Ghana’s C.K Gyamfi : Three-time African Cup winning coach

People have really strong opinions on which side of the Local/International divide our National Team trainer should be recruited from. And I’m no exception, as you’ll find out later on in this article. For almost a decade, Ghana had been under the reins of foreign managers, many of whom delivered, some of whom failed,some of whom, well–run away. Among the ones that chalked successes were  Ratomir Dujković (Qualified team for the 2006 FIFA World Cup) and the very recent Milovan Rajevac (Second place at Afcon 2010 and Quarter Final at the 2010 FIFA World Cup). A foreign coach qualifying Ghana for it’s first ever World Cup in 2006 made an indelible influencial mark on the thinking of many football fans on this issue. After many decades of toil, Ghana had finally made it into ”thee promise land”. And our Moses, was a white man..

Then came a reincarnation of the classic proto-Nationalistic (colonial period reference) mentality. The white man/ foreigner (I’ll be using them interchangeably) had struck gold, and so had effortlessly won the deep admiration and loyalty of the people(football fans). It was that easy. And it was not a trophy, but a qualification. It had many Ghanaians turning their back on even the slightest faith in the potential of a local trainer. Not to say that before then, there was no ‘taste for foreign managers’ .No. It existed. But it became practically entrenched after our qualification for the Mundial in 2006. We had won the African Cup multiple times,yes, but the World Cup had been a long held thirst, a chronic obsession. And so the stage was set for the endless debate, the majority anti-Local Coach side against the minority pro-local coach activists. At this juncture, I would like to say, proudly, that I’m of the latter school of thought. And you’re about to find out why..

Fundamental Argument

Let me state, that National team football is totally a different ball game from Club football. Club football is commercially driven. Clubs basically survive on funds, which are generated from a variety of sources, the ultimate of which is success. Thus teams with success are able to survive the pressure since they have access to finance. This drives teams to prioritize success, meaning hiring the best coaches and buying the best players possible to make that success dream/plan a reality. National Team Football on the other hand, is about National Pride.

A Nation’s National team is not only a representation of it’s best players but also an expression of a nation’s sense of pride and honour in football. Every Nation parades their best players, who are Nationals, even if they are good enough or not. Thus transfer of players is forbidden in that respect, as unlike club football it’s not commercially driven per se (per se because it’s also about chalking successes, but not necessarily for the money,but the pride).

With this observation made, it seems illogical to have a nation, looking past it’s own and employing a foreigner as the trainer. If the players are to be from the nation, regardless of their quality, why should the manager be recruited from elsewhere based on this very same ‘quality’? One would say ”Because it is allowed”. Well it being ”allowed’ is not to be confused with it being appropriate.

The point of it being a National team, is to have National players and National coaches regardless of any factor. It is about empowerment, showcasing a nation’s products to the world. About pride and nationalism. Patriotism. That is the entire point. With the acceptance of employing foreign coaches and naturalization, the definitive line between National team football and club football is being gradually erased. It’s becoming fainter each day, which is unhealthy for football.

Let me put it this way, employing a foreign manager means telling the world you have nothing to offer human resource -wise in the technical and tactical aspect of football. An indictment on your human resource, and it’s training system. An act of demeaning one’s own country: of saying the man coming in is better than all other managers in the country. Logical? I say No. Judge for yourself.

Why Serbia? Competence? Seriously?

Ghana especially has made it a habit of employing not only foreign coaches, but foreign coaches from Serbia. Yes. Serbia. Why? I don’t know! Anytime there is a vacancy, the option of actually employing a National man for the National Job(see how much sense it makes) is overlooked in the name of ”competence”. How would you explain the appointment of Goran Stevanovic, a Serbian with no International experience at any level, NO trophies in his C.V , and no significant achievement over many other local coaches who have all these and still say you recruited on a competency criterion?

You are basically trying to say ”Anyone but a local coach” which is totally absurd and unprofessional. This also gives rise to conspiracy theories about influential people having ”something to gain” which is not only justified, but treacherous to the National course as well. Imagine having a Serbian as the president of the Ghana FA, of even worse as the President of Ghana, because they are ”competent”(again the ‘‘it is allowed/not allowed” argument clearly does not apply here).
The Pan-Africanist Perspective

Besides, Ghana, as a Nation gained independence for this very reason: that is that (in Kwame Nkrumah’s own words) ”the black man is capable of managing his own afairs”. Infact it’s based on this principle, as well as the pride in autonomy, that many countries strived for independence. Now wouldn’t it be grossly shallow and one dimensional to think that this ”independence” was only limited to Government control? Are we saying that it does not transcend politics/governance into our economic and social lives?

