Many had predicted a hard-hitting engagement with Mali’s Eagles in that opening international friendly for Ghana Black Stars’ sweat merchant, C.K Akonnor, but none envisaged a mauling of his charges.
Though not aberrant, the 3-0 thumping of the Stars by Mali at the Emir Sports Complex in Antalya, Turkey, last Friday, may still have come as a huge stunner to Ghanaians, given the renewed enthusiasm to support the team and ignite the love.
Clearly, the volume of criticism that was poured on the players and the technical team demonstrated the kind of concern people have for the Stars – which is why no single effort must be spared by Akonnor to turn around the fortunes of the Stars.
It is stimulating to recall that the Andre Dede Ayew-led team staged a huge performance in their second friendly at the same venue against Qatar on Monday – crushing the reigning Asian champions 5-1 to restore some smiles on the faces of disgruntled fans.
The smashing scoreline aside, the Stars – featuring a pack of newcomers – played with verve and dynamism and some get-up-and-go attitude that might have given fans strong hopes ahead of the future.
They roared, puffed, screeched, hunted and dashed for the jugular all evening, sometimes making the Qataris look like ducks in thunderstorm. That is the spirit.
Truth, however, is that the new-look Ghana team still have a long row to hoe – especially with regard to its creaky backline. It has to be fixed early enough, too. Constantly-erring goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi may also have proved that he has no future with the Stars now. His reflexes, anticipation and positioning were slip-shod and amateurish.
Heartily, there is no scintilla of doubt that the two well-timed important friendlies have afforded Coach Akonnor an enormous insight into the team, jogging into the future. He knows players that have shown their unreadiness for the national game. And, he knows they have to be flushed out!
As the coach said himself after the ignominious Mali slump, playing for a national team requires something special. Sure, national team is not club football! It is playing for the land that gave birth to you. It is a different ball game.
Whenever Ghanaians get agitated about the Stars, it is sometimes not due to the margin of defeat; it is because they do not see that whole-hearted commitment from the players.
As the Stars get poised for the Cameroon 2021 double-header against Sudan and South Africa next month, the players are reminded to work their fingers to the bone and give Ghanaians the desired result. That is, perhaps, the only way to win back the love.
BY JOHN VIGAH