Ghana’s Squad List Out Ahead of Nairobi Camp

The ladies wept! Dede Ayew has been left of squad to face Sudan Photo Credit: Senyuiedzorm Adadevoh

The Black Stars are to camp in Nairobi ahead of their crucial match against Sudan. The clash of the Group I leaders promises to be as serious as a heart attack. The Sudanese came to Kumasi and showed what they were made off. If that wasn’t convincing, the group standings show that they’ve  definitely closed the gap. The two teams are neck and neck with Sudan poised to inflict what would be a painful defeat to the World Cup quarter-finalists. Nevertheless, the confidence of the Stars is still sky high. Coming off high profile friendly games against England and Brazil and earning respectable results as well as their easy brushing aside of Swaziland, the Stars have every reason to be confident.

The camp being organized by the Football Association may indicate the seriousness with which the FA regards the tie. Or not. The squad list is out and there is one glaring omission in the players picked by Goran Stevanovic.

Noooooo. Not Richard ‘Olele’ Kingson. Look closer. Who? Dede Ayew? Really? Something about recovering from an injury. Except he played in a European Champions League match between Marseille and Borussia Dortmund. And scored. TWICE! earning him top player honors. All this after the phone lines at many radio stations buzzed with startled fans questioning the  rationale behind Plavi’s selection.

Since he assumed the job as Black Stars coach Stevanovic has spent a lot of time outside of Ghana, jetting all over Europen watching Ghanaian talent. This despite his solemn promise at his unveiling to spend a lot of time in Ghana monitoring local talent. This decision means that in moving from place to place he might have missed some of Dede’s matches because he’s been in transit at various airports.

There were four Ghanaian players in Champions League action this week – Dede Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Mubarak Wakaso, and Emmanuel Frimpong. None of them made the squad. The main talking points are going to surround Dede’s exclusion though because of his consistency and his willingness to give over 100 percent to the team. I have talked about this commitment and fighting spirit he exhibits on this blog time and time again and all I can say is it’s a pity Plavi does not read my blog!!!



In football and many other sports, contracts are not worth the ink they’re written with these days. It is increasingly rare for a player to see out his contract. Clubs often try to get a player for cheap and then sell him for more money or a player engineers a move away for guess what? More money. The bottom line in either instance is often MONEY. Darren Bent did it last season, Wayne Rooney complained his way to a fatter paycheck and Samir Nasri did it at the start of this season. Occasionally, a player like Cesc Fabregas comes along who is so desperate for sentimental reasons to play for a particular club that they even offer their own money to make it happen. Otherwise, the prevailing attitude is that the dollar is green in every part of the world so if someone, anyone offers more of it you reach out with hands and feet and grab it.

The latest example in this trend is Ghanaian striker Asamoah ‘Baby Jet’ Gyan. Al Ain? More like ‘all in’ as soon as ‘Asa,’ as Sunderland manager Steve Bruce calls him, heard he could make at least four times what he was making at Sunderland. Now, he’s undoubtedly the highest paid Ghanaian footballer. Today, on radio it was reported that it would have taken Gyan nine years on his Sunderland pay to make what he’s going to make this year at the Emirates club. Hyperbole? Perhaps. Still, it’s an awful lot of money to turn down. Especially when you consider that with tax considerations (UAE = 0% and UK =50%) Gyan’s take home pay is jaw dropping. Mothers all over Ghana are pulling their kids out of school and trying to enroll them at one of the many football academies springing up over the country as we speak!!!

The coverage when news broke of a year-long loan move to the Emirates was directed at the player’s motivations -**ahem** money – for taking his talents East. In the last two days however, it is clear Gyan and Niall Quinn were at least pursuing similar interests – money. Quinn came out publicly to ostensibly say what was evident all along but which Bruce was either unaware of or ignored to make himself look more sympathetic in the fans eyes. Sunderland gained from the deal. Six million pounds for a loan deal is unheard of. Basically, Al Ain said we’ll not only take the player’s wages off your books for the year but oh here,’s 6 million to add to that. Make no mistake, if Sunderland were losing out financially, they would likely not have agreed to it. After all, 48 hours before the deal, Gyan was ready to stay and make the best out of the situation. He and Bruce shook hands, hugged, made up and all that good stuff. All this peace pipe smoking and the subsequent ‘betrayal’ all made for some interesting drama as neatly captured here. But as Tottenham Hotspurs have shown in the case of Luka Modric if you own a player and don’t want to sell him you don’t have to.

