Let’s provide a brief context here before touching on the national soccer team Coach Akwasi Appiah’s miserable predicament. In fact, an impassioned look at an average Ghanaian’s understanding of issues of the day is almost always explained in terms of “superstition, jealousy, status quo”or by using other misleadingly easy but complex socio-cultural conceptsto assign meanings to unfolding events.Sadly, it ispuzzling, needless to say a fool’s errand trying to provideany rationality to average Ghanaian’s thought process or assessment of many events happening on daily basis in his or her life.
A sizable pack of Ghanaians primarily tends to interpret everything around them from the spectrum of their comfort zone without any effort to venture outside the box. Many are not interested in any development that defies the contours of the status quo. We tend to be comfortable where we are. If an episode relates to (say) a fatal auto accident on the nation’s death-trap roads, the most likely explanation given for the cause(s) of the calamity, according to typical Ghanaianworldview, is something connected to superstition.
Even relatively simple occurrencessuch as criticizing the conduct or performance of a particular public official or a soccer player’s subpar work ratebecomes highly emotional sensitive venture that is normally dismissed as an act carved out of enviousness or hatred.This presupposes that a critic has to be “jealous” or “hater” of the person at the receiving end of the critique.As I have stated on numerous of occasions in my commentaries, this dear country of my birthhas severe socio-cultural disorder. We can either sit tight in denial and keep operating along the mediocre fringes as usual and deceive ourselves that the country is developing, or make serious effort to cut off the umbilical cord of the 19th century socio-cultural behaviors.
So, how does Coach Akwasi Appiah fit into this discussion? Having relieved of his post by GFA as the national senior soccer coach under baseless circumstances few years back, Appiah was recently brought back to help stem the tide regarding Ghana’s lackluster soccer performance under expatriate coach. Throughout all serious andsoccer-smart nations around the world, when someone is appointed the head of a particular soccer team at any level, that individual becomes not only the number one coach/trainer, but also advisor, motivational speaker, mentor, decision maker, and of course the manager, including the de factoCEO of the team.
Modern soccer head coach is the ultimate decision maker as to which player gets the chance to be in the team in first place, let alone afford the opportunity to play on the field during tournaments. The head coach and the locker room staff critically and strategically assess, analyze, and make decisions on player(s) current work rate, input, or performance toward the team’s overall tactical goals and make the necessary adjustments.For this reason, the success or failure of the team rests almost solely on the poor shoulders of the head coach, in particular.
Strangely, in Ghanaian popular culture that claims to love and understand modern soccer, when one is appointed the head coach of the national team, especially,the person’s decision-making process—from the selection of the players to the team’s formation—isalways questioned, misinterpreted, and often trivialized. They ignore that the coach is held responsible and blamed for everything wrong with the team, although he is not freely given the leverage to take major decisions for the team he is hired to manage.
This is the unpleasantly strange and unsettling situation the present coach of the Black Stars Akwasi Appiah may be going through as of today. As Americans would say: “Damned if you do it, and damned if you don’t do it.” If he calls player A to camp without B, or he lets go player “Almighty” but has the audacity to retain player Z, it becomes a contentious issue all over the place. It is human to criticize, but as many of us know, Ghanaians love to copy from others but always go way overboard and render whatever is copied tolook tacky.
The point is, it is one thing to express some disagreements about a national team’s coach management style,and entirely another thing to question the coach’s personalintegritybecause of his playerselection. As soccer fans we may have our favorite footballers, but we also have to be reasonable and sensible enough to realize that all our respective favorite players cannot play or be called to the national soccer team camp en masse.
In any “normal” or reasonable soccer-craze society, Coach Akwasi Appiah’s decision to overlook the stamina-suspect Ayew Brothers and thus call the relatively energetic, young players wouldn’t have escalated into groundless and petty accusations of jealousy or hatred toward the Ayews.
Where does this “jealousy crap” that Akwasi Appiah hates the Ayews’ family comes from? Many level-headed Ghanaians are trying to make sense of why any head coach whose job/reputation is usually on the line and hence seeking nothing but victory for his team would ever reject the very best players who are capable of helping the coach accomplish his goals?
There is no argument that the Ayew pedigrees, including Andre and Jordan, are talented soccer jugglers. But not unusual to all footballers, currently these two skillful players are struggling to find their former free-flowing soccer rhythm. Honestly, the spark is not there now as they used to have, and that is probably why the coach has sidelined them for a minute. This strategic approach should have nothing to do with “jealous” or “hatred” for any player not called.
Sure, Ghanaians love their Black Stars and want the team to win every Cup tournament ever organized. But the truth is no one will be viewed a national hero more than Coach Akwasi Appiah in the event of Ghana winning the elusive African Cup of Nations or qualifying again to the upcoming World Cup in Russia.
What sense does it make for Akwasi Appiah to use the so-called “jealous and hatred”of the Ayews to block himself from achieving his lifelong career dreams?If some of us don’t want to learn how to think critically, how about we leave Akwasi Appiah alone to focus on assembling what he deems to be the most winsome talents at the moment?
Bernard Asubonteng is U.S.-based writer; send your comments: firstname.lastname@example.org