Akonnor now got ‘balls’
Last Thursday, chief coach of the Black Stars, Charles Kwablan Akonnor, was reported to have sacked one of the team’s inspiring players – Brentford FC winger Tariqe Fosu, for reporting late to camp.
The Stars had been camping in Cape Coast for double friendlies against Morocco (played on Tuesday on June 8 in Rabat) and Cote d’Ivoire (set to be played today at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium).
Deep-throat sources have confirmed the story, though some members of the national team initially tried to be dodgy and debonair about the issue.
Originally, it was reported by various media outlets that Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey, was the one flushed out of camp for reporting late – an allegation that was later to be debunked. Partey, it was explained by the Ghana FA later, had sought permission to be excused from the friendlies. People still hold contrary views.
It does not make sense to keep some of this information to the chest. In many jurisdictions, this incident would have been announced much earlier by the FA, so people do not make speculations here and there.
The swashbuckling Fosu, who played an instrumental role in Brentford’s qualification to the English Premier League, was one of the many foreign-based players invited for the two friendlies. And, being one of the fast rising Stars’ players, one would have expected him to join his colleagues in camp a day or two after touching down. At worst, he could have called the coach, to be excused.
From all indications, the UK-based player never did that – only for him to report to camp, five days or so after landing on home soil. That, certainly, is offensively unacceptable.
Worse was when he was spotted all over social media ‘chilling’ at a social event involving compatriot Chelsea star Callum Hudson-Odoi – who is also in the country for holidays, after a momentous season that culminated in the lifting of the UEFA Champions League trophy.
The Brentford winger was also captured in an exhibition game organised by Ghanaian musician King Promise at the Sakumono Queensland AstroTurf in Accra which involved Hudson-Odoi.
Manifestly upset about the foregoing, Akonnor had no choice but to reverentially ask the 25-year-old Fosu – who reported to the team’s camp 48 hours before their departure for the Morocco game – to leave because he was no longer part of his plans for the trip.
Though one does not have a comprehensive detail of what fully triggered Fosu’s sacking, one fact that was established was that the order came from Coach Akonnor.
By that show of ‘power,’ the Stars’ trainer has displayed rare courage, an act that could go a long a way to instill discipline in camp.
This is what we expect to see of Ghanaian coaches. As we have hammered over the years, nobody in the national team is indispensable. Nobody is untouchable. Nobody is irreplaceable. Nobody is more superior to the other. And, this is something that must be drummed home over and over again into the heads of our players.
What Akonnor has done would earn him more respect that condemnation and he must be goaded to do more.
During the 19th edition of the African Cup of Nations in Tunisia (1994), Zambia’s Irish coach Ian Porterfield (now late) sacked his team’s most in-form player at the time – Gibby Mbasela, ahead of a critical game, for breaching camp rules. Though Porterfield’s decision was lauded, many Zambians thought it was not judicious as it came barely 24 hours or so to a crunch game against ‘stubborn’ Mali.
Mali had then flushed out no other side than Egypt from the competition, beating the Pharaohs 1-0 in a frenetic quarter final clash – thus putting fear in the rest of the pack.
But that was the ideal moment Porterfield had chosen to sack the dazzling midfield loom, Mbasela. The message was clear: Nobody in the team was indispensable! Grippingly, morale in the camp of the Chipolopolos rather shot to the zenith.
Come to think of it, the Zambians proceeded to whitewash Mali 4-0 in an explosive semi-final clash – before losing respectably in the final to Nigeria 2-1, after Elija Litana had shot them into a third minute lead.
Though Zambia failed to win the trophy, Porterfield’s decision was hailed, and it is still celebrated, having pumped some depth of discipline into the fabrics of the team till date.
Like the former Zambia coach, Akonnor has been basking in all the showers of praise for that singular act. Of course, if for nothing at all, the rest of the players would sit up and be careful not to slip into any kind of misery.
Fosu may have behaved the way he did because he thought a ‘star’ as he is steadily mushrooming to be, he could report to camp even at the 11th hour and still get the benediction of the coach. Is it because Akonnor is a black coach? Fosu will certainly not dare to report to camp late if there was a white coach in charge of the Stars. Not so? It is high time our players respected their own.
When given the nod as Black Stars’ head coach, Akonnor promised to be his own man. Many doubted him. They say he has no ‘balls’ to bite. They say he could only be a yowling lot. Perhaps, by his action on the young Fosu, the same cavilers may start taking him seriously now.
One question on the lips of the game’s followers, however, is that would Akonnor have the guts to kick out marquee names like skipper Andre Ayew and brother Jordan, Partey himself and any of the most senior players had they gone the way of Fosu?
Well, until that happens, let us give Akonnor the credit for at least trying to drill some dose of discipline into the team.
PlainTalk with JOHN VIGAH