So let’s not get it twisted. This deal is all about money, money, money and no one should offer any sporting explanation for why this deal makes sense. The notion that you can leave the most competitive league in the World where your mettle is tested week in week out against top opposition and go to some unheard of team in the Gulf in what is the physical prime of your life and somehow improve is insulting. Rio Ferdinand’s tweet upon hearing the deal said it all. “Wow, Gyan left the PL for UAE…at 23 or whatever he is #baffled! If he was in his 30s I could understand,” said Ferdinand.

Bruce had earlier on given his views on ‘parasites.’ Let’s just say he doesn’t like them. To my mind, the only bad advice Gyan’s gotten so far from these so-called parasites is to not fully own the reason he’s left Sunderland. It’s not about football. It’s about MONEY!!! It’s about the chance to secure your financial future. Al Ain showed him the money and he’s gone. Watching Gyan’s press conference however, you would be mistaken for thinking he was there on a mission to discover the sand dunes of the UAE and to help his new team ‘win trophies.’

On one hand, I totally understand taking the decision to make more money. People do it all the time. Yet, in this case, I’m reminded of the 1992 movie ‘Mo Money’ and a song on its soundtrack which suggests money can’t buy you love or happiness. Seeing that Steve Bruce gave him the chance to play consistently on a big stage it comes across as ungrateful to demand that the club rips up the contract to pay you more after only one year with them. And in the case that your wages are not improved you want out. Only God knows what he’d have demanded had he played as good as say West Bromwich Albion’s Peter Odemwingie 15 goals.

It will be interesting to see how Gyan continues to develop ahead of the African Cup of Nations. Will he be as sharp as he could be playing in the Premier League? There’s nothing like playing against the best and Al Ain will not provide him that level of competition. From the moment he landed at Sunderland, Bruce was unhappy with his fitness. How will a less demanding league play into that aspect of his game and in turn affect the national team?  Also, how would earning such big monies affect his attitude to national team call ups? Will he be able to retain that hunger that keeps the top athletes constantly motivated even when they’re earning more? Gyan’s love for entertainment is well documented.  Could access to this much money provide even more distractions? Should answers to some of these questions be negative then the face of the national team may continue to change even more radically than I detailed here.

Stars Learn About Selves in Loss to Brazil

Hot Shot Keeper Kwarasey Kept Brazilians at Bay

Whew!!! That was hearts in mouth stuff. After the first thirty minutes of the match, there was likely to be only one winner. The best Ghana could hope for was a draw. The Black Stars’ task was made even more difficult by a sending off of left back Daniel Opare who after virtually doing nothing against Swaziland on Friday was harassed by new Brazilian star Neymar.

Typically, moral victories do not interest me. But boy was this one I grabbed with two hands and hugged tight? In the early stages, Ghana was not overawed. The evident playmaker deficit compared to the Brazilians was made up for with will and courage. And sometimes force.

As the match wore on however, it was clear the Brazilians had a superior skill set that allowed them to control the game with possession. Neymar and Ronaldinho were running at defenders causing them to commit fouls and as a result accrue cards. The accumulation of fouls was referenced by referee Mike Dean as he sent off Opare in the 32nd minute.

That removed any hopes of a fair fight and it seemed only a question of when rather than if a goal would come. It came on the stroke of half time from Damiao. In the second half, the Black Stars were obviously the boxer in a heavyweight fight with one hand forced behind the back. The Brazilians kept punching away but new boy Adam Kwarasey’s ‘any punch you throw I can throw harder’ stance kept the score at 1-0. If he was on holiday against Swaziland, he had his hard hat in place and tools in constant motion in this ‘friendly’. Three dramatic moments characterized his level of activity and aptitude. Two Ronaldinho freekicks were punched around his left post for corner kicks and one Pato header was parried over the bar.

