Feature: The “evils” We Feed Our Players In Ghana

Posted On Wednesday, 31st July 2013

Kotoko players celebrating.

Kotoko players celebrating.

For a footballer willing to make a good living out of the game, dreams of playing in atmosphere that will develop skills and provide some wonderful monetary rewards is something that is seen from the very first day of training at the lowest level to the top grade.

It is no different for the Ghanaian footballer and a whole lot of them have left the country to better their lives mostly in Europe but some have gone to other parts of the continent where the financial pay-off is relatively good.

The likes of Gladson Awako, Richard Kissi-Boateng and a host of other players are