Black Stars: Let’s Bear Cost, Instead Of Suffering More Heartbreaks

Since Ghana’s Black Stars crashed out of the ongoing 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) last Tuesday, January 18, Ghana football has been back at that familiar crossroads where discussions over what should be done next to end the 40-year AFCON title drought are germane.

In spite of the high hopes of winning the tournament, the Stars were sent packing out of the competition, being held in Cameroun, with just a point, the draw earned against Gabon in the second Group C game, after losing to Morocco (0-1) and Comoros (2-3), Ghana’s worst AFCON outing since 2006.

Since then, opinions have been sharply divided over the future of the coach, Milovan Rajevac, and the leadership of the Ghana Football Association (GFA). While some stakeholders have called for the outright sacking of the coach for the most dismal performance of the Stars at an AFCON in recent times, there are others who believe that the GFA Executive Council, led by Kurt Simeon Okraku, should also resign for the AFCON disappointment.

Indeed, last Friday, January 21, the Minister of Youth and Sports met the GFA over Ghana’s failure to progress at the tournament. (See front page lead story) Indications from that meeting suggested that the coach must be relieved of his post. Other indications also pointed to the fact that the meeting ended in deadlock over which way to go.

Given the passion with which Ghanaians support the Black Stars, the calls for heads to roll are understandable, but the question is: will that solve the deep-rooted problem of the Stars, and to a large extent, Ghana football?

This AFCON has strongly brought to the fore the reality that the so-called ‘big boys’ in African football, including the Black Stars, can no longer lay claim to that title and the feeling that even with poor preparation, they can walk over so-called minnows.

Success in football in this modern-day, just as it is in most facets of life, is based on planning — in the short, medium and long term; getting the right resources, both human and logistics, and also preparation.

When Coach Rajevac was given the job in September 2021, he was tasked with the responsibility of winning the AFCON and also getting Ghana to the 2022 World Cup. However, for every objective follower, the first target was not going to be easy to attain.

For one, at the time he took over, the Stars were still going through the rebuilding process and did not have a cohesive team as there was during his first stint in 2008, when he had time to prepare the team that reached the final of the AFCON in Angola.

Again, preparation for the tournament was not the best, as most of the players arrived at their training base in Qatar barely days before they jetted off to Cameroun and, thus, had very little time to train.

Also, among the 24 teams that began the tournament, Ghana had one of the most inexperienced sides, with as many as 16 players making their debut at an AFCON.

Indeed, some will argue that there are some teams at the AFCON which do not have AFCON experiences, such as The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Comoros, but which impressed with their performance.

The difference between the Ghana team that was paraded in Cameroun and those sides is that those teams have been together for a longer time, playing through the qualifiers and, therefore, benefitted from the consistency and cohesive team building, both in the technical leadership and the playing body.

At this point, the Daily Graphic is of the opinion that there is the need to do a complete diagnosis of the ghana problem and find a remedy to ensure that, subsequently, the Stars bring back the smiles on the faces of Ghanaians with the next assignment, which is the 2022 World Cup final qualifying round to be played by March.

It is important to remind ourselves that after the 2006 AFCON fiasco, the Stars regrouped, prepared better, went on to their maiden World Cup tournament in Germany and became the only African side that impressed, progressing from the group stage.

The details of the contract between Ghana and Coach Rajevac have not been made known and it is, therefore, not clear what the cost implications will be should he be given the sack.

However, given the money that has been paid as compensation for similar actions in the past, care should be taken not to put Ghana into more financial challenges. On the other hand, if, after the analysis the problem is found to be technical, then, of course, it will be better to part ways with him and bear the cost, instead of Ghana suffering more heartbreaks.