When the genial and unassuming Kwesi Appiah was appointed head coach of the national soccer team fairly recently, many Ghanaians berated the Nyantakyi-superintended Ghana Football Association (GFA) for making a monumentally objectionable decision.
In fact, the name-calling got so ugly, some of us wondered if the “White is better” syndrome had permanently distorted Ghanaians’ collective judgment, even if the evidence pointed to better performances by Ghanaian coaches in important competitions across the African continent and beyond.
It is a well-known fact that, of the four continental trophies that bedeck the halls of the GFA, none was the work of foreign-born coaches.
In other words, native-born, dark-skinned coaches were in charge when the Black Stars won continental trophies in 1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982.
Now, Kwesi Appiah is on the verge of becoming the first native-born citizen to lead the Black Stars to a World Cup tournament.
That Ghanaians would despise Kwesi Appiah’s appointment as head coach of the Black Stars was as disappointing as it was appalling. That Kwesi Appiah was called the ugliest of names for losing a few matches was as self-defeating as it was demoralizing for the coach.
Indeed, I felt a sense of shame after reading on pro-Ghana(ian) Internet portals the miscellany of abuses and vituperations hurled at the friendly Kwesi Appiah. Did Ghanaians misplace their sense of patriotism? Could we not be proud of one of our own?
Sadly, Kwesi Appiah’s lack of initial success would bring out the naysayers, who argued that the overseas-based players, because of the large salaries they earned playing for top European clubs, were unlikely to both respect and support a native-born coach.
Indeed, what these naysayers meant was that Ghanaian players – and, by extension, Ghanaians – were so undisciplined, only a light-skinned, straight-haired man with an aquiline nose could command the players’ respect!
For a moment, I felt sorry for my country of birth and fellow citizens. Without a doubt, Kwame Nkrumah would have been disappointed during that early period of Kwesi Appiah’s appointment as national team coach.
Today, hypocritical Ghanaians are hailing a successful Kwesi Appiah as an innovator! We are, arguably, the world’s most anointed hypocrites!
The most distressing part of this story is that, even before Kwesi Appiah got the chance to show the world that he was just as capable as any other man to manage the national soccer team, so-called pundits had declared him incapable of handling such a huge assignment.
Painfully, the pessimists would ridicule Kwesi Appiah’s lack of command of the English language, as if those Eastern Europeans who served at the helm of the senior national team prior to Appiah’s appointment spoke English like Queen Elizabeth of England.
Oh, yes, we had forgotten that Kwesi Appiah had led Kumasi Asante Kotoko to the finals of the 1982 African Clubs Championship, only to lose to a slightly better Al-Ahly team from Egypt.
The following year, however, a Kwesi Appiah-led Asante Kotoko would hoist the same trophy before teeming fans at the Kumasi Sports Stadium!
We had forgotten that Kwesi Appiah had deservingly been captain of the senior national team for a few years, until conspirators took the honor away from him and gave it to an egotistic Abedi Pele just before Senegal 1992.
Kwesi Appiah’s recent success is as glaring as the noonday sun. In other words, it takes time to build a good team, and Kwesi Appiah has shown that, if given enough time, a Ghanaian coach can perform better than those mediocre coaches the GFA had continually hired from the boondocks of Eastern Europe to manage the Black Stars.
I call on the GFA to keep Kwesi Appiah at the helm of the national soccer team for several years, especially because the affable coach is on the verge of taking the senior national team to Brazil 2014.
Unmistakably, our leaders’ penchant for dismissing coaches before they are able to build formidable, winning teams is no longer tenable.
Ghanaians must show unequivocal support for the good work Kwesi Appiah has done as national team coach. After Kwesi Appiah led an inspired Black Stars to “demolish” the Pharaohs of Egypt on October 15, 2013, by a margin that surprised even the most vociferous of Ghanaian soccer devotees, no one can question the rightness of the decision to install Kwesi Appiah as Ghana’s substantive head coach.
Suddenly, I have become intensely aware of the “I told you so” affirmations by jingoists, such as Vice Ressien, who have always believed that Ghanaians must learn to trust their own to take them to the zenith of soccer glory.
Suddenly, it appears that reposing our collective faith in a fellow Ghanaian has paid off handsomely.
In the meantime, I urge Kwesi Appiah to ignore post-victory adulations and focus on the second leg of the Ghana–Egypt contest, as the Black Stars have not yet qualified for Brazil 2014.