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.

At Crunch Time, Stars Keep it Simple

Are the Black Stars poised to win a trophy after donkey years?

In the slim chance that you haven’t heard by now, the Black Stars of Ghana qualified for the 2012 Cup of Nations by beating Sudan 2-0. Truth be told the scoreline probably flattered Sudan as the Stars squandered some superb opportunities throughout the game. The score could easily have been 4-0. Alas, our profligacy made it a respectable scoreline…for Sudan!

As the final whistle sounded on this and other games across Africa and the casualty ward admitted some of the more accomplished teams in the last 20 years including Egypt, Cameroun, Nigeria and South Africa, the victory chants among some fans on my twitter feed were transformed from we have qualified to we have won the cup already. To those, I say ‘slow your roll.’ Our neighbor Cote d’Ivoire will have as much of a say as Ghana in determining who comes out tops in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon. Tunisia, Senegal and potentially Algeria have the quality to put a monkey wrench in Ghana’s plans. As I have previously mentioned and as this article considers, there are some flaws in our team that can be exploited on a bad day for the Stars.

Nevertheless, there is reason for optimism of the cautious kind.

Which brings us back to the game. In a critical moment when all was needed was a draw to go through, Goran Stevanovic showed a pragmatic side in how he set up the team. There were overwhelmingly more defensive minded players on the field than attacking. He was going to make it decidedly more difficult for Sudan to score by packing the midfield and defense. The set up harkened back to Milovan Rajevac’s strategy of one man up top with virtually the rest of the team playing behind the ball. It worked perfectly and the early goal by Asamoah Gyan made the approach even more formidable. The Sudanese chased shadows the whole game and rarely tested Adam Kwarasey. Key to the defensive organization were returnee captain John Mensah and dynamic midfielder Derek Boateng.

Attacking wise, the aim was to get the ball and play really balls up front to Asamoah Gyan with Kwadwo Asamoah, Sulley Muntari and Samuel Inkoom bombing forward in support. For this to work Gyan had to be strong in possession as he was often outnumbered. Boy, was he ever strong. The performance by Gyan was the best I have seen from him since the World Cup. He was as committed and as determined to prove a point as I have ever seen him. He even added a few party tricks along the way as Ghana built a comfortable 2-0 lead heading into half time. It was as though he wanted to silence any doubters and he certainly succeeded. With a goal to his name and tireless running throughout he was definitely a candidate for man of the match.

All in all, it was a very effective and efficient performance from the Stars with the red card to Isaac Vorsah the only blotch. We shall file that in the what in the world was he thinking category and move forward. It was a performance that greatly pleased the coach.

Stevanovic Oozes Confidence as He Meets Ghanaian Media

Affectionately called

The obvious story line coming from the press conference with Goran ‘Plavi’ Stevanovic is his quote, “It is now time for trophies…it is time to be first again” Stevanovic then added, “I am here to be a champion.” Talk about piling pressure on yourself buddy. Then again, coming from a man with a confident air, it was unsurprising.

It was not quite the level of Jose Mourinho’s “I am the special one” but by the drab standards  set by Milovan Rajevac and Ratomir Djukovic in press conferences, this was pretty bold. And it is one that Ghanaian journalists will remind him of every single time the team encounters difficulties. 

And maybe in a sign of things to come, a couple of journalists went as far as to state that he was not a good coach and should not have become the coach. Talk about preparing to say “I told you so.”

But there was more to this press conference than this ambitious statement and I will discuss my impressions of the coach. From his ambition for the team to his preferred tactics and the football philosophy he ascribes to there was plenty for everyone. The event lasted for close to an hour and a half.  

The 44-year-old is going to earn 30,000 Euros a month (same as Milovan Rajevac earned) and will begin working on February 1 for an initial two-year period. He will be accompanied by an ‘analyst’ who holds a UEFA License A certificate . The primary responsibilities of this analyst is to prepare dossiers on opponents but perhaps most importantly be the physical condition coach. The coach indicated that he had spoken to Akwasi Appiah already and is looking forward to working with him. 

Clearly impressed with the performance of the Black Stars in the past(he says he watched seven matches), he paid tribute to his immediate predecessor Milovan Rajevac for “laying a solid foundation.”

“My biggest challenge is to motivate the players to believe that they can do better and this is very challenging because they have achieved so much,” Stevanovic said.

Saying he has dealt with pressure in the past Stevanovic said, “if you lose everybody talks bad about you, if you win you’re the king.” 

In order to be regarded as a king, Stevanovic said he would like the team to play a 4-1-4-1 because that is the most effective system. But expanding on his philosophy, Stevanovic revealed that he would like for the team “to handle the ball better, to be more calm when we have possession of the ball, to dominate the midfield and not to rush.” 

As for the players he will be relying on to fulfill the potential he has identified, he says his door is open. “All the players from the problems from the past will not affect my decision to give a chance to some player who was part of the problem,” Stevanovic emphasized. He also indicated that he was ready to give the best local players a chance. To that end, he is keen to see the quality of players that Ghana sends to the CHAN tournament this year.


“I am not here to better my CV.” 

“If you play good in your team, in your club, it’s ok. If your behavior good, no problem. If you want to disrupt our spirit or we have some problem, you’re not good in our family. FINISHED. Quality and Discipline.” 

“If I not repeat or one step further, I am loser. I come here to be champions. I am champion with Partizan three times… I am champion and want to be champion.”

“It is difficult talking about myself. I am very ambitious, self-confident, open for talking. I always have good relations with the players. 

“Coaches are sweet talkers but fortunately our deeds speak for us and I am eager to start working.”

“I have a motivation in myself and I am sure that transmit for the players.”

On links to Virtus International

“My manager was my CV. Now my manager is the FA. I am not managed. My manager is the Federation, the FA.”

In short, my Impressions of Goran Stevanovic are as follows:

1. He’s confident

2. His English should satisfy the Ghanaian journalists/Ghanaians obsessed with Milovan Rajevac’s use of an interpreter. 

3. He is clearly familiar with the team and has followed them. As a result he articulated his plan for how the team should play clearly. Of course, he wouldn’t dwell on the players he would use but you have to figure the core of Milovan Rajevac’s will remain. Even though he did not discuss it, I predict that he will be looking to see who can play in the left back role and is likely to experiment there.

4. He will be no nonsense. Much like his Serbian predecessors, he stressed discipline. At one stage he said, he would invite players based on merit and discipline. He looked like he meant it. Especially the discipline part.

5. He seems to have a good sense of humor which he may need. 

Goran Stevanovic is married and has two children. He has an 18 year-old daughter and a 15 year-old son. There was no word on whether his family would move to Ghana with him.