For a while, it looked like a throwback moment to a time Ghanaians were heavily vested in the Ghana Premier League had happened to the Black Stars. In the wake of Black Stars Head Coach CK Akunnor’s latest call up of only locally based players to the upcoming round of games, there was a glimmer of hope the final set of players to represent Ghana would be exclusively picked from the 32 man set.
However, it is expected the former Black Stars Captain would call on foreign based players to augment the team but had the initial scenario played out, Akunnor would have stepped into the ring of the late Sir Cecil Jones Attuquayefio whose not so bold decision to start only Ghanaian based players in a game against Nigeria adds to his immortality.
Playing with his familiar starting unit of that glorious Accra Hearts of Oak team of the early 2000’s is one of the biggest events to bookmark the Phobians dominance in that era. CK Akunnor’s main justification to throw in more locally based footballers into the Black Stars due to COVID 19 related complications falls in line with efforts to keep foreign based players in the good books of their respective teams.
In the ever changing dynamics of world football, dispatching the basic duties of each role is no longer the accepted norm because a player is expected to bring more to the table than performing his core duties. As a fullback for instance, a player is expected to not only defend well but provide thrust on the attacking side of the field too. Alphonso Davies and Trent Alexander-Arnold are perfect examples.
Goalkeepers are not merely in between the sticks to stop opposing players from scoring but to launch attacks (cue Ederson’s clearance that led to Ilkay Gundogan’s sumptuous goal against Tottenham Hotspurs this past weekend) and help outnumber an opposing team by having the keeper join in possessing the ball like an outfield player.
In the same breath, a Coach isn’t merely stuck to the old fashioned way of dealing with tactics and winning only on the pitch. The position has evolved beyond this and Coaches these days act as an extension of team management’s plan and vision. The Kurt Okraku led Ghana Football Association is heavily tasked with fulfilling the standout idea that warmed the hearts and minds of electorates and the general public some months back; Bring Back The Love.
This phrase was coined to get Ghanaians to fall back in love with the country’s premier football league and particularly the Black Stars after years of reported corrupt dealings, lack of patriotism by the playing body highlighted by the disaster in Brazil in 2014 and poor performances to boot. Looking at the decision to announce the list of Ghana Premier League players first before the eventual roll out of their foreign based colleagues, it is clear Coach CK Akunnor is fully dabbling in the Bring Back The Love agenda.
Support for the Ghana Premier League is growing and people are warming themselves to clubs like Accra Great Olympics, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Karela United whose witty messages across various social media platforms have been backed by encouraging performances on the field. However, same can’t be said about the Black Stars as the unit is still struggling to get that kind of love it had as late as 2014. Fixing that requires patience but fast tracking it by calling up darlings of Ghana football (right now) like Kwame Opoku, Gladson Awako, Diawusie Taylor and Christopher Nettey to the Black Stars certainly helps to coax love from fans for the Black Stars who haven’t forgotten the iffy choice of player call ups during the last window of international games. In the aftermath of those call ups, there was a major fallout as a handful of players deemed not fit to be in the team earned call ups.
That aside, calling players with strong links to members of the Football Association’s top brass like Baba Rahman touched on the apathy nerve between fans and the Black Stars. Though the list of foreign based players is yet to be released, having guys like Awako and Taylor in contention for places in the Black Stars is a win on the PR front for the Association.
Love is shown in many ways and there is none better than throwing money into the mix. With the Ghana Premier League lacking money due to the absence of a headline sponsor and effects of COVID 19, most notably the reduced number of fans at games and the absence of fans in the foreseeable future, having Ghana based stars excel on the international stage gets their teams in line to sell them on and reap more rewarding financial benefits. Also, when Ghanaian based stars excel for the Black Stars, they transfer their appeal to the local league that attracts the love of even the most casual of sports fans.
Judging by the below average performances of the Black Stars on the pitch since CK Akunnor took over as Head Coach, it is clear he hasn’t excelled in his job thus far but he has done quite well with the ancillary aspects of his job. Maybe in time, his on field work catches up to his off field work.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter