Five Alive in Selection for Black Stars Coach

Will Desailly

We are down to five contenders for the Black Stars job. The idea of Milovan Rajevac returning has been firmly rejected and a new name will be announced as Ghana’s coach sometime in December. Media reports suggested the Ghana Football Association received over 100 applications for the job. Speculation surrounded well known names such as Luis Felipe Scolari, Juande Ramos, Gianfranco Zola and Lothar Matthaus as being in the running.

Given the names mentioned above, many Ghanaian fans must have uttered a collective ‘huh?’ when Goran Stevanovic, Marcel Desailly, Humberto Coelho, Herbert Addo and Can Vanli were mentioned as the final contenders for the job. Two of those names have some name recognition. Addo is the sole local coach on the list and is currently in charge of the local Black Stars. Desailly’s name is recognized globally but his connection to Ghana – Desailly was born in Ghana – makes him compelling. He openly declared his interest in the job and has long been tagged as the favorite. Yet again, we have a Serbian in contention and if the last two World Cup coaches are anything to go by, Stevanovic has a great shot.  Can Vanli’s name may have garnered the loudest ‘HUH?’ but who knows what he will show the committee?

The cynical part of me saw Addo’s name on the list and thought he is there to make up the numbers and to convince Ghanaians that a local coach was ‘seriously’ considered. You know, anything to assuage the populist, ‘give us a local coach’ crowd. Then I looked again, saw Vanli, who counts coaching in the Maldives as part of his work experience as well as being a tactics analyst for the Turkish national team in 2006 and wasn’t so dismissive of Addo’s candidacy.

It would be easy to get carried away and mock the selection process and the names it has produced. Without fully understanding the criteria though, that would be unfair. Also, without seeing the full list of applicants and those considered, how could I say there were some on the list ‘better qualified’ than those the committee shortlisted? After all, many of us conveniently forget the skepticism with which we greeted Ratomir Djukovic and Rajevac.

Still, this is a job that many said was in high demand. The thought was that there were many top coaches lining up to coach Ghana given our recent performances. That none of these top coaches makes me wonder how much genuine interest there was in the first place. It could be a case of coaches’ agents being effective at promoting their clients rather than a deep commitment to become the Black Stars coach.

Which brings me to what the FA may be looking for in a coach. Given the current team, a disciplinarian and a principled man is required. Do we need more a manager of players’ egos and playing time than a tactician? Most of our players play in Europe and are exposed to different systems of play. One could argue that tactically it would be easy for them to make the adjustment to the coach’s tactics. That may in turn put the onus more on a coach’s man management than anything. Last but not the least, the costs of hiring a so-called world class coach and his staff may have played and will continue to play a more significant role than we readily acknowledge. Despite our recent successes, we are not at the stage of our football development and management where we can splash a lot of cash at prospective coaches in order to woo the Mourinhos and Scolaris of the world. Until then, we will have to make do with motivated mid-level coaches who have much to prove.

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