I have never been a good, not even an average, footballer. Back in primary school in Tamale where I was born I was only allowed to join the five-a-side ‘boys boys’ team when any of the regulars failed to turn up early; and when any of them did, I didn’t have to be told to go play watch over my friends’ slippers at the ‘touchline’. But that never stopped me from knowing who the fantastic players back then were. There was Khalil who was a fantastic dribbler and could play about 600 of what we call ‘totals’; then there was Khalil’s elder brother, Hamdan. He was a tough, resolute chap who held what we called the number 5 position down; then there was a Fanti chap called Eshun. Eshun was a strong, short, master dribbler very difficult to dispossess.
So see, I do know and understand football though I am terrible at playing it. I am also proudly one of the 25 million FIFA licensed coaches in Ghana and that means watching from the comfort of my sofa, I do see a few things we can do to turn our Black Stars into something a bit more special with the ability NOT to disappoint when it matters. I am only going to say my mind and I do hope that I make sense, and if I do, I hope someone reads it and shares it with those who have what it takes to apply it.
An Ageing Squad
Whether or not we like it some areas of our team is ageing. Hey I understand a good mixture of youth and experience is the best for most teams but with our team, the experienced ones are truly old and it tells in their output in games.
John Mensah may have scored twice in AFCON 2012 but in his last two games he had to be stretched off for injuries younger players may have brushed off easily. We know John Mensah is not 29 and nature is very difficult to cheat. If John Mensah had received a quarter of the tackles and stampings and shoveling Dede Ayew received he probably would have been out injured for the next three seasons non-stop. Folks, our dear captain’s time is up. Luckily we have John Boye, Jonathan Mensah and Isaac Vorsah who are obviously younger (saying this rolls off a bit heavily on my tongue).
John Painstil is another chap who has obviously lost most of the steam that used to see him run past right backs in the opposite direction to whip in those sweet crosses. His time is up too. Sadly we still have not being able to recruit fresh, competent recruits for either of our wings.
Muntari used to be one of those players who could have a bad day all day but will pull out some magic out of nowhere to drive in some accurate shot to change the course of a game. Now he seems to get a bad day, all day.
Prince Tagoe has been a near-useless striker for years. He is ageing and has contributed zilch over his last several call-ups. So why the heck is he always picked when he plays next to nothing? The days when he was the ‘Prince of Goals’ for Hearts of Oak are long gone. Come to think of it, when was this, and how old was he? Damn! Prince Tagoe says he is 25?
Thing is, with the exception of the players born in Europe, and in this case we are talking about the Ayews, Charles Takyi, Adam Kwarasey, the rest of the players have doubtful ages. So if we get a playey who says he is 23 today and is playing well, my mind tells me that in 3 or tops 4 years, we should have him replaced. Feel me?
Talented But not Seamless
When I see the Ayews play; and I see the resoluteness of John Boye at the back; and the diminutive Annan (who is also ageing beyond his advertised 25) doing his thing in the middle of the park with excellent support from the man from Badu, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and the tireless Kwadwo Asamoah, I ask, so why the heck are we taking so long to annex a trophy? My reason, we have talent but we lack a team. One may say the boys (sorry men) don’t get enough time to play together but which national team does? I think what makes the difference is the technical team and how much they understand the players and their strengths and how quickly they can merge all of it into ONE UNIT! Talent without a team is as useless as owning a car tyre without a car.
I am not sure whether we are doing well in recruiting fresh talents for our game. I heard someone say that our coach should tour our local league centres and stop coming in only when there is a game in hand. True. When we assembled the famous Under 17 squad back in 1991 how did we do it? The guys were phenomenal and it stretched for a few more years. Yes it is sad that most of them did not play to their full potential after their 1991 to 1993 or so exploits. Whiles having a technical team who will truly work and go out to find talent. I believe this country is blessed abundantly with talent. Plenty of it! If the technical team does not get lazily we just may be able to find the antidote to those positions we clearly have issues with.
Folks, enough of the depressing insults on the players. Yes we paid them good bonuses (I hear they were the best paid team in AFCON 2012) and they failed to deliver but that is football. We have waited 30 years and thanks to the disorganized CAF, we have just a year more to wait and see.