Kwarasey grew in confidence and stature as the match wore on and showed lots of promise. Those saves alone would do that to anyone. Of course, this meant the memory of Richard ‘Olele’ Kingson continues to fade. Twitter was abuzz with all manner of people writing Kingson’s retirement notices. No word on whether he has signed them.

The young keeper was not alone though in the discovery. If victory was going to be difficult we might as well learn about our young players and their ability to play in high profile matches. Learn we did. Jordan Ayew was full of running until he was substituted in the 70th minute. With some more support in the midfield he could well have had a go at the Brazilian defense. We also saw Rabiu Mohammed hold the fort for a whole half and he showed he wasn’t overawed. I thought his touch was brilliant and again in the event Derek Boateng is unavailable he will make for a decent fill in. Mohammed’s teammate at French Ligue 1 side Evian Thonon Gaillard, Jonathan Mensah is a part of the U-20 class that won the World Cup. He had a solid game but must improve his tackling. If Opare was sent off for persistent fouling another referee could have sent Mensah off for a wild challenge. There’s much to like about his game though and if he and Vorsah can form a better understanding they’ll be formidable for years to come. Albert Adomah came on for 12 minutes. I wish I had seen him more to form a fuller impression. I am sure he’ll get some more chances though as he didn’t look clueless.

Even Daniel Opare would have learned something from his 32 minute outing. You have to be more controlled when you’re playing against opposition like Neymar. There are certain areas on the pitch where it is pointless to foul a player. Some of his fouls were needless. You can play hard but it’s more important to play smart.

I won’t be too hard on Opare though as he’s still learning the left back position. Also, I personally think playing Dede Ayew on the wing always helps the left back. Former coach Milovan Rajevac recognized this and Dede’s presence always helped calm the left back. He tracks back and his cleaner tackling is often overlooked.

Kwadwo Asamoah continues to be an enigma against better opposition. For someone who has so much talent, he manages to be inconspicuous when his teammates need him most. He had a very quiet night unlike his lively contribution against Swaziland. 

Finally, Stevanovic would have continued to learn about his players yesterday. He would learn about the virtues and limitations of his squad. He will hopefully get ever so close to an identity of how he wants them to play. It is one thing to want to play winning and attractive football but it’s another to come to terms with the personnel you have and figure out whether those two goals will always go hand in hand.

Stars Focused on Swazi Task: Wednesday Night Edition

Kwadwo Asamoah Could be Key to Unlock the Swazi Defense

Under a light drizzle and bright flood lights, the Black Stars trained Wednesday night for their African Cup of Nations qualifier against Swaziland. It reminded me of my younger years when rain made me want to go outside and play. Utterances by some players and the head coach however suggest this is no child’s play. The leaders of the team like John Pantsil have said they are not taking their opponents lightly and the practice showed. Coach Goran Stevanovic’s demeanor suggests that the whole team means business.

Constantly instructing his players, he was relaying what I imagine are the fundamental principles of how he wants his team to function and the basic game plan he has for Friday night.

I joined practice when there was a scrimmage between a team composed largely of players you would expect to start the game Friday (probables) and the rest of the squad (possibles). Adam Kwarasey was in goal for the probables. The back four was John Pantsil, Jonathan Mensah, Isaac Vorsah, and Daniel Opare. The midfield was manned by Sulley Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah, Anthony Annan and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu. The two strikers were Prince Tagoe and Asamoah Gyan. At this stage of the practice, if I were to guess I would have said this was going to be the starting line-up. By the end, I wasn’t so sure.

Stevanovic was intent on simulating in game situations and looking for his players to react the way he wants. It was impossible to hear exactly what he was saying because I was in the stands but sometimes actions speak louder than words and his hand gestures told their own story.

Both teams worked a lot on how to play when they weren’t in possession. Consequently, a lot of the instruction was directed at what to do as soon as they got the ball. Basically, how does one transition swiftly from defense to offense. Play was concentrated in the midfield so the midfielders had to be sharp. Stevanovic wants his team to quickly switch from one side of the pitch to the other and for his midfielders to quickly look for overlapping full backs. Any opportunity to have more numbers in the opponent’s half as soon as you gain possession is welcome. Whatever lessons he was imparting, the possibles as is often the case in practices seemed more adept at executing.

That was until Annan, Muntari and Tagoe switched sides with Derek Boateng, Dede Ayew and Dominic Adiyiah. Anthony Annan does not appear fit, let alone match fit while Prince Tagoe’s partnership with Asamoah Gyan is non-existent. They simply do not click and that makes the attack ponderous. Muntari looks leaner, the result perhaps of a hard preseason at Inter but nothing can replace competitive matches for a footballer and Dede looked sharper. Unfortunately, this change happened for about ten minutes so I caution anyone into reading too much into it. Also, this was the first practice session I attended so I’m unable to compare the players’ output on this occasion to others.

My sense from day one of Stevanovic’s selections is that while by the time Milovan Rajevac left he preferred Dede for his defensive abilities, all round youthful energy and exhuberance, Stevanovic likes the attacking mindset of Muntari. Mind you, it took a while for Rajevac to reach his conclusion on Dede and Stevanovic might come to it as well. For now, it appears he sees Muntari as more of a starter.

The absence of Kevin-Prince Boateng limits Stevanovic’s options however. In Boateng, he could maintain  the 4-3-1-2 formation and shift Kwadwo Asamoah to play more on the left wing so that Boateng fills in as the attacker just behind the two strikers, a position he plays so well for Milan. It’s an option Stevanovic doesn’t have due to an alleged bust up, a situation he addressed.

With or without Boateng, this squad should steamroll the Swazis on Friday. It is on Monday, that KPB’s dynamism may be missed.

Transfer Deadline Day and Black Stars

Shedding tears after a loss is one thing but Turkey? Say it ain't so Baby Jet. Photo Credit: Senyuiedzorm Adadevoh

The European transfer day deadline has come and gone with only one Black Star making a move on the day. Almighty “Prince of Goals”Tagoe moved from Hoffenheim to Bursaspor on a three year deal. Widely expected to move, Sulley Muntari stayed at Inter Milan. Milan must be really hard to leave or he knows something we don’t about playing time there.

A frenzy was generated by a rumor that Black Stars striker Asamoah Gyan was moving from the Northeast of England to where? Turkey? Noooooo way!!!! The rumors suggested it was to no less a club than Galatasaray, one of Turkey’s biggest. While they could probably afford it why would a top player consider Turkish football at such a turbulent time? I forgot. It’s all about the money. Cha Ching!

By the time some reports mentioned Gyan had handed in a transfer request, which was then refuted by the player himself with a classic “are they liars too?”quote when told the BBC reported it, my head was spinning. In these dealings it is clear all parties like to ‘manage’ information so sometimes you have to believe everyone and no one at all. In the final analysis, nothing came of it and I’m glad. I get to watch Baby Jet play regularly in England until January when he leaves for the Cup of Nations and then after. Back on and on. Oh and he’s joined by a player who is how should I put it, as self-assured as they come, Nicklas Bendtner. Perhaps Bendtner can fill the shoes of Danny Welbeck whose presence at Sunderland in my opinion helped Gyan a great deal.

Prior to this activity, Anthony Annan had quietly moved to Vitesse Arnhem in the Dutch League. Let’s hope he gets more games than he did at Schalke where a change in coach shortly after he got there as well as niggling injuries limited his opportunities.

Moving forward, the most important thing for Black Stars players is to get playing time going into January. So while some may scratch their heads upon hearing a transfer like Dominic Adiyiah moving to the Turkish second division (I admit I scratched my bald patch so hard I developed sores), it is important that he plays often to get into the rhythm of playing.

That’s why it is good to see that of all the players invited to camp for the games against Swaziland and Brazil, only a few are not regulars. Let’s hope it stays that way.