Boye caps off his worst week in the Black Stars

John Boye caps off his worst week in the Black Stars with an own goal

Portugal beat Ghana Thursday 2-1 with goals from John Boye (OG) in the 31st minute and Cristiano Ronaldo (80th minute) overcoming the second half strike by captain Asamoah Gyan. Majid Waris will rue a chance to give Ghana the lead in the 61st minute with the game finely balanced at 1-1.

Fatau Dauda will regret palming a floated ball meekly into Ronaldo’s path for Portugal’s second goal. It was a ball Dauda should have caught easily with greater command and confidence.

There were highlights, albeit few. Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross for the goal was exquisite. His defending as always was steady. Dede Ayew’s confidence and maturity in this game show a continued growth. At 24 and with 50 caps to his name already, Ayew could continue building a legacy of his own over the next decade of serving the national team. Harrison Afful continued where he left off against Germany and Asamoah Gyan single handedly posed a threat to the Portuguese with his determined running.

Overall though, the players seemed to be going through the motions, unable to summon the requisite energies to overcome the off field drama that took place before the game. They were listless at times and seemed to lack that extra effort they delivered against Germany. They also seemed to lack an effective game plan to expose a weak Portuguese side.

More than the loss of a match, the entire team will be counting their collective losses. A loss of focus on their Portuguese opponents and overall mission brought on in the aftermath of a now widely reported incident between Sulley Muntari and a member of the Ghana Football Association, Moses Parker. They will wake up USD100,000 richer but with a loss of reputation, respect and pride, values whose worth is incalculable.

Rather than adding to their reputations as Africa’s darlings by overcoming their ‘oh so close’ loss to the US in the first match and their brave display against the Germans by beating the ‘Cristianos’ and becoming one of three African representatives in the second round, we played into the ‘just another African country’ condescension.

Instead of bringing joy to the faces of Ghanaians who Lord knows need all the joy they can get and winning more followers faster than you can say TB Joshua, our Black Stars’ indelible mark will be that of mercenaries employed to wear the jerseys of a country and content to shoot at our collective hearts.

And so it is. They come home with no glory, no joy and little pride. Oh, and no gas to fuel their big fancy cars.

In picking up the pieces however, we must look at more than the players’ conduct if we want to seriously fix the problems that beset this campaign and have perhaps threatened to derail others.

Four years ago, France went through a turbulent time. They approached it by not only taking action against some players perceived as ‘troublemakers’, they looked holistically at their preparations and are back strong this year.

We are relative novices at this World Cup business and if it is our ambition to become mainstays and one day soon challenge for the Cup, we have to take a long hard look at ourselves.

Grand gestures won’t work.


Tactical Notes

  1. Kwesi Appiah is clearly very committed to the 4-4-2 that served him so well in qualifying. When Ghana is firing on all cylinders it can be beautiful to watch. The strategy carries risk though that we weren’t able to overcome. We scored four and conceded six goals in Brazil, an average of two a game and a -2 differential. In South Africa, we conceded four and scored five a +1 differential. Even without those statistics, it was clear to see that we were weaker defensively. And all our opponents capitalized. For a former defender those statistics would be disheartening to Appiah. More disturbing though is how inadequate we have been in correcting those mistakes. It’s one thing to have ‘silly mistakes’ in one match but the likelihood that we’ll concede must be assuring to any opposing coach and makes it easier to game plan against us.
  2. Majid Waris is a talented player who Ghana can rely on certainly for the next few years if he continues to develop. The injury in the final warm up match against South Korea was unfortunate as it robbed us of one of our more in-form players. He was one of the young players many tipped to shine at this World Cup. There was a yearning by many to see Waris on the field. Yet, his inclusion in the starting line up for the final group match was questionable. He was essentially playing his first competitive game in over two weeks. He was clearly not match fit and but for a glaring miss did not impact the game like he usually does. However, in a pattern that I fear is emerging and that might indicate an indecisiveness on Appiah’s part, he reacted to what others were saying. We saw this when he changed Adam Kwarasey before the Germany game and for me he reacted to the disappointment at Jordan Ayew’s mistakes in the Germany match by benching him.
  3. Andre Ayew was substituted in the match Thursday’s match and I could not understand it. Ayew has become if not yet the Black Stars best player, the player that provides inspiration at moments when we are low. He is the one with the ‘never say die’ or ‘I will die for my country’ attitude at all times when he’s out there. More practically, he is the only player outside of Gyan to have scored in this World Cup. Why take out a goal scoring threat when you need goals?
  4. I tweeted during the game last night that while Christian Atsu is a very talented player, he won’t become as great as his talent suggests he can be if his decision making doesn’t improve. The nickname ‘African Messi’ is an exaggeration that is unfair to Atsu and an insult to Messi. Leo takes his chances. Messi is not just a dribbler. He influences a game by being a constant threat to make that incisive pass, have a shot that at least tests the keeper or take off on a dribble with the back of the goal not too far away. Atsu is pleasing to the eye but his end product is far too often wayward.
  5. Kwadwo Asamoah is one of those players who excelled at this tournament and can hold his head high. He gave an honest, committed effort. But he is NOT a left back. Period!



An improbable 5-0 defeat to Egypt will see fans incredulous

The road to Brazil continues for the Black Stars as players assemble in Turkey for a two-week camp.

The aftermath of Ghana’s “beyond our wildest dreams” thrashing of Egypt’s Pharoes has been dominated by talk of the safety of our players and officials in Cairo. Admittedly, Cairo is not the most serene place on earth right now, with the prospect for upheaval seemingly a thrown stone away. The unpredictability did not prevent FIFA from sanctioning Cairo so barring a change of heart, Ghana’s focus has to remain on the pitch at the Air Defense stadium.

The Stars’ emphatic victory gives them a lot of breathing room. They would have to lose by an impossible sounding 5-0 to snatch defeat from the jaws of qualification. Stranger things have happened yes but given the caliber of players Kwesi Appiah will choose from, there should be no fairytale for the Pharoes.

The fan in me says emphatically, there is absolutely no way this will happen but journalistic training requires a deeper reflection. Could it happen? Men can be turned to women, eclipses occur from time to time,  so never say never. What could make the Stars suffer such a nightmare? Refereeing, bad play, the sky falling down, the 30,000 fans threatening the Stars with their lives if they don’t allow the Egyptians to score and oh Armageddon.

Barring any combination of these things, we should begin our crash Portuguese course, pack our bags, and wait for June/July 2014 where the Black Stars will attempt to shine for the third World Cup in a row.

Missing Link Forces Ayews to the Sidelines

All is not well between the Ayew brothers and Black Stars management

All is not well between the Ayew brothers and Black Stars management

Marseille stars Andre Ayew and his brother Jordan have temporarily taken a break from the senior national team, the Black Stars. In two separate letters signed by Andre and Jordan, they outlined various reasons why they need the time off.

As is typical of such events, the immediate reaction is to question the patriotism of the players. Next is to point out how selfish they are, a sentiment punctuated by saying ‘we don’t need them’, ‘they should go’ and so on. As far as I am concerned many of the reactions are emotional and prevent us from seeing the real issues. It’s like the jilted womaniser whose selective amnesia prevents him from acknowledging how his ways have forced his girlfriend to the sidelines.

From the moment Jordan Ayew joined his brother in the Black Stars, it was inevitable that they would be inextricably linked. In the minds of Ghanaians they are identical if not siamese twins. Yet, both players must be looked at differently.

Jordan Ayew was not even invited to the pre-tournament camp with coach Appiah saying he was dropped for ‘footballing reasons‘. For Marseille’s player of the month for November 2012, this was apparently too hard to take causing some psychological trauma.

Many tried to read meaning into Jordan’s exclusion including that Appiah wanted to break up the duo. The reality is that while Jordan’s form has been good for his club he hasn’t quite translated that to club form so perhaps that was excusable. From his letter, it is clear Jordan is saying that he hasn’t been played in a position suitable to replicate that form. In his words, “The reason is that in the position for which my services are required for the national team, I have been ranked way behind several players as not to merit a place in the team on occasions when it mattered.”

Andre Ayew was dropped from the final list of players for the just-held African Cup of Nations by coach Kwesi Appiah effectively because Appiah could not wait for the player to arrive a day or two before the list was submitted. For Appiah it was too great a risk. He would have missed most of the team’s training camp in Abu Dhabi and ultimately Appiah felt that he had good enough replacements. The player had asked for more time to be treated for a hamstring injury by his club doctors who I presume he trusts more than the doctors in Ghana’s camp.  Ayew had allegedly missed previous deadlines given him.

Any professional athlete will tell you that hamstring and groin injuries are some of the most delicate injures to treat. A failure to undergo the right treatment and it can easily become a protracted one. This is the same Ayew who had previously played for Ghana in the 2012 Afcon with a persistent shoulder injury. Some readers might remember him writhing in pain and having his shoulder popped back twice in the game against Guinea.  He shook it off and finished the tournament. Ayew eventually had surgery on that shoulder in March which ended his season prematurely and kept him on the sidelines for three months. The start of this current season was thus difficult for him as he struggled to regain his form. It was that form he brought to play in a few Black Stars matches towards  the end of the year and getting substituted which left him angry.

Andre has undoubtedly been one of Ghana’s most impressive Ghanaian players since 2010. He has impressed with skill but mostly with spirit and determination. He has his frustrating moments when he holds on to the ball longer than he should but he more than makes up for that with his zeal. He is in short, a fighter.

By taking leave, he and his brother who also has a combative (sometimes petulant) streak are doing what they know best. They are fighting a system that took away an opportunity to represent their nation on the biggest African stage. They’ve decided to take on a management whose attitude appears to be that without them the players cannot function or that good to great players can simply be replaced willy nilly.

That attitude is not surprising given that these are the same management team members who justified their taking identical winning bonuses to  players for the 2013 Afcon. We’re increasingly living in a warped Ghanaian world where a sense of entitlement has overtaken one of sacrifice – where elected members of parliament (MPs) view public service as an opportunity to lord it over others rather than serve.

It is an opportunity to claim emoluments rather than make substantial and meaningful changes to the lives of the people who elected them.

So is it any wonder that football administrators see themselves as being as high in the pecking order as the players who sweat, break their backs and sometimes get injured without the necessary protections that professional clubs in Europe provide?

Unless FA officials change their posture and recognize that it is players who play the game and make them look good or bad, this ‘temporary retirement’ gimmick will routinely be used by players as a way of lifting their fists up high in protest whenever they feel victimized.  Or worse, they might shift from deuces to middle finger in the air, Chris Brown style, making the Black Stars a collection of players available rather than the best players Ghana has to offer.

Indeed the Ayews ‘temporary retirement’ as Dede points out continues a trend traceable to other Stars like Michael Essien, KP Boateng and Asamoah Gyan, though the crucial difference is that the earlier cases were precipitated by injury, stress etc rather than FA management decisions .  Credit is of course due the FA for keeping an open door policy which helps ensure that the retirements are in the end truly temporary (eg Asamoah Gyan).  The Ayews’ move  however raises the stakes significantly.

Such heightened stakes could compel the FA members  and team management to make decisions based on principle rather than on a sense of position and power. Ultimately though both players and management have to agree to be more flexible with their different stances always with the progress of the team and interest of the nation in mind.


Ghana's Christian Atsu scores the second goal against Niger

Christian Atsu 23rd minute strike put Ghana in the driver’s seat

Heading into this game the Black Stars had adopted  the line that this would be the toughest group game. It might well have been had the Nigerians’ goal stood. As it turned out, that disallowed goal melted away any ambition they had.  They were no menace to the Black Stars ambitions of advancing.

Ghana picked a good time to play its best in the tournament. Goals from a revived Asamoah Gyan and Christian Atsu saw the Stars take a 2-0 half time lead. John Boye made it an emphatic win with a scrambled in goal after Gyan’s header was spilled by the Nigerian keeper.

Atsu was officially the man of the match but for me Gyan was the man of the hour. Ahead of the Niger game, there was mounting criticism of his play with some suggesting he should be benched for Emmanuel Clottey. Maligned in one breath, he is deeply appreciated in Kwesi Appiah’s breath. Just as well Appiah remains the coach. Gyan scored with a decisive perhaps angry finish, he assisted on the second and caused the third. His work rate for the 75 minutes he was on the pitch was good. He was aggressive, demonstrative and seemed really into the game. It is my theory that Gyan sometimes needs the prodding that the criticism brings to find his best form. He always manages to silence Ghanaians when his back is against the wall and when criticism is at its highest.

While pressure brings out the best in some, the Afcon stage brought out the fright in youngster Atsu. He is slowly adjusting to the bright lights though like an iris in a dark room.  When he is on his game, he puts so much pressure on a defense. On his goal, he waited until the last moment before passing the ball to Gyan on the left flank. That delay pulled three defenders to Gyan. Atsu’s sudden dash into the box left the defenders for dead. His finish was calm and clinical. That one play summed up why there is so much hope for him. If he can harness the skills, speed and tenacity he showed in this game and produce it every game, Ghana will have discovered that kind of midfield threat we haven’t seen since Abedi Pele. Abedi and now Messi (a player Atsu is being likened to) however play defense and that is a part of his game he will have to develop to reach a World Class level.

Still, he has given coach Appiah a welcome headache as to what to do if Mubarak Wakaso is eligible for the quarter final against Cape Verde. Until then, Ghana is riding high off its most impressive performance to date.


Under-fire Ghana coach says his hands are in the hands of the FA

A year ago, Goran Stevanovic walked into the Ghana Football Association press room a confident man flanked by members of the Association. An assured Kwesi Nyantekyi introduced our next Serbian miracle worker. Stevanovic seemed affable, spoke English (halting but he promised to improve), and brashly proclaimed he was here to get Ghana over the hump. He wanted to end the country’s 30-year drought. He said all the right things about Ghana having plenty talent and the right mix of players. He was eager to surpass his Serbian predecessors. Ghanaians hung onto his words like they do to those of a priest on Sunday espousing the prosperity doctrine.

We had been to the final of the African Cup of Nations and the quarter finals of the World Cup the previous year so there was evidence that he could. We all could envision the kind of lift a Cup would bring. We needed to believe him. It was our escape and it became our obsession particularly as some traditional giants failed to even get to the CAN.

Fast forward a year and the scene could not be any more different. Fresh off the failure in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea, here Plavi was leaning on assistant Kwasi Appiah like he was a crutch; Appiah suddenly turning interpreter for some questions. A once triumphant Nyantekyi also seemed subdued, resigned to a coach’s demise.

An already tense room became inflamed at the suggestion by the coach that he didn’t promise to resign if the Black Stars didn’t bring the Cup back. To be fair, listening to the clip he has a point. No matter. A coach with two losses over 18 matches has his head on the chopping block.

Before that, the GFA announced they were deferring the decision on the coach for two weeks pending consultation with its legal team. This was hardly a vote of confidence. In between there were apologies by the coach and the FA to Ghanaians for the team’s failure.

It’s been two weeks since Ghana exited the Cup of Nations. Fourteen days to let people’s emotions simmer down and reasoned judgments about the team take over. If Ghanaian journalists represent the mood of the country, then we are really, really MAD. We are angry at not winning the 2012 cup.We are upset about seemingly empty promises, and perhaps most of all, we are insulted because we feel we’re being lied to. But why are we so mad?

What happened between his appointment and now for there to be such open hostility towards him. There were shouts of ‘tsssooooo boooiiii’ at one stage as if one were going to war. Where did the negative feelings emanate from?


It has to do with the increasing cynicism that permeates many aspects of our society. It is manifested especially towards people in authority and intensifies as the reliable supply of basic amenities like water and electricity elude many. Football had all this while been our refuge, the place where we go to see Ghanaians excel, our center for excellence.

Plavi promised like an African politician and failed like one. His apology to the public seemed like someone saying what he wanted us to hear and it made us mad.

Despite criticisms of negative tactics, Milovan Rajevac endeared himself to Ghanaians. He was modest in everything he did. Rajevac lived here and his preference for track suits suggested a plain manner. He seemed shy, humble, he under promised and over delivered. He related to his players well and did not seem vindictive giving players like Sulley Muntari second chances when they acted out of turn.

Alhaji Grunsah may have stolen the show when he took the floor and pleaded with the coach to stay in Ghana. As only he could, he said, ‘when you’re an employee of UTC, you don’t spend more time at GNTC.’ He implored Plavi to spend more time in Ghana and work for the Ghanaian people. Visit local league centers, scout players, unearth talent was the cry.

If Plavi stays, which looks increasingly unlikely, he’ll do well to heed Grunsah’s advice for it’ll allow him to learn more about our football the culture in which it is played and the people who live by it. That knowledge will go a long way to inform his tactics and prevent him frombeing out of touch.


Dede Ayew, Marseille's most consistent player

UPDATE: The Ghana Football Association has reached a compromise of sorts with a number of European clubs regarding the reporting date for a few Black Stars players as they head to camp.


Marseille is putting in a special request for Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan to remain at the club until after January 7, the day players are to report for preparations towards the 2012 Cup of Nations. Prior to African Cup of Nations tournaments, stories like this are typical – the result of the importance of the African player in Europe and the tournament being organized smack in the middle of the European season.

When it comes to the Ayews though, I have flashbacks of Marseille keeping their dad until the last minute before “crucial”  matches (NB: every non-friendly runs the risk of being characterized as “crucial” in Ghanaian sports journalism circles). Once upon a time in the ’90s,  Marseille would keep their dad for a midweek match and arrange for a private jet to deliver him in time for a weekend Black Stars match. Immediately after the game, he would be whisked away. Mind you, his performance was always second to none. Ahhh, but these were literally the good old days of AA, before players cited fatigue, injuries, headaches etc. as reasons they couldn’t play for their country.

Additionally, these were before FIFA mandated teams to release their players 14 days before the start of tournaments such as the Afcon and seven days before FIFA sanctioned friendly dates and qualifiers.

The question in this case is whether Ghana should agree to Marseille’s request or insist on the rules being respected to the letter. If the shoe were on the other foot and Ghana asked for Dede and Jordan to be released for an important match (say, Meteors qualifying for Olympics or U-20s World Cup qualifier), would Marseille accede?

Given that they had a chance last year to do that and didn’t why are we having this discussion? Far from being vindictive, such arrangements are possible when you’ve built a certain amount of goodwill with a certain club. It cannot be a one way street. This is just my opinion though. What do you think? Vote below but leave your more detailed comments in the comments section.

How GFA Works

Last week Ghana football made news all over the world for the wrong reasons culminating in FIFA’s threat to ban Ghana. The deadline they gave of yesterday has passed but some uncertainty remains. 

But in the wake of the Economic and Organized Crime Office’s raid, an emerging attitude among a cross-section of the public is that members of the executive committee of the Ghana Football Association think they are above the law. In addition, one question many callers to radio stations have asked is why don’t they want to be accountable? If they have nothing to hide why don’t they just open their books? Why should members of the FA not be subject to the laws of Ghana? My view is that the attitudes are often formed from a lack of understanding for how the association works. This post attempts to clarify some of the confusion.

By reviewing the FA’s general mandate, how its committees are formed, how it is held to account, its working relationship with government agencies and role in national team assignments, I hope some of the questions with regard to the FA’s perceived impunity are cleared. Also, the explanation may provide context and information so that the conversations surrounding the FA are better informed. Finally, it may encourage those who are ignoring facts in order to justify preconceived notions about the individuals in the executive committee – whether it be their perceived political allegiances or corruption or plain arrogance – to reexamine their positions.  

General Mandate

Simply put, the GFA is in charge of football development and promotion in the country. It is also in charge of regulating “association football in all its forms.” Primarily, the GFA does this through a ‘congress’ whose membership ranges from the Accra Hearts of Oaks of this world to the Security Services.  As article 4.10 of the regulations state, the GFA is also responsible for organizing “training and competitive programmes and arrange and oversee the participation of National teams at various levels in International Competitions organized by FIFA, CAF and WAFU.”

In addition to organizing the country’s football leagues, this function of the GFA is what many people have been most exposed to. And as Ghana’s national teams since independence have excelled in regional, continental and in more recent memory World tournaments, so has the prominence and influence of the FA increased. 

Role in National Team Assignments

The function of arranging for the participation in international competition brings into focus GFA’s role in managing Ghana’s national teams. To be sure, the expenses of the various national teams are high. For example, the government spent a little over eight million US dollars on the Black Stars to participate in the 2010 World Cup. So, it is easy to see that while the GFA manages the affairs of the national teams, it  cannot fully fund them. Until recently, national teams were funded solely from government sources or as many like to say, taxpayer money. The success of the Black Stars in particular has created more opportunities for private sponsorship. Now, the FA boasts sponsorship accounts with Guinness, Goldfields Ghana and Rice Masters. This year’s World Cup even provided the FA with enough funds to reimburse the Ministry for all the expenses incurred by the Black Stars from their camping before the tournament and throughout the tournament. 

