Black Stars failure calls for rethink of football development

September 5, 2017
Source: Thomas-Moore ADINGO/thebftonline.com
Black Stars failure calls for rethink of football development

It is now safe to say that Ghana’s chances of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup are higher than qualifying, following last Friday’s lacklustre 1:1 draw with Congo Brazzaville in Kumasi. It was the third game in a row in the qualifying series that Ghana failed to win, having recorded a goalless draw against Uganda and a 2:0 defeat by Egypt.

If not for anything, the results show that the country simply lacks a team that, even if it qualifies, will be able to compete competitively in Russia 2018.

Just like the Spanish and Germans, failures should spur a rethink of the manner in which our players are trained and how our teams are structured.   

Spain’s run of success is no coincidence. Anyone who has seen their youth sides in recent years will have been struck by the excellence of their passing – not only the technique of receiving, delivering and moving into position to receive again, but the patience of their play, and their commitment to a certain idea of football. This is the result of a 10-year plan.

What Spain have is a footballing identity – a successful assimilation of Dutch ideas plus a twist of their own making.

The popular news headline ‘Black Stars knocked out’ after every major competition won’t go away if we fail to plan. By simply not planning, it means that we are planning to fail, and the result will always be a bitter one after every qualification series or tournament.  

There is more unanimity of purpose over player development, from small-sided games at youth level to huge investments in academies at the elite level. The FA should lead by providing the direction before others.

Such a vision will have to prove it can make a difference in effecting a culture change in Ghanaian football and catching up with continental rivals who have forged ahead in developing systems to nurture talented young players.

The FA should shoulder some of the blame for not adopting a proactive approach in the first place and appointing coaches who are not progressive. Their desire to appoint a “Yes-man” to the role of Head Coach has led to failure once again and yet another setback for Ghana.

It is very possible that Ghana can attain a feat as winning the 2022 World Cup given the quality of talent at our disposal: but in order to do so, the country’s FA needs to make a fundamental decision into how much they want to win a tournament and what changes will be needed to make that happen.

I must admit that Kwesi Nyantakyi, President of the Ghana FA has done a lot for football in this country, especially during his first term. It was under his leadership that the Black Stars qualified to its first World Cup in Germany 2006. In 2009, Ghana’s under-20 team, the Black Satellites also won the FIFA U-20 World Cup to become the first nation outside South America to have lifted the trophy.

His achievements as FA boss between 2005 and 2010 heralded the rebirth of Ghana football, and it was hailed both on home soil and abroad. It gave many of us hope and a reason to believe that things were going to get better with our football once again.

Like many Ghanaians I could tell it was a new dawn in Ghana football as the country began making gains on all fronts of the beautiful game. All the national teams and the domestic leagues were positively affected by the Kwesi Nyantakyi led administration during its first five years. 

Reciprocally, those early years also saw a rekindled support and enthusiasm from Ghanaians for the various national teams and the local league as well. Little did we know that all of this progress would decline in some years to come.

This splendid expectation of mine and many other lovers of local soccer however has taken a massive jolt and I am so disappointed in the leadership hierarchy at the GFA. Just when all was going well, the leadership of the FA have decided to make a quick revisit to a past ridden with reckless and haphazard decision making.

Ghanaians are a football proud people and rightfully so. And they deserve better if you consider the magnitude of talent in the country.

Abedi, Yeaboah et al. were sensational even though they had their own fracas, but their undying loyalty to the national team could not be questioned. They are remembered today not for anything, but for their zeal to fight for the country, and the fans who stood by them.

Last Friday’s result was greeted with familiar shrugs. On the whole, people were not so interested in the Black Stars action: apathy and disillusionment concerning the national team have seeped in ever since the Black Stars held the nation to ransom in the last edition of  the World Cup.

After all, government has failed to stamp its authority on the melee despite the delicate position of football and politics in the country. Behind all the dazzling lucre, the quality of Ghana football, with only a couple of exceptions, is falling.

Football evolves constantly. The Ghanaian game today is focused on solving the problem from the top, when it needed to overhaul and shift to grassroots development, with emphasis on improving ball skills, speed, tactics, intelligence and physique.

We are always on the lookout for any footballer to bust onto the world stage so that we go after his him to play for Ghana forgetting that a winning team requires players with the right mentality and education on what the nation wants to achieve.

Look at what has become of our youth football and the local league. Local football has become a shadow of its old self yet all the emphasis, is and always, on the Black Stars.

Something is certainly wrong with the way we run football in this country and we can’t put the blame on someone else’s doorsteps than the Ghana FA. We need to go back to the basics and tackle the problem from bottom to the top, if we are to win anything in the future.

If you look at the all the teams that won the country’s four AFCON tittles, they were made up of predominately local-based players who knew what it meant to die for their nation. They had an identity and style which was synonymous.

The Black Stars of today may be playing for some of the best clubs in the world, but it doesn’t mean that they have the right mentality to succeed as a team. What is the identity of the team today? Are we playing possessive  football, attacking or long balls style?

The Nyantakyi led administration begun very well with the right vision and we all lauded him, but we can’t take it anymore. Ghanaians are fed up with the top down approach to our football development.  Now, in all its bureaucratic self-satisfaction, our game is being by-passed by the Burkinabes, Cameroonians, the Ivoirians and the Egyptians who had to learn a similar lesson themselves.

The delusion is that we are the greatest on the continent and that simply throwing obscene amounts of money at our Black Stars will maintain that eminence as a force in Africa.

The reality is that if you stand still, you go backwards and that’s exactly what we are doing – all is looking ruined. The vision of the FA today is not in consonance with what the Ghanaian feels. It’s been 35 years of pain and despair and until something is done soon, there will be no light at the end of the tunnel.