Writer Albert Sam argues Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah deserves better having qualified the team to the World Cup in Brazil next year.
By Albert Sam
When the World Cup bells start ringing in Brazil heralding the big kick-off of the global football showdown and the elite football nations go marching on, will the Black Stars of Ghana be part of this soccer extravaganza?
This, certainly, is not the first time but the third consecutive time that the Black Stars have qualified for the World Cup, having made their debut in 2006 in Germany and participating again in 2010 in South Africa.
And for a country whose qualification for the World Cup had been elusive until 2006 despite our performances par-excellence in the Africa Cup of Nations, as well as the World Youth and the World Under 17 championships, this is truly remarkable.
Fact is that in 1982, when Ghana won the African Cup of Nations for an unprecedented fourth time, Cameroun, whose football pedigree on the continent was nowhere near Ghana’s exploits, had been to the World Cup.
As Ghana marks her third successive World Cup appearance in Brazil 2014, Cameroun and Nigeria are making their respective seventh and fifth appearances in the World Cup finals.
In terms of venturing onto the World Cup stage, Ghana surely could be described as late starters but it appears we are here to stay after posting impressive performances in two previous competitions, as well as equally spectacular outings during the 2014 qualifying series.
What makes our latest qualification even more historic, amazing, thought-provoking and quite revealing is the fact that this is the first time a compatriot has led the team to qualify;the two previous campaigns had been executed by Serbians.
Hard-working Kwasi Appiah, the humble, quiet and unassuming head coach of the Black Stars, has written his name in letters of gold as far as Ghana football is concerned.
Having paid his dues as the skipper of the Black Stars and in spite of enduring some of the injustices in Ghana football, Kwasi Appiah remained dedicated to the national team and has worked his way into Ghana’s Football Hall of Fame.
Many would have thrown their hands into the air in despair and been angered for having been stripped of the captaincy of the Black Stars on the eve of the team’s departure to the Senegal `92 African Cup of Nations on the flimsiest of excuses that he couldn’t speak French, but not Kwasi.
He still played his selfless and patriotic role, which consequently led to qualifying the team in style for the 18th edition of the continental championships. The Black Stars reached the final and only lost in a pulsating marathon penalty (11-10) shoot-out against Cote d’Ivoire.
Back from Senegal, Kwasi remained dedicated and committed to his club, Asante Kotoko, and country before he retired honourably from active football. He then undertook football coaching courses locally and had a short stint with Kotoko before leaving for the United Kingdom to further his studies for the coaching career after Kotoko had failed to honour their promise of sponsoring his coaching course abroad.
Appiah later returned to Ghana to take up assistant national coach appointment with the Black Stars and again, this was not devoid of controversy as his salary, described as very insulting, became a source of national concern.
Again, this never provoked the resilient Kwasi to make any public statement, despite the public outcry over the salary, as he remained focused under the tutelage of Serbian coach Goran Stevanovic (Plavi).
Slowly but surely, Kwasi understudied Plavi until he was rightly elevated as head coach of the national team after Plavi’s exit, a position he has so far justified and acquitted himself as being capable of handling.
Today, Kwasi Appiah stands tall among his peers and is proudly credited with the feat as having completely transformed the Black Stars into a winsome and fearsome side with incredible goal-scoring prowess.
Indeed, from the team’s unenviable acolade as “One goal project” for its inability to score more goals in competitive matches, Kwasi has sharpened the attacking arsenals of the team to the extent that the Black Stars emerged the top scoring side in the African qualifying series for Brazil 2014.
The Stars scored 25 goals and conceded six in eight qualifying matches, followed by Cote d’Ivoire (19-7) and Egypt (19-14), with Ghana’s skipper Asamoah Gyan, Mohammed Saleh and Aboutrika, both of Egypt, finishing as joint top scorers with six goals apiece.
This surely represents a historical achievement for which the entire technical team, the playing body, as well as the Black Stars management team, headed by GFA boss, Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi, must be commended. The sponsorship packages, attractive nature of the bonuses and other incentives have not only been motivating, but inspiring.
But with last Friday’s draw having put the Blackstars in a group with Germany, Portugal, and United States, it behoves the GFA and the technical team to get to the drawing board immediately to come up with a blueprint on the team’s preparations for the challenge ahead.
The World Cup stage is a different ball game altogether. Happily, the Black Stars are neither new nor minnows in the competition.
Having gone beyond the group stage in their maiden participation in Germany 2006 and graduated to the quarter-final stage in South Africa 2010, the Stars surely would be seeking to improve upon these achievements in Brazil.
It is in the light of this that nothing must be done to disrupt the forward march of the team before and during the competition.
This writer is not oblivious of public disenchantment with the present salary level of the head coach. Having qualified the team for the World Cup, all clauses in the contract must be activated and a critical look taken at his status as he has shown that he is an accomplished coach.
Knowing Kwasi, financial issues are not his pre-occupation but that should not prevent his employers from doing what is appropriate and just concerning his remuneration.
Determined to make Ghana proud, Kwasi has already assured the nation of his determination to continue to revamp the team. His scouting prowess has never been in doubt throughout the World Cup qualifying series.
Surely, the nation is solidly behind the Black Stars and for Kwasi Appiah in particular; his patience, fortitude and clairvoyance have paid off. This is the man Kwasi Appiah, who does not consider himself as having accomplished his ambition even after qualifying the team to Brazil.
Perhaps, what aptly sums up his life-long ambition could be found in the scriptures: “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
Kwasi Appiah deserves better; he has been cheated all this while and it is about time he was given his dues.