Since the men’s senior national soccer team, the Black Stars, made their world cup debut in 2006, the team has indisputably been attractive to many footballers, core among them being those with Ghanaian linkage. Because the Black Stars did not disappoint at Germany on that debut, the team has since been regarded as one of the best on the African continent. With this comes a certain inconsistency with regard to squad. Players come through and go out every now and then as the chaff are separated from the grain. Erstwhile foreign coaches have also used the team as launching pads for themselves on one hand and some hitherto recondite players on another hand. Inevitably, injuries in the profession have also forced certain players to genuinely stay out of the team.
2005 unbeaten run
Indisputably, the captaincy of the Black Stars, or better still, which player wears the arm band, contributed immensely to the steady performance of the Black Stars prior to Germany 2006, precisely in 2005when the team went on an unbeaten streak. There were no wrangling whatsoever among players and line of authority within the team was clear-cut. I must commend the team’s Management Committee then for that feat.
Unfortunately, the bane to Ghana’s performance in the pre-world cup era is beginning to rear its ugly head again. The earlier it is staunched, the better for us all. Is that evidence of the incompetence of the current management team? Well, that should be a topic for discussion on another day.
Issue of captaincy
After Stephen Appiah retired from the Black Stars, the issue of captaincy became an issue as John Mensah’s role was not made substantive immediately. He carried the ‘stand-in captain’ tag for an unusually long period that when the issue was becoming a powder keg, the Ghana Football Association rushed in to confer on him the substantive team captaincy. With intermittent injuries forcing the Rock of Gibraltar out of the team, the mantle fell on Michael Essien, who also battled his own injuries. In 2010, at the Africa Cup of Nations, where he was to captain the Black Stars for the first time in a major tournament, Essien was plagued with an ankle-turned-knee injury ruling him out of action for a gaping period that even ruled him out for selection for the world cup that year. The mantle fell on Richard Kingson, who managed the situation well. However, the situation was trifled with during his time, especially during friendly matches. Asamoah Gyan, John Paintsil, Lee Addy and Derek Boateng had the privilege of captaining the Black Stars in one friendly or the other.
Three Lions’ captain
The issue seems minor but it is one of the key determiners of the collective performance of a team. As a result, a team like the Three Lions of England always shoves to the fore the team’s captaincy anytime they are to be in action howbeit friendly or competitive. Since the issue of squad inconsistency plagued the English national team in modern era, there has not been an omission of who the captain will be when a squad is released for a match. Coaches of the Three Lions always appoint the captain immediately after releasing a squad for a match. I guess it is high time the Black Stars and its current Management Committee learnt from this.
2012 Africa Cup of Nations
It will be recalled that one issue that inhibited the team the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations was the issue of captaincy. It smacked of disunity in the team. It was not surprising that the immediate past coach of the team, Goran ‘Plavi’ Stevanovic, conspicuously stated in his post-tournament report that ‘intra black power’ was at play within the team.
What prevents Asamoah Gyan from giving the arm band to Dede Ayew, who is nearer him on the field than any other, at a time the Black Stars needed a golden goal to settle matters [with Tunisia at Equatorial Guinea/Gabon 2012]? It’s just like, previously, substituting a player who is close to the touchline at the back-straight of the pitch. When the team to effect the substitution is under pressure, the player will just walk out at that end. Unfortunately, rumours became rife in Ghana that most of the senior players were indignant t Dede Ayew wearing the arm band. Though they refuted such rumour, semblances showed during Ghana’s match against Zambia when a player rushed from far to take the captain’s band from Asamoah Gyan. Gyan even gave the band to Kwadwo Asamoah initially but the former Udinese star refused it. These are issues that the current Management Committee must look at seriously.
I was happy the GFA issued a statement when media reports suggested Gyan was to be made substantive captain of the Black Stars given the clublessness of John Mensah. The GFA made it clear that John Mensah is the captain while Michael Essien is his deputy and in the absence of the two, the squad’s most experience player will be captain as policy pertains.
In fact, all these would have been avoided if we had a consistent team; a consistent first and second XI with additions only and when injuries occurred. It is difficult to tell the Starting XI for the team recently. Players are trialed every match while those who have secured places within the team call for temporary exclusion. I sincerely think it is time the Management Committee became strict on players’ commitment to the course of the team so that the to and fro movement they subject the team to will be stopped. Monkey they work, baboon they chop?