Veteran Sports Journalist Ken Bediako - The Writer

Some fastidious critics have already labelled the splendid efforts of Black Stars coach Chris Houghton as one goal project. Not exactly, I think it’s too early to make such assessment.

I strongly believe the new man on the block has started his job on an encouraging note and needs all the moral support from the nation.

He appears to be a good reader of the game and his substitutions show this with barely two days at his disposal to assemble a winning team for his first assignment in the Garden City, he passed the test. Starting on a rather slow note against Angola in Kumasi his squad fought doggedly till the last breath to collect the three points at stake. Four days later in Angola for the return away encounter he remarkably weathered the storm in a hectic first half with good defensive tactics. When the Stars conceded a rather soft penalty early in the second half and came under heavy pressure, Houghton’s ability to read between the lines and make useful substitutions, were evident. The Black Stars rattled in a beautiful equaliser with amazing ease. In fact, a potential winning goal was in the offing at the closing stages when the homesters were under severe pressure but the Egyptian referee wisely used his discretion not to antagonise a home crowd used to unfortunate violent wars off the pitch.

In other jurisdictions the violent tackling from behind that bundled down Paintsil who was in a pole position. In the penalty box, would have attracted a straight red.

Very much aware of the volatile political and socio economic situation in our part of the world, I have to concede the Egyptian referee used his sixth sense correctly by deliberately albeit shamelessly ignoring the glaring infringement that might have won the day for Ghana.

As for Chris Houghton he should be satisfied with his performance so far. As he said at his maiden press conference the other day all good coaches want to win matches so I believe he is on the right path.

He also promised at the press conference to follow closely our domestic league in a bid to hunt for possible talents. I can assure him he has a tough assignment in that regard. The current standards in the league don’t seem to be anything worth shouting about. Even our two most adored clubs, Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak, that used to make the nation proud with their brilliant exploits on the continent are fading fast. Coaching has become such a problem that Kotoko for instance are unsettled to such an extent that they have to import a coach from Burkina Faso of all places. The result is their 7th position in the league table.

Hearts of Oak are no better. The club announced on roof tops the services of a top Serbian coach but recent events indicate the deal is fast threatening to hit the rocks and they might need some sort of debt exchange programme to keep hopes alive.

Indeed, in my view the nation is short of good home bred coaches. Since the unfortunate passing away of many of our active veterans like Sam Arday, Osam Duodu, Jones Attuquayefio, Kwasi Afranie, Herbert Addo, and Co and retirement of stalwarts like Teacher Edusei, J.E. A. Sarpong and Co, only a handful like Kwasi Appiah, Maxwell Konadu, Abdul Karimu Zito, Bashiru Hayford, Duncan, Anno Walker, Abdul Razak Didi Dramani are still on the road.

It is my suggestion that the Ministry of Sports, GFA and the Sports Authority team up with Coach Chris Houghton and work a comprehensive programme to train coaches and make them available for the various stages of our football development starting from the colts, schools and colleges, ending with the various divisional clubs.

Please let nobody talk about the clubs being professional and all that. I still maintain that this so called professional football in this country is on paper mainly. There is nothing professional about our local football otherwise why should people be bothering the GFA about the low salaries of players. Is it the business of the GFA to fix salaries of professional players when club owners are all over the place with pompous titles like bank rollers of clubs?. Let’s drop the pretence. Let’s treat the clubs like true business enterprises whose salaries are not determined by any outsiders. As things stand now, it appears that only the players of the national teams are true professionals who are paid well from the GFA and state coffers. At the moment we all have to be happy that both the Black Stars and the Black Meteors are giving us reasons to fill the stands to watch them. It is hoped their performances will inspire the other sports disciplines to intensify their preparations especially for the rescheduled African Games.

It is clear the year 2024 is going to be a bumper year for sports worldwide. Afcon in Cote d’Ivoire, African

Games in Ghana, Euro Cup of Nations and Olympic Games in France.

The first quarter of the year 2023 is almost gone and we need to step up preparations as much as possible. It is said that time and tide waits for no man. Over to you Dr Ofosu Asare and Co in charge of the African Games.

Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.