How can we believe in freedom, independence and emancipation (yes I know how far I’ve gone) when we still practice ”traditions”(how ironic) that are blatantly contradictory? That is clearly unacceptable? For a whole nation to basically be brought to it’s knees in begging a foreigner to come coach us, offering ridiculous extravagant salaries and working conditions,which we  inferentially consider our very own ”not worthy” of enjoying is just sad. Pathetic! Name it! How far have we come as a nation? Still depending on white people for expertise? Because we don’t have it due to our lack of putting training systems in place? May I ask: Do we even lack coaches? Do you have to be a foreigner to actually know how to coach? And the pathetic point of experience and inability to handle egos of foreign based players….Seriously? That’s our excuse? Or the know-how….once you’re local you’re automatically incompetent? If the foreigner is that good, why not send your native there to learn from him, come back, and take charge? Wouldn’t that make much more sense?

Are these the reasons, excuses and explanations we are giving?

Abandoning the Nationalistic/Pan-Africanist course?

Level Playing field….

Even to alarming heights, we hire foreigners (most of whom are grossly unqualified compared to some of our coaches on so many levels) and pay them huge sums in salaries, luxurious accommodation, and all the help ( logistically etc in cars, workers etc ) which we all know we wouldn’t give to our own compatriot.

Besides, did I mention the huge gulf that existed between  Kwasi Appiah’s salary (then as assistant coach) and his boss’s (Goran Stevanovic, an expatriate)? Yes, Kwasi Appiah’s in the helm now, supposedly enjoying all these. But don’t we all know the alleged conspiracy theory of trying to ”prove a point” by going like ”yes, you said you needed a local coach, there you go, lets see!”(Not saying it is true though, just trying to make a point.)

In that case, it is like a trap : to hope he fails, so the pro-foreign coach activists, most of whom I dare say are influential in the recruitment, would have the triumphant ”I told you so” call. And trust me, such calls are normally positive, but this would conspicuously be malicious..

And then the highly obnoxious attitude some of these foreign gaffers give us…. Some come in, travel out as and when they feel like it, never monitoring our local league to fish out material for the team amongst others(the discrimination against local coaches can fully be compared to this topic I’m addressing) Some can’t even speak English! I mean how clearly inappropriate is that? We have to pay their translator too?! Isn’t the picture painted incongrous? It’s almost as if we want to aggressively suppress and undermine ourselves. Excuse after excuse, we kill ourselves steadily,claiming pursuit of  success(which we’ve not even achieved) at our own expense.

We defend the foreigner when he makes a huge mistake, but mercilessly villify our own for committing a slight error. Isn’t ”err to human”?? So why do we want to insinuate that mistakes are best destructive when made by our own? I’d say, when the Black Man messes up, get rid of him if you want, and bring in another black man. That is how it should be! We shouldn’t look for the slightest reason to ”justify” our crude belief in the supremacy of the whites in football tactics and strategy. We can do it. We just have to know that we can, put measures in place to ensure that we can. That is all.That simple.

Ghana’s very own Jones Attuquayefio and his all conquering African Champions League Winning Side(inset)

Sepp Blatter is actually making sense!

It’s high time we quit churning out such disgracefully spurious excuses and admit that our mentality in the recruitment of coaches is flawed. Infact, current FIFA President Josep ”Sepp’ Blatter might sound absurd in his comments and decisions sometimes, but there is one pronouncement he once made that made a lot of sense. Here goes..

 “I would say it is a little surprising that the motherland of football(England)
has ignored a sacrosanct law or belief that the national team manager
should be from the same country as the players. I have never seen Italy,
Germany, Brazil or Argentina with a coach from another country
.” 2008 — after the appointment of Fabio Capello as England boss.

Spot on Blatter! Spot on! (And that is a really rare thing to hear being said about this man).

Here’s an analogy(which might sound weird,I know):

If the UAE cannot buy Foreign Nationals from elsewhere (because obviously, they have the monetary means) to form National teams, why should a Nation(with the means) go in for(”buy’‘ so to speak) a foreign manager? I guess the best way to put it is that there is a reason why it’s called ”A NATIONAL TEAM”(emphasis on NATIONAL)

Infact, if this ”culture”(irony again) continues, National Team football will eventually lose it’s essence. Is that what we want as a nation? As a globe? Are we so desperate to kill National team football? To kill the beautiful FIFA World Cup, The Euros, Afcon, Copa America et al?

We do love football don’t we? That is why it is best to look out for it’s interests. To state factually, there has never been a World Cup winner without a local coach, right from the beginning in 1930. To narrow it down to Ghana(for whose reason I’m doing this piece), we have never won the African Cup with a foreigner, and I’m sure we ought to know this, if facts and history matter at all. If we’re willing to betray and degrade ourselves by ”worshiping” foreigners and their so-called impeccable knowledge of the game, then way to go Ghana! Way to go!(Please pardon my sarcasm)

Fiifi Anaman. ( @fiifianaman )
July 16, 2012.