DO THE BLACK STARS NEED A FOREIGN TECHNICAL DIRECTOR?
Daily Graphic Monday, 18 November 2013
An expatriate technical director for Stars?
Written by Cameron Duodu / Graphic Sports / Ghana
There is a pithy American saying which goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
I once heard a British engineer say the same thing in different words. I’d told him that a Ghanaian mechanic had ruined the engine of my BMW 2000CS by taking out the spark plugs to “clean” them.
But while he was replacing the plugs, he’d been distracted and had forgotten to tighten one of them fully, before closing the engine compartment.
I’d then taken the car on the Accra-Tema motorway, on my way to Ada to attend the funeral of a friend’s mother-in-law. All of a sudden, I’d heard a noise: the loose plug had apparently broken up; some pieces had been sucked into the engine, punctured the cylinder-head, and damaged the connecting-rod bearings.
After that, I did not have a car for nearly three months, as I made attempts to import the needed spare parts to be shipped to me from Germany. As a ‘motorphiliac’, I suffered the worst withdrawal symptoms I’ve ever known, depending as I did on Accra’s saucy taxi drivers to get about.
When I complained to my friend, the British engineer, he said, “It is a syndrome well known to those of us who operate as engineers in Africa. It is called ‘African hands!’ Some Africans who acquire a partial expertise in technical matters cannot keep their hands off engines and other machinery: they are always taking such complex things apart at the slightest provocation – sometimes for no reason at all!”
He went on: “Such people love to to tinker with complex machines, basically to satisfy their curiosity about how they work, and not because there’s anything actually wrong with them. Yet one part wrongly refitted, or a small screw or nut left out when re-assembling the engine and – the whole thing can go phut! Never ever allow your engine to be taken apart by anyone, unless you are absolutely sure the guy knows exactly what he’s doing! Even then, be quite certain he definitely needs to take it apart!”
I was reminded of my calamity and the ensuing advice from the engineer, when I read the following report on the JoyFM website on 22-10-2013:
“Credible information reaching footy-ghana.com indicates that German coach Klaus Toppmoller, is being earmarked as the new technical director of the senior national team, the Black Stars. According to our unimpeachable sources, Toppmoller has been contacted by third parties representing officials of the Ghana Football Association, with a view to taking over the technical bench of the Black Stars.
“Footy-ghana.com understands that should the move happen, the 62-year-old Toppmoller will take all technical decisions regarding the team, leaving current Black Stars head coach, Kwasi Appiah as a deputy, in effect. Interestingly, the GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi, told GTV Stage Africa that unless Appiah asks for any technical help, the former Black Stars captain will remain in full charge of the national team, since he has almost qualified the Black Stars for next year’s World Cup.”
There are two interesting aspects to the report: one, if the president of the GFA, Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi, has said that Appiah will “remain in full charge” unless he, Appiah, “asks for any technical help”, then why is Footy-ghana.com insisting that its “unimpeachable sources” maintain that Mr Toppmoller has been approached to become the Black Stars’ Technical Director?
The second aspect is this: in view of the serious concerns that many people have expressed over the issue, shouldn’t the GFA do more than respond to it in a TV interview? Shouldn’t it issue a definitive statement denying that such a move is being contemplated?Black Stars Coach Akwasi AppiahBlack Stars Coach Akwasi Appiah
I suspect that the GFA is being opaque about the issue because it doesn’t take the Ghanaian public seriously, despite its knowledge that football, especially at the national level, arouses extremely deep passions in most Ghanaians.
For instance, a very well-placed media personality in Ghana has told me, in no uncertain terms, that he feels “insulted, as a Ghanaian,” that there should be all this talk about a foreign coach, when our own Kwasi Appiah has done so well to achieve near-qualification for us in World Cup 2014.
What are the arguments for and against employing a foreign technical director for our team? The most influential person whose views on the subject are known to me is the former FA president, Alhaji M. N. D. Jawula, who is quoted as having said in an interview on Joy FM: “If we are going to the World Cup, we also need by Kwasi Appiah, somebody who perhaps can sit with him, whisper a few things [in his ear] because he has been there before.
