Prior to the Black Stars’ FIFA World Cup qualifying match against the Crocodiles of Lesotho last week, His Royal Highness, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, took time off his tight schedule and paid a royal visit to the camp of the senior national team with the view to motivating them.
The positive assurance from the Manhyia Palace, the royal interaction, and the warm reception given to the players by the people of the Kumasi Metropolis, contributed in no small measure towards the team’s victory against their opponents.
The support, in its various forms – financial, material, spiritual, moral, physical etc proved that extrinsic motivation could propel individual players and teams to excel during football competitions.
Although the match took place on a Friday, the day did not have a negative impact on spectatoring, because the fans defied all odds and made their presence felt at the Baba Yara sports stadium.
The noise, the chants, and the excitement among the huge crowd were an indication of the love Ghanaians attach to football, especially when it comes to supporting the national teams.
The cheers that welcomed the early goals, the disappointment that followed due to the power outage, the shock that befell the entire country including the office of the president during the temporary hold up, proved that our passion for football can never be underrated.
In short, the soccer atmosphere, coupled with the score line recorded was enough to convince the world that Ghanaians were leaving no stone unturned to play at the finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Having displayed such true love and unflinching support for the senior national team over the weekend, it is only befitting for the supporters to sustain the momentum until the ultimate is finally achieved.
But could Ghanaians have the patience for the Black Stars in all the upcoming qualifying matches? I am asking this question because of the attitude of a section of the football public.
Readers would agree with me that many a time our national team players are over-criticized when the team performs poorly.
A case in point is the recent AFCON 2012 tournament held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, where the Black Stars were eliminated from the competition at the semi-final stage by the Zambians.
Whilst some called for the dissolution of the entire Black Stars’ team, there were several others who demanded the instant dismissal of the Head Coach.
For instance, the national organiser of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr. Yaw Boateng Gyan, who doubles as a member of the Black Stars Management Team had this to say; ”Coach Plavi should sack himself; I don’t expect him to come back to Ghana again. Goran is too stubborn.”
The above statements demonstrated the sentiments of the phantom 24 million Ghanaian coaches who expected nothing barring emerging winners in the said competition.
Following the public outcry over the poor performance of the Black Stars, the leading striker, Asamoah Gyan announced his temporary retirement from the team amidst threats to his life and that of his family.
Consequently, the Nyantakyi-led Ghana Football Association (GFA) terminated the appointment of the Serbian coach, Goran Stevenovic on the 19th of March, 2012 after being in charge of the national team for barley one year.
In my article entitled; ”Ghanaians Should Leave Asamoah Gyan Alone” published in the media on February 15, 2012, I suggested among others, the appointment of two competent local coaches with better pay and better conditions of service; transparent selection of players based on performance and commitment; adequate preparation of the team before any major tournament; utilisation of set pieces during games; enforcement of tactical discipline and unity; avoidance of political interference; and more importantly, massive support from the football loving fans.
As if the GFA president, Mr. Kwasi Nyantakyi was listening to me and majority of Ghanaians, he made one of the best decisions by appointing two local coaches in the persons of Messrs James Kwasi Appiah and Maxwell Konadu to manage the national football team.
I have always had the belief in the ability of the Ghanaian to deliver the goods, especially when it matters most and therefore the appointment of the two former national players did not come as a surprise to me.
In fact, I had the opportunity to read a lot about Katakyie Kwasi Appiah as a great player of Opoku Ware School in the early 1990s when I served as the Sports Prefect of the school during the period.
I have also seen his exploits as a player and the captain of the greatest football club in Africa, Kumasi Asante Kotoko in the early 1980s and 1990s.
Again, I have assessed Kwasi as a player and captain of the Black Stars, especially when he was stripped of the captaincy under bizarre circumstances during the African Cup of Nations held in Senegal in 1992.
Besides, I have observed him as a substantive coach of the national Under 23 team, the Black Meteors as well as the Assistant Coach of the Black Stars under two foreign coaches including Goran Stevanovic.
Therefore, judging from the notable achievements by Kwasi Appiah in his chosen career, one could only admit that the man actually prepared himself for the Black Stars job.
His composure, commitment, attitude, patience, dedication, discipline etc can never be disputed by any Ghanaian.
I can only say congrats to Opoku Ware School for producing such a personality for Mother Ghana. Katakyie Kwasi Appiah has unreservedly made all Akatakyie (old boys of Owass) proud.
But in showering praises on Kwasi Appiah and congratulating him on the team’s victory under his headship, I would like take this opportunity to caution Coach Kwasi Appiah in his new role. As Shakespeare puts it; “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.
Kwasi should not be flattered by the praises coming from the public because the same people will turn against him when he falters.
Those who are shouting ‘hosanna’ ‘hosanna’ today will one day be shouting ‘crucify’ him, ‘crucify’ him. Kwasi Appiah must therefore avoid any form of complacency that may come his way and I am sure with our prayers, he will definitely put the smiles back on the faces of all Ghanaians.
To the fans, I will advise that we do our best to manage our expectations as the Black Stars sets to conquer the world.
The task ahead is a herculean one because there are no minnows in modern football. Ghanaians should view football competition as a stretch of a typical road which is not smooth till the end.
There may be curves, potholes, speed ramps, etc along the line. And as has always been said, a football match between two teams could only produce three (3) major results – win, draw, and lose, and therefore in the unlikely event that the Black Stars comes out with any a draw or a loss in the course of the qualifiers, our supporters should be able to accept them in good faith.
The era where national team players were vilified, threatened, and sometimes physically attacked should give way to open and frank criticisms.
It is imperative we see these players as infallible. These players are not robots or magicians. They are our sons, nephews, brothers, husbands, grandsons, role models, and friends.
It is therefore important to pledge our support to them, especially when the going gets tough because that might be the time they may need our help.
And to the playing body, I will urge you to be disciplined at all times (on and off the field) and continue to serve your motherland.
You should train hard, listen to your coaches, and subordinate any personal goals to the collective good of the team. That is the only way the Black Stars could reach its potential.
Remember, not everybody had the chance to don the national jersey so you must endeavor to be true ambassadors. We, on our part, will continue to remember the entire team in prayers.
We have the strongest conviction that a victory for the Black Stars is a victory for unity and progress of the nation.
I will therefore urge all Ghanaians in general, and football fans in particular not to make our support a nine days’ wonder but to sustain it as the team prepares to conquer the world.
Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang