By Ken Bediako
Uhuru is the Swahili meaning of freedom or independence. The celebrated Kenyan politician Oginga Odinga wrote the history of Kenya with this scintillating title.
NOT YET UHURU.
I am so tickled by the title of the book that I would like to paraphrase and adapt it for the Black Stars.
Yes, the Black Stars national football team of Ghana, have shown to the world in the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar that they are not yet ready to be classified among the top teams in the world.
Conceding seven goals in three round one matches proved disastrous and they were classified as boys separated from the men. As things turned out, the five goals they scored counted for nothing and the statistics will show that the two rapid goals they conceded in each of the three matches may soon go into the Guinness Book of records for bad reasons.
I wouldn’t like to highlight too much on the Dede Ayew’s penalty miss. It happens to even super Stars like Zico, Socrates, Roberto Baggio, Ronaldo, Messi and Co in the World Cup. Anyway, seeing the play back he would wonder why he decided to take such a lazy and highly predictable kick.
Having struggled so much to make it a 4th World Cup appearance. The nation is definitely disappointed with the rather uninspiring encounter against old foes Uruguay most especially when the 2010 episode involving the ubiquitous Suarez comes to mind.
This 12-year-old Suarez episode appeared to have been unnecessarily given enormous attention much to the detriment of the assignment on hand. No wonder it turned out to be a nightmare. The general output by the Black Stars was the least impressive of all the three matches played raising the suspicion that all might not be well in camp. Those who know will tell you a lot happens in camp much on the blind side of the general public. Since I once had the privilege of serving on the Black Stars and Black Meteors management committee in the early 90s, I realised there were several top level subterranean aspects about football teams unknown to the public, especially final team selection.
I recall at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics an incident happened involving the Black Meteors goalkeeping for the bronze medal match against Australia.
Coach Sam Arday’s style was usually to name the team immediately after breakfast on match day. The players are given their respective jerseys at a group meeting and they are called individually amidst clapping from team mates. Then both Christian and Muslim prayers are said and the players depart for their respective rooms everybody holding his jersey.
In Barcelona, barely five minutes after the players left for their rooms with their jersey, grim faced goalkeeper Anthony Mensah returned to inform officials he could not keep the posts. We were all baffled but we the four officials namely, coaches Sam Arday, Isaac Paha, Dr Fordjour and yours truly, quickly put our heads together to call substitute goalie Ibrahim Dossey who readily agreed to man the posts. Suffice to say he did well even saving a penalty. He was eventually injured midway through the second half and Simon Addo took over. Ghana beat Australia 1-0 to win won her first Olympic football medal, thanks to a brilliant free kick by defender Isaac Asare. This episode was obviously not for public consumption that might have created unnecessary speculation in camp.
A lot really goes on in camp off the pitch. Camederie among players and between the coach is a major ingredient that boosts morale in camp before the real competition starts. Sportsmen and sportswomen are very sensitive breed especially footballers and you need to handle them with tact.
I worked closely with German coach Burkhard Ziese those days and his word always carried weight since he knew the buck stops with him. For instance, his decision to field rugged Stanley Aboraa on the right full back position was heavily criticised but he stood his grounds. He felt Aboraa was the robust type he needed to stop the slippery Nigerian winger and he was proved right.
Burkhard on his first mission to Ghana transformed Sam Johnson into a formidable utility player and he would tell Joe Addo that he is born with the best shot around and should shoot on sight anytime near the box. I recall that in a crucial match against Nigeria in Lagos, he instructed Odartey Lamptey not to go further than the opponents box but remain in the midfield. The plan was to halt the avalanche of Nigerian aggressive forwards and the plan worked.
This reminds me of the role given Yahya Kassum by coach Ibrahim Sunday in the 1983 CAF champions cup final between Kotoko and Al Ahly in Kumasi. The instruction was to halt any midfield build up by El Ahly. He did so well to earn the nickname “butcher”. I was then honorary PR consultant to Yaw Bawuah’s Kotoko administration thus in close touch with coach Sunday.
It is not too clear what coach Otto Addo might have told Partey about the Arsenal player’s attacking forays. In his interview with the media, the way Partey interpreted the instructions of the coach to him gives a hint there might be a break in communication somewhere along the line.
And the way Coach Otto Addo is telling future Black Stars coaches to be firm and take full control of the team gives room for varied interpretations as well. Was he prevented from taking his own decisions or what. Or he managed to take full control and so he is recommending to his successor to follow his footsteps?
And this story about Otto stepping down as for me I don’t get it.
To my mind it’s no news. It is well known that Otto Addo was an interim coach contracted to take Ghana to the World Cup.
The man himself had said he had a binding contract with Dortmund up to the next two years He hopes to return to the Black Stars at the end of his contract with Dortmund. So what is all this noise about his resignation. Let us remind ourselves that Ghana’s exit from Qatar 2022 is not the end of the World. There is another World Cup in 2026. Before that there is Afcon 24.
Don’t let us spend too much time brooding over a lost cause. The so-called football people know the problem their individual self-interest and greed is gradually destroying the confidence the public have in their capacity to build our game to the expected high standards.
I would like to plead that since the nation is going to host the African Games next year, all efforts should be marshalled lo complete facilities for Africa’s most prestigious sports festival.
Our esteemed sports-loving MPs who flew to Qatar to give moral support to the Black Stars must show similar enthusiasm for the
African Games. They need to pay regular visits to the Games sites to assess progress of work.
In the midst of the much trumpeted economic hardships we need to find time for relaxation. The African Games come in handy to give us a break so cheers everybody and keep loving sports.