Now, you could say that there is more of a partnership between the Ministry of Sports and the FA than existed even ten years ago. In real terms, it means the coach of the senior national team has for the last few years been paid from the sponsorship agreement between Goldfields Ghana, a mining company and the GFA. On the other side of the coin, the current assistant’s contract is with the Sports Ministry. 

Much of the other expenditure in competition years is taken care of by the Ministry of Sports after a budget is agreed on by the two parties. Clearly, the partnership is still tilted in favor of government especially when the national teams are involved in international tournaments.  But as you will see later in this piece, in the paragraph on the working relationship, this fact is largely irrelevant when it comes to accountability. 

Government and the GFA

Submitting to FIFA rules means that the GFA is not to be regarded as a department of a ministry. It does not come under government control whatsoever. In that sense, a distinction must be made between the organizing bodies for hockey, athletics, tennis etc which come directly under the National Sports Council, the policy implementing body for sports development in Ghana.

Again, one must distinguish between the GOC and the GFA. While both submit to the rules of larger international bodies (GFA to FIFA and GOC to IOC), there are major differences in how they function. Because the GOC is largely constituted by sports associations formed under the Sports Council, there is much more room for political involvement. However, the IOC believes that when electing the leadership of the GOC, the government should not be able to impose anyone. The IOC insists that the leadership of the GOC  is democratically elected.

GOC is not under NSC. But the associations that come under NSC elect the president of the GOC. By virtue of this structure therefore, there is bound to be and there is heavy government involvement in how GOC is organized and resourced. Coaches are paid for by government, the office facilities that the organizations use to work are all sports council premises. 

This arrangement does not extend to GFA and is reflected in the fact that when stadiums like Accra and Baba Yara sports stadiums are used for GFA activities, the Sports Council gets paid.  

How Committees are selected

Committees such as the referee and disciplinary committees of FA are chosen from within the FA. A new committee, the Public Interests Committee has just been introduced as an acknowledgment by FIFA of the role of government especially in African countries. The PIC is a five member body that is required to have two government appointees. The government’s recently- announced appointees are Abedi Pele and Mr. Oteng Arthur.

Working relationship with Sports Ministry

Many have pointed out that since government spends so much on football it should be allowed to hold the GFA to account. I am all for accountability. Except that if you examine the way government disburses the money to the FA, you’d have to say that the onus is more on government to provide said accountability. This is because as hard as it is to believe, no government money physically goes through GFA except for very special cases like when urgent drugs or medical procedures are needed.

For example, during the World Cup, a Sports Ministry accountant was physically present to pay the players’ appearance fees and bonuses for hotel bills. The same was done for the per diem of accredited officials and members of the technical staff. The recipients in turn sign as having received the money. In the event of the special case referred to above arising, an imprest is provided for the specific need and that imprest is retired with receipts and other relevant documents. 

As for accommodation and travel arrangements, the bills are paid directly to the hotels and travel agents/airline companies after they submit their invoices.  

During a competition, the other staff (welfare officer, physio, kit manager, goalkeeper’s trainer)  get per diem and match bonuses paid for by the Sports Ministry. If it is a friendly match then the proceeds of the match go to paying these staff. 

How organization is audited/held accountable (sponsorships, government funding)

The GFA’s accounts are audited by an independent auditor (Ghana Audit Service) and then submitted every year to the Public Accounts Committee in parliament. This provision to be audited is required by FIFA and in the GFA statutes. The FA’s audited accounts reflect the support they receive from government as well as income from private sponsorships. 

Another way the FA has to account is to its sponsors. For example, in the Goldfields contract, the company pays money directly into the head coach’s account. To date no sponsor has protested at the FA’s use of its sponsorship funds and in fact two of the biggest sponsors have renewed their initial contracts.


So when some ask whether FIFA’s law supersedes Ghana’s law, the answer is not whether one rules over the other or not. The answer is that by virtue of Ghana’s membership of FIFA, the GFA have agreed to certain procedures. Part of that procedure extends to how the FA is audited. The fact that this procedure includes the parliament of Ghana and that the audited accounts are a matter of public record should calm the outrage that the FA is above the law because clearly they are not.