Listless Stars Stuck in World Cup Malaise

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The word that kept coming to my mind as I watched the Black Stars play out a 1-1 draw against the Cranes of Uganda on Saturday was ‘listless’. They lacked desire and could not summon the energies needed to defeat an opponent that doesn’t match up talent wise. This game reminded me of our 2010 match against Sudan in Kumasi after the South African World Cup, except that rather than complacency, the players showed effects of being drained by all the drama surrounding the team.

For long stretches of the game, the players failed repeatedly to break down the well organized Ugandans. Dede Ayew’s goal which salvaged the draw for Ghana was from a penalty and the decision might have been overly generous. Asamoah Gyan’s spurned chances in either half, the brightest spots throughout the match.

One gets the sense that there is too much uncertainty if not negativity surrounding the national team at the moment. There are some issues that haven’t been resolved and merely forcing the players to sign a contract will not make the problems disappear. In my view, too much of the blame for the Stars debacle has been borne by the players with no Ghana Football Association or Sports Ministry officials stepping forward to be accountable.

The players have therefore been the receptacles of the public’s apathy and outright resentment at the shame visited on us in Brazil. There is no other way to explain a not filled to capacity Kumasi Sports Stadium despite announcements prior to the match that the gate will be free. Apparently, even that bait didn’t work. Should the players have gone ahead with plans to meet the fans? Let’s think about this for a second. The Black Stars were the hottest brand in Ghana until June. In the space of two months they are such pariahs that in Kumasi of all places we can’t fill a stadium? Amazing. These fans ain’t loyal I tell you.

Back to our performance, it is worth noting that since Kwesi Appiah qualified Ghana for the World Cup in grand style against Egypt, his record has been 3 losses, 2 draws and one win. More worrying is that outside of the game against Germany there have been long spells where it appears the players aren’t playing like they understand each other or are executing a plan they have confidence in. That has to be a problem the coach shoulders.

His opposing coach had a game plan which his players executed well. As Ugandan player said, they came for a draw and they got what they came for. They could have come away with more had they been more ambitious. Ghana clearly wanted to win the game but the players didn’t play like a group that knew how they were going to win the game.

So many things surrounding this match were not healthy for the team’s focus.

The incessant talk of a technical director ahead of the match was a distraction. After saying Kwesi Appiah requested for a technical director, it turns out the horse is being led to the water and has refused to drink.

Dede Ayew’s spirited defense of what the players earn was necessary. There is a fixation on what the players earn and it is unhealthy especially when you consider the average length of a player’s career. If lucky, the best players might have a decade at the top. For the most part though, majority don’t earn fantastic amounts of money. Coming on national duty is a privilege but is it realistic to ask players to play at the World Cup or other tournaments for a pittance? They risk injury everytime they step on the field. So we risk our hearts sure but an injured player on national assignment risks a lot that we have to account for in making judgments on how much they should earn.

There is clearly an attempt to make the Stars the sole scapegoats of the Brazil debacle. This will backfire if the players feel they are being victimized for all that went wrong. Axing Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng might be all well and good as they make for easy targets. Throw in Adam Kwarasey and it seems like a witch hunt. Kwarasey made revelations that for me have not been answered and until they are won’t lead to building trust between players and officials. For instance, why was Kwarasey changed at the last minute against Germany for Dauda? Appiah hasn’t answered a charge that places him squarely in the middle of a decision making process that betrayed our starting keeper. If I were a player, would I feel confident that when my coach calls upon me he won’t change his mind at the last minute because of a request by someone else? Kwarasey’s sin it seems to me is that he spoke publicly about events that are true. Rather than creating an atmosphere where players can reveal their displeasure and have issues resolved, Appiah and the FA officials have apparently chosen a culture of silence with the ever powerful contract the weapon hanging over every player’s head.

Finally, this was the first time journalists had the opportunity to face the team after Brazil and they took full advantage of it with one causing a stir by asking Asamoah Gyan to his face whether he had sacrificed his dear friend Castro. Naturally Gyan didn’t take kindly to it and confronted the journalist. It didn’t end there as Gyan’s brother, Baafour is alleged to have hired some thugs to rough up the journalist in question ahead of the match. If true, the action is regrettable.

Clearly, not ideal for a captain to be dealing with bailing out his brother prior to an important match.

Perhaps the players in the next match against Togo, free of our collective reprobation will raise their heads high, rally around each other and chalk an emphatic win. After all, let’s face it, we’re fickle. If they come together and start a winning streak, we’ll be more than happy to cheer them on.

Until then, we’ll mind our own business. Who can blame us? Times are hard and if what used to bring us joy is going to contribute more pain why bother!

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