Deadlock!: Ministry, GFA in tug-of-war over Milo

BY: Samuel Ebo Kwaitoo
Deadlock!: Ministry, GFA in tug-of-war over Milo
Coach Milovan Rajevac

The fate of Coach Milovan Rajevac hangs in the balance, following a deafening deadlock between the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mustapha Ussif, and the Ghana Football Association (GFA) over his future.

While the Minister, acting on behalf of the government, wants the immediate sacking of the Serbian to reflect the mood of Ghanaians, the GFA's bigwigs insist Rajevac is the right man to lead the Black Stars to the crucial Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup playoff against Nigeria in March.

After jumping to his defence, the FA is of the view that Coach Rajevac needs more time to prepare a formidable team for the two-leg affair and also qualify for the November-December FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Following the crunch meeting between the Minister of Youth and Sports and the GFA leadership last Friday, a grapevine source disclosed to the Graphic Sports that the local soccer governing body maintained that Coach Rajevac was the right choice under the circumstance.

Contrary to the government's position, the source said the FA thought it would not be appropriate to sack the Serbian now with just a few weeks to the playoff.

He said the FA's position stemmed from the fact that Rajevac did not have enough time to prepare the team for the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon, hence it would not be fair to blame him entirely for the team's first round exit.

The source then dropped a well-kept secret when he revealed that the Serbian actually tested positive for COVID-19 on the team's arrival in Doha for the pre-tournament training camp and, therefore, had to be quarantined for seven days.

It said Coach Rajevac could only rejoin the team a day before the Stars' international friendly against Algeria in Doha, which they lost 0-3 on January 5, 2022.

"Coupled with that, some key players reported to camp late due to CAF's new directive which allowed clubs to release players as late as January 3, 2022," it noted.

The source maintained that apart from the poor preparations towards the AFCON, the Serbian had indeed not had adequate time to train the Stars since his appointment on September 27, 2021.

It recalled that since supervising Ghana's last two World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia (1-1) and South Africa (1-0) in Johanesburg and Cape Coast on November 11 and November 14, 2021 respectively to ensure qualification for the playoff, the players could only regroup for the AFCON on December 27, 2021.

The source explained that since it was impossible for Ghana to hire a top-notch coach and pay him between $120,000 and $150,000 now, the best option was to keep Coach Rajevac and support him to qualify the Stars for the FIFA World Cup.

According to the source, the FA thought no local coach had the capacity to lead the Stars to qualify for the FIFA World Cup now, hence the decision to keep Rajevac.

The fallout of last Friday's crunch meeting included the government's firm decision to pay the Serbian off for the nine months left on his contract ($270,000) to make way for a new coach to lead Ghana to the playoff.

Following the deadlock, the Ministry later issued a statement directing the GFA to review the Stars technical team and also reconstitute the Black Stars Management Committee ahead of the playoff.

The source said the GFA leadership was scheduled to meet by Monday to take a firm decision on the issue.

Last Saturday, Ghana was drawn against perennial rivals Nigeria in the playoff at the draw in Cameroun, with the Stars hosting the Super Eagles first before travelling for the return leg.