fell apart. A narrow 0-1 loss to Mexico was their highlight as Brazil and Croatia both burned them for four goals each. This resulted in Cameroon’s worst performance at the World Cup.

 

NIGERIA

Nigeria was also not let off the hook and it took the intervention and assurance from President Goodluck Jonathan that the players of the Super Eagles would be paid all their fees by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) before the players agreed to travel to Brasilia, for their World Cup second round game with France.

Jonathan called into the team camp and personally assured them that their money would be paid, with Sports Minister Tamuno Danagogo following up with a flight to Brazil with the payment.

Ahead of that, the players had boycotted training, demanding payment of part of their agreed appearance fee for the tournament. The cash did arrive – but the African champions had already lost focus and were also ditched by France whose double strike in quick succession ensured they reach the quarter-finals for the third time in five tournaments. And, Africa’s dream was crushed!

 

COTE D’IVOIRE

Clearly, “the cheque’s in the post” no longer washes with African players.

The magnitude of the situation in the past has caused Cote d’Ivoire to stumble in some marque moments for their team. But this year’s version was on the verge of something great for their nation.

An almost hammerlock for the second spot in Group C, a draw or win against Greece would get them through. Even the government officials were feeling it, as word of double bonuses were promised if they could advance to the knockout stage. A team that had problems with pressure in the past could feel it once again with the lofty expectations at home. The result is that they gave up two goals to a team that had scored none in their first two. A 2-1 loss is just the latest flop for this group of loveable losers.

GHANA

Perhaps, Ghana’s team pressed the self-destruct button the hardest than any other ‘rebellion’ in the tournament. This was a side that had dazzled the world at the South Africa 2010 tournament with a stunning quarter final performance in only their third appearance. Sadly, they allowed themselves to be eaten up by the ‘gruesome’ thirst for money and indiscipline when many had predicted them to go beyond their previous outing.

It is indeed heart-rending to recall that the rest of the team had to be courted to play their last game against Portugal. The dowry involved was an airplane laden with $3million cash sent to Brazil to sooth their sour spirits. The upshot was predictable. They crashed 1-2 to the Portuguese when a simple victory would have sent them through to the round of 16.

 

SULLEY MUNTARI, K.P BOATENG

It is now no news that prior to the Portuguese game, senior players – Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng were flushed out of camp for gross insurbodination.

The decision was taken in the wake of Muntari’s unprovoked physical attack on an Executive Committee member of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and a management member of the Black Stars, Mr. Moses Armah, on Tuesday June 24, last month, during a meeting.

Muntari’s accreditation for the World Cup, and that of Boateng – who was alleged to have verbally assaulted Coach Kwesi Appiah, were withdrawn with immediate effect.

Sulley was at the forefront of player agitation for their appearance fees to be paid before their game against Portugal that resulted in a training boycott took his protest a step further by engaging Parker in a physical confrontation that got so intense that the security at the Brasilia Palace where the team was staying, had to intervene.

It is particularly interesting to see how the GFA has allowed Muntari, especially, to ‘run the show’ in the Stars all this while as though he was a tin-god.

In 2004, Muntari was sacked from the Black Meteors camp in Athens for bringing his Italian girlfriend to camp. Four years ago in South Africa, Milovan Rajevac was only prevailed upon to rescind his decision to give the midfielder the sack from camp. This assertion was confirmed by the FA President Kwesi Nyantakyi during last Wednesday’s post-tournament news conference.

Sulley also once attacked former Sports Minister Muntaka Mubarak at a meeting at Novotel Hotel, Accra.

And, only last year, he verbally assaulted Coach Kwasi Appiah in Lesotho during the World Cup qualifiers and was put on ‘ice.’ It is as if he is indispensable in the team – and who

ever allowed him to stay on, clearly, has done the nation a lot of harm than good.

Continued from page 29

BLACK STARS’ MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

Sometimes, you wonder whether a Management Committee for the national team is needed at all if it cannot resolve simple crisis from developing into a kind of a ‘colossus’ and exploding into our faces.

