Journey to Qatar 2022: Enough of the call-ups; let’s make do with what we have

4Indeed, the recent tactics deployed by the technical team of the Black Stars, the senior national football team, that enabled them to tame their sub-regional neighbours, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, on account of the away-goal rule, in their two-legged FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification play-off, have taught us a lesson- it pays to work as a team irrespective of our differences.

The hope of Ghana making her fourth appearance at  the Word Cup  later inthe year was very bleak, especially given the abysmal performance of  the senior national football team at the Cameroon 2021 AFCON.

All hopes were lost, especially sowhen Ghana were paired with the much-fancied Super Eagles for the play-off, with the first match at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.

An uncourageous Member of Parliament was heard loud and clear in Legislative Housesaying that there was no need for Ghana to play Nigeria, whom he thought had more quality players and the morefavourite to go through.

But lo and behold, a magic has worked out! And we are in Qatarin spite of the run of not-too-good performance.

Thanks to the technical crew of Otto Addo, George Boateng, MasudDidiDramani under the technical advice of Chris Hughton.

These are coaches in their own right, and any of them has the pedigree to single-handedly coach the Black Stars.

Nevertheless, they agreed to work together, indeed to swallow whatever pride and difference they might have, to work in the national interest, to repackage the team and bringback the love for the Black Stars.

The football authorities also deserve thumps-up for assembling such huge brains to solve a national problem!

What the technical crew has taught us is that as a country, we can achieve much with togetherness, unity of purpose, dedication and loyalty to a national cause.

Acrimony, back-bitting, bickering and the pull-him-downsyndrome have been the bane of our development.

We experience conflict situations in many facets of life.Parents do not talk to each other,giving stress to children. We have heard of some Chief Directors at the ministry not in good terms with line directors.

Ghana had one time been at pain when a president and his vice were at logger-heads. We have heard of stories of some over-zealous Deputy Ministers upstaging their bosses, to get a shot at the top job.

Although conflict might be good for interpersonal relations, but it becomescatastrophic when it is not properly managed, and results in violence.

Fast forward, there is general agreement among the public for the football authorities to allow the ‘Otto-Addo-led module’ to continue for the AFCON qualification and the World Cup finals. Indeed, it is a good call, because there is no point changing a winning team and their strategy.

Although the technical team have not yet won a match; they have shown resilience and delivered when it matters most! Within a space of few weeks they have changed the face of the Black Stars from one of despair to theone of hope for the future.

In the quest to assemble the best of materials for the national team, the technical crew and the football authorities are still on the market looking for other materials to beef up the team, to take on the world by storm in Qatar later in the year.

In scouting for more players for the Black Stars, let’s be guided by the past experience

Some of the players might be good and playing well in foreign leagues, but that is not a guarantee they can fit well in our game plan.

There are some who might be motivated to come and play on the world stage for opportunistic reasons, and later turn their back on the team, while others may not fit well because of disciplinary considerations.

Do we have the patience for the players (especially those with dual-citizenship) who respond to a national call and only flop in a match? Do we have the courage to givea player more playing time? Will the player not have regrets for responding to the national call, especially if he is used in one match and dumped?

There was the case of Kenny Achampong, formerly of Fulham, Charlton, Leyton Orient. The 1.75-metre tall London-born Ghanaian professional player was invited in 1993 to play for the Black Stars.

Indeed, the enigmatic midfielder did come wholeheartedly to represent his country in a match between the Black Stars and the Lone Stars of Liberia at the Accra Sports Stadium.

He played for only 45 minutes in his maiden derby for the Black Stars, and we never heard of him till he called it quits in professional football.

He was later reported to have said that the game was so slow for him, coming from the background of English football.

Germany-born Ghanaian Gerald Asamoah was said to have been invited by a particular Black Stars player to watch their match at the Accra Sports Stadium, ostensibly to encouragehim to join the team.

Asamoahwas also reported to have said that he was left stranded at the Accra Sports Stadium, after the match. Such player would not have fond memories of his country, being a victim of hostile reception.

We had cases of opportunism and disciplinary issues with the former AC Millan and Barcelona player, Kevin Prince Boateng, who agreed to switch over from his German nationality (mother side) to play for his fatherland’s land,Ghana.

He turned against the Black Stars after riding on the back of the team to fame at the South Africa FIFA World Cup 2010, only for him to be caught in undisciplined behaviour at the Brazil FIFA World Cup 2014, leading to his expulsion from camp.

So, let’s be aware of the players we invite into the national team!

Few committed ones in the diaspora have responded well to the call for nationality switch and fit well into the Black Stars set-up.

The case of the Black Stars Coach Otto-Addo, who played for the national team at the Germany 2006 World Cup, now coaching at highest level of football in Ghana is a good example.

We also have the case of the former Dusseldorf and Metz player, Tony Baffoe, who chose to represent Ghana in two AFCONS, Senegal ’92 and Tunisia ’94, although he was qualified to play for Germany, where he was born to Ghanaian parents.

But was it all rosy forthese nationality switch?

What has been the experience of Adam Larsen Kwarasey, who was born in Norway to a Ghanaian father and Norwegian mother and decided to play for Black Stars? How about Charles Whittle? They can tell their own stories.

Some who were not sure of their future decided to slam the door on their country of origin for the oneof their destination, like the case of Marseil Desailly, who chose France over Ghana.

The European Champion (‘93 and ‘94),World Cup Winner (1998),Euro (2000) and (Confederation Cup 2001) winner felt vindicated playing for France, where he became a world football icon. 

Some committed players have responded and demonstrated the spirit to die for their country in the play-off. Enough for those who have persistently turned down the invitation to play for the Black Stars.

There is the need to stop the scouting at a point because ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, so the saying goes.

Let’s concentrate on what we have now. With adequate motivation and preparation, the current crop of players can deliver.

By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman

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