It does not mean that he is going to give Kwasi Appiah any instruction[s]. We are happy Kwasi Appiah, a black coach. is going to the World Cup, but the reality is that it’s good to have a good technical team around him. Just to say he should go all by himself I don’t think that is modern football at all.”
Another person described as “a huge football luminary” in Ghana, was quoted as saying that “We must beef up the technical team. This is not a secret and anybody who knows football will attest that Akwasi Appiah and Maxwell Konadu cannot do the job alone. It is impossible.
Even with those big countries who win the World Cup, just look at their technical set-up. Our former coaches – Milo (Rajevac) and Dujkovic wanted this sort of assistance, but for lack of funds. Even [then] we met them half-way. We have to help them and it is not a matter of sacking them. The debate is how we can help Akwasi Appiah to success and not about replacing him with [the former German coach] Topmoller or Jose Mourinho [of Real Madrid and Chelsea].”
The trouble with this argument of “beefing up” the Ghana coaching desk is that it omits one thing: the emotional atmosphere that such a “beefing-up” with a foreign technical advisor or advisors will create in the team.
Say what you like, racism is present – sometimes in a very strong way – in football. African footballers don’t talk too much, for fear of offending potential white team-mates and coaches, but it is no secret that many of them go through tremendous hardships, in making it in Europe, where their talents have the best market.
These players are exceptionally proud of the achievements of one another, for when you have been greeted on European football pitches with monkey chants, bananas thrown at you or shouts of “Ni**** go home!”, you are not likely to produce your best football.
Yet in spite of the emotional and psychological turmoil in which they are often obliged to operate, they can come up with the most unimaginable magic. Think of Didier Drogba at his best in Chelsea colours. Michael Essien, also in blue. Samuel Eto’o; Abedi Pele; George Weah; Demba Ba; Papisse Cisse – the supply of magicians is endless.
Now, when they do reach the top, as Akwasi Appiah has done, why not give them the full support they need psychologically, but undermine their confidence with idle talk of “beefing up” their performance? Did Appiah need “beefing up” before his team crushed the Egyptian Pharaohs by six goals to one in the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi?
Every period in which the Black Stars have shone at their brightest has been when they have been under Ghanaian leadership.
The Black Stars first struck gold on the international scene on 19 August 1962 at the Accra Sports Stadium, when they drew 3-3 with Real Madrid, who were at the time, Spanish champions, former European champions and intercontinental champions. Guess who our coach was? The inimitable Ghanaian football genius, Charles Kumi Gyamfi!
Gyamfi, ex-Fortuna Dusseldorf, Kumase Asante Kotoko and Kumase Great Ashantis, used a combination of European experience and Ghanaian savvy to win for us, two successive Africa Cup of Nations titles — in 1963 and 1965. The victory in 1965, achieved in an away match in Tunis, was one of the greatest in the Black Stars’ history. No-one thought of puncturing Gyamfi’s achievement by giving him a European technical director midway through his triumphant campaigns.
The thing is, every country has its own way of playing football. When our players are given their head, their unique style can lead them to victory. We were using this to dazzle the world in the World Cup in 2006, (in which we stylishly thrashed the Czechs and the USA) when our foreign coach got cold feet and forced us onto the defensive – against Brazil of all countries. We tried to play the offside trap against Brazil – and got a 3-0 drubbing for our foolishness.
I cannot see any Ghanaian coach trying that type of nonsense. A Ghanaian would have attacked and attacked, and got praise for fearlessness and stylistic excellence, even if we had been beaten.
Let us go back to the C K Gyamfi spirit. Let us give Akwasi Appiah the 100% support he needs now. Whether we win or lose, he will remain here with us. He won’t leave us to go somewhere else, probably to bad-mouth us for not having enough bottle to win.
Ghana Oseeeeeeee! Yeeeeeee! Pharaohs, we are coming. And then, it is to Brazil 2014! With Akwasi Appiah at the wheel – in full control!