The constant campaigning for players in the press shows the allure of the World Cup, argues Michael Oti Adjei.
The other day I met Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah at a wedding in Accra. Calm, relaxed and all smiles he obliged and posed for one photo after the other and took in countless good luck messages. ‘suggestions’ and ‘ideas’ on how Ghana can negotiate a world cup group that fills some Ghanaians with genuine hope and others with fear of at least one hammering.
It was another day that reminded Kwesi Appiah what time it is. Brazil 2014 is near and the excitement and expectation is rising. Every time those two go up too, the pressure on Appiah follows in tow.
If he wants any advice, that wedding day also reminded him he will not be lacking any. Everyone has an idea who should play, which goalkeeper is ideal to stop Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kicks, which midfield partnership will lead to disaster and whether John Mensah is worth a gamble.
It is unlikely Appiah will have much use for a lot of what he will hear. He occupies a seat where you are responsible for the big calls, take the glory and these days money for the success and walk the plank if it ends in failure. So while he will in all likelihood nod, pay attention and appreciate the fact that everyone has a word or two, he will know the buck like we say stops with him.
That is why we are all intrigued by his upcoming meeting with the press on May 12 when as he says he will ‘talk to the nation’. That conversation will reveal which 30 players he has called up initially. Football is a cruel sport so there will be players in that thirty man list who will be elated but who will discover a week or two afterwards when the team is preparing to leave for Holland that there is no place for them.
The good thing is that Appiah claims to be immune from all the orchestrated and sometimes informed noise about who must be on that plane. And that is a good thing.
Twenty-six will travel. Four will go home disappointed. Then the 26 that will travel to Holland will become 23 by June 2nd when world football governing body FIFA requires that all national associations name their final world cup squads.
When that day finally comes there will be tears, there will be anger and there will be disappointment amongst different players. Others would have been handed career breakthroughs and for many others an opportunity to fulfil lifelong ambitions.
It is an often used line but the world cup is a platform that does all sorts of wonders for the careers of players. It turned Stephen Appiah into a national hero.
It helped Kevin-Prince Boateng escape his Portsmouth nightmare and discover his big level appetite again. It even turns those supposed to be clean heroes into mere mortals. Zidane’s headbutt in is the 2006 final the best example of that.
That is why all the campaigning on-going in the days before Kwesi Appiah names his 30 man provisional squad is understandable. When players cough it is news, when they sign an autograph it is news too.
Adjectives alluding to greatness are being abused as everything kicks into the packaging for different players in the hope that when Appiah reveals that squad somehow they will be in.
And in the process the truth has suffered a battering. We have learned new concepts in football too. One of them is that some club coaches love Ghana so much they will prepare defenders they have not been able to use for a whole year for us to take to the world cup. Or that we are so desperate we must carry along excellent servants in the past regardless of how crocked and rusty they are.
Appiah is a lucky man. He assisted Milovan Rajevac at the world cup in 2010, was with him at the Nations Cup that same year and was at the 2012 Nations Cup too. He observed the Nations Cup in 2008 too and would have seen how in every tournament, success or failure has hinged on a coach having the balls to make the big calls.
He will require balls of steel this time in order to re-emphasise the point that he will not pick names for the world cup, but players in the shape to play and do well. It is a bit strange that anyone will think after all these months out it makes any football sense to take Isaac Vorsah to the world cup.
It is even more incredulous to think that even after his return to football has been stop-start some want to convince us John Mensah is still the Messiah of defending in Ghana. Those sort of calls leaves you wondering at what point we will ever move from clinging to the past.
Central defence may be a major challenge but it is not a challenge that will be solved by running back to players whose fitness we cannot guarantee at the highest level.
For journalists these are testing times for professionalism on all fronts. Agents and publicists all of a sudden like us.
We are perfect for setting the agenda, the conduits the doctors ordered in their bid to create the idea that their players will win us the World Cup.
There is in these times a thin line between simply doing the daily reporting job and the blind bidding of an agent, publicist or player.
For instance it is impossible to ignore Afriyie Acquah’s claim to a place in midfield on the back of the games he has played for Parma this season and because Rabiu Mohammed was out for so long.
But it reaches comedy proportions when we are constantly reminded that he is an Arsenal target, which Wenger wants to buy him for that Arsenal midfield. We know the strategy and inherent message.
If the accomplished Frenchman deems him fit for the Arsenal midfield, why would Ghana want to leave him home? It is a ploy that lends itself to mockery by those intelligent enough in this game especially after all the reports of a big move before he ended up at Hoffenheim.
Players like David Accam and John Antwi are simply getting the attention their form and goal scoring runs deserves even though the case for Antwi to be considered for the world cup is as weak as any I have heard.
The good thing is that Appiah claims to be immune from all the orchestrated and sometimes informed noise about who must be on that plane. And that is a good thing because the campaigning has been pretty intense. Like most campaigns too, exaggeration with the capacity to distort facts has been a powerful strategy.
By: Michael Oti-Adjei