FEATURE: Preparation, positive attitude, key to qualification

Author: Ebo Kwaitoo

THE generations, which predated Ghana's maiden qualification to the FIFA World Cup in 2005, hardly draw hasty conclusions when it comes to Mundial draws. At least, they have learnt from experience that it is a folly to follow that dangerous path.

In contrast, the present generation and the uninitiated who are still living in a world of fantasy still believe it is Ghana's birthright to qualify automatically when drawn against the so-called minnows in African football. However, hardly do these modern day disciples realise that there are no pushovers on the continent anymore.

In modern football, quality of materials and scientific preparation matter more than names of countries or past records. That is why I want anybody who thinks Ghana will have a 'cool chop' in the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers to revise their notes.
Many years ago, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia would have been no opposition for Ghana; but that era is long gone.

Again, World Cup qualifiers are a different ball game altogether due to the great rewards involved.
Let me also reiterate that the Black Stars of today are not as competitive as they used to be. That, for me, should be the main concern of Ghanaians. Once we get a formidable team in place, we will fear no foe!

It is on record that a lightweight such as Burundi once denied Ghana passage to the FIFA World Cup during the days of the Maestro, Abedi Ayew Pele and Anthony Yeboah. We still need to learn some vital lessons from why the star-studded Black Stars side of yesteryears never qualified to the Mundial.

One of them was complacency! Another was poor financial remuneration, coupled with inadequate preparation. If the authorities concerned can tackle these three factors effectively, Ghana can make a fourth FIFA World Cup appearance in Qatar in two years’ time.

For instance, Ghana blew a great chance to make history at the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup due to a row over appearance fees which had nothing to do with coaching. In spite of that, Ghana's spectacular 2-2 draw against the eventual champions, Germany, was adjudged the best match of the tournament. That speaks volumes of the quality and potential of Coach Kwasi Appiah's team at that tournament.

As I write, the Black Stars are still being owed two winning bonuses from their last two Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against South Africa and Sao Tome and Principe in November last year and nobody seems to care about it. This is just a repeat of the past phenomenon that denied Ghana World Cup qualification for decades, in spite of the array of stars we boast of.
Incidentally, the newly-appointed Black Stars head coach, Charles Kwabla (C.K.) Akonnor, is a victim of that outstanding winning bonus by virtue of his role as an assistant coach to Kwasi Appiah in those two matches.

Also, the new Black Stars assistant coach, David Duncan, was also being owed for the scouting role he played for the Black Stars at AFCON 2019 in Egypt. All these bills have to be cleared as soon as possible to pave the way for the new technical team to assume duty on a clean sheet with a positive attitude from the players and a healthy atmosphere in camp.

Another issue that needs a prompt attention is the settlement of Coach Kwasi Appiah's salary arrears and winning bonuses to send a positive signal to his successor and the entire team ahead of the crucial AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.

If Akonnor and Duncan can succeed, they need to be their own men in terms of player selection and general decision-making just like their predecessor, Kwasi Appiah. Fact is, Ghanaians don't believe in local coaches. So if they are not firm, officialdom will dictate to them and mess them up in the eyes of the people and eventually fire them on top.

It is significant to note that Kwasi Appiah left behind a strong foundation and a rich legacy for Akonnor to build upon. What is left is good planning, fair player selection, good player management and a prompt release of funds to cater for the needs of the team.

That, coupled with total focus and determination to qualify, above any other consideration, can make Ghana partakers of the Qatar FIFA World Cup party come 2022.

If we want to play among the best in the world, we must beat the best in Africa and finish among the five best teams after the qualifiers. Simplicita!