Per the national disgrace and embarrassment that was documented in Brazil, it would not be out of place if the entire Black Stars management Committee is dissolved and new members with the expertise in crisis resoltion, appointed to reconstitute the new committee.

Obviously, the present committee has lost the respect of the players and stakeholders in general. It is also expected that the new committee would not be chaired by Mr. Nyantakyi as a way of avoidng any conflict of interest.

The past management committees of 2006 and 2010 performed creditably partly because they were headed by the then FA vice president in the person of Fred Pappoe. It would even be more ideal if we could get somebody outside the FA – a knowledgeable football person with the knack for success to take charge.

 

COACH KWESI APPIAH

The FA, we are told, has renewed the contract of Appiah – for all his selection malaise and lack of command in the team.

What continues to baffle football experts is why Appiah chose right-back Daniel Opare ahead of Afful when the former did not even feature in any of the coach’s trial games against the Netherlands and South Korea. So, on what basis did the coach opted for Opare ahead of Afful who performed creditably in the trial? And, allowing the nervous and blundering Opare to play for 90 minutes against the United States was a real Ghanaian torture.

Afful – who was tasting his first World Cup, hugely exposed the ineptitude and perhaps bias of his coach with that swash-buckling performance he exhibited in Ghana’s 2-2 draw against Germany.

So commanding was the work-rate of the Esperence of Tunisia player that many wondered whether he plays his football on the African continent. Indeed, FIFA’s technical committee of experts was head over heels in love with Afful – describing him as the best of the remaining 21 players on the field of play on the evening. That the Brazilian media christened him ‘Affulinho’ (a coined Brazilian name) for that mega show he displayed against Germany in particular, should tell us something.

This was a rising star we kept on the bench throughout in the game against the US, whilst Opare lumbered his dawdling body across the right flanks as though the result on that night did not matter to us.

It may be a bit remote, but Appiah was partly responsible for the chaos in the camp with the kind of selection he made – selection that created a lot of tension and rancour amongst players. Clearly, this is not a coach whose contract should be renewed or extended, but the FA thought differently.

 

THE WAYFORWARD

Again and again, it is limpidly obvious that the Stars’ job is too huge for Appiah – especially at the big stage. But if we still choose to maintain him in the name of nationalism or sheer consistency or for whatever reasons, then he ought to be sent for further courses to upgrade his knowledge of the game. Aside tactics, he should also learn a lot of player psychology to be able to smother off any kind of crisis. As for player favourtism, he should not try it anywhere because it would only lead him to failure – nothing else.

As for our players – and their counterparts in other parts of the continent, we should try and inject into their veins the spirit of patriotism. They should be made to understand that playing for one’s nation is a huge privilege – not a sacrifice, because they are not playing for free. If for nothing at all, it is the country that first gave them the platform to blossom into such prominence – and it is their turn to return that golden gesture. Indeed, they should not be pampered to play for their own country. It is a taboo to do so.

It is also expected that in future tournaments, appearances fees of the players would be sorted out and paid into their accounts even before they embark on their campaign. If for any reason the money would not be ready before the start of the tournament, they must be made to understand – and consensus reached.

It is so sad that suddenly our players think playing for their country is a huge favour and therefore decide to hold everybody to ransom. They have forgotten the value, honour and reverence that they stand to gain if they perform creditably in their country’s heroics on big platforms like the FIFA World Cup – and even the Nations Cup.

Just like South Africa 2010, Brazil was like a second home to Africa. Indeed, Brazilians supported the African teams (especially Ghana) as if they had been paid to do that, but sadly we disappointed them because of players’ craze for money.

Most of our disgraced teams have proferred onto themselves the accolade ‘Brazilians of African football’ and there is nothing Brazilian about their attidude and commitment on the field.

Instead, our players have rather chosen to reduce their national teams to a money-spinning machine rather than honour for country. It is a shame – big shame.

Never again must this happen. Never, Ghana! Never, Africa!

By  John Vigah (Back from Brazil)

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