When the Black Stars line up late tonight to take on the might of the United States of America, a little bit of history which is being threatened to be overshadowed by all the brouhaha of a world cup is going to take place. For the first time in the history of Ghana, the Black Stars are going to be led by a black man on the world stage, at the senior level.
Admittedly ours is a short romance with the world cup, this just being our 3rd tournament overall, but this does not in any way diminish the significance of the occurrence. Ghana’s first president Dr Nkrumah is amongst other things, famous for his utterance that “the black man is capable of managing his own affairs”. And after trusting in the white man to take us to our first two world cups, Kwesi Appiah was given the chance and has, rather spectacularly, led the team to the world cup in a manner more flamboyant than either of his predecessors could manage.
We have a rather unfortunate tendency in this country to dismiss the value of our own products, and this pertained to our choice of a national team coach for a long time. Which is why the exploits of Kwesi Appiah should not be glossed over, as in being successful he makes a case not only for himself, but for all local coaches and for our ability to perform just as well as the foreigner given the right conditions.
Kwesi Appiah’s initial appointment was met with incredulity and indifference by a large section of the Ghanaian public. There were those who believed a local coach was the way to go, but Kwesi Appiah himself was largely untested as a manager at the top level. Admittedly, he had been assistant coach of the Black Stars for several years prior; this did not however diminish the calls of his critics who felt he was entirely out of his depth.
And a rather disappointing 2013 AFCON challenge did little to diminish those calls. The Stars were disjointed, lethargic, and rather uninspiring for large parts of the campaign in South Africa. Calls for Kwesi Appiah’s head intensified, but he was kept on and now over a year later he has earned the right to roll out his team on the world stage against the best the world has to offer.
And you could not conjure a more difficult group for Kwesi Appiah’s world cup debut if you tried. The USA has lost twice to Ghana and are not too eager to suffer a third loss, Germany is as always one of the favourites, whilst Portugal is also one of the top contenders, more so with Cristiano Ronaldo in the form he’s in. To make it out of the group and equal the achievements of his predecessors, Kwesi Appiah would have to surpass more challenging odds.
But then that has been all he has been doing since his appointment, having to scale challenges after challenges. There were the doubts of his own countrymen, the alleged disrespect of senior players towards local coaches, that disappointing 2013 AFCON campaign, then the final play-off game against Egypt- where the world somehow contrived to make Ghana the underdog. Yet Kwesi Appiah still stands, and at 22:00 GMT tonight leads out his Black Stars for their 2014 world cup debut.
Kwesi Appiah still has his critics, and the nature of the group means failure is a real possibility, and two weeks from now we could all be screaming for his head. But for now we should celebrate the achievement of a fellow Ghanaian, and as passionate as we all are about our Black Stars, we owe it to them to give Appiah our full support as he attempts to lead them to the semi-final stage which has eluded African sides for so long.