Soft-spoken Kwasi Appiah met the press Tuesday in a formal unveiling as Black Stars coach. The scene was a stark contrast from weeks back when there was open hostility to Goran Stevanovic. There was a celebratory air to it this time as journalists patiently waited their turn and respectfully asked questions.
After all, they finally got their man; a Ghanaian to coach the Stars after countless foreign hires including a consecutive trio of Serbians.
To some, this appointment was long overdue. Over the last decade, the chorus has grown louder for a Ghanaian coach every time a vacancy opened. Many have put forth a rigid nationalistic view. A national team for Ghanaians must be coached by a Ghanaian. The assumption as I see it in the minds of these voices is that a Ghanaian will understand and give more importance to the Black Stars because he feels and lives the need to be successful that the passionate fan does. Also, a Ghanaian is more apt to understand the psyche of the Ghanaian player. The foreign coaches somehow appear too detached from the team to make the right decisions in critical moments. All this is compounded when you hear of their pay and benefits. Stevanovic made this impression worse with his constant absence from the country and more specific to his job, local league centers.
There is no question Appiah has paid his dues after serving as assistant to multiple expatriates and deserves as much support as he needs. His success over the two year duration of his contract will represent a success for the whole country.
He sat next to Stevanovic at the press conference after the Cup of Nations when some journalists forgot their professional responsibilities and lost their composure. This episode meant he need not go as far back as his playing days as captain to be reminded of how quickly Ghanaians can turn when the results don’t go right.
The current fragility of the Black Stars what with reports of disunity, black magic used to injure fellow teammates etc has been laid squarely at the feet of Stevanovic’s lack of good management. Appiah has that, his nationality and a schedule that has us playing against Lesotho next to thank for the unison nature of support thusfar. A positive result in the June fixture and he’ll be on his way to justifying his appointment.
He is now the unquestioned boss and it is only results, not his nationality or the color of his skin that will matter in judging him.
Surely, he wouldn’t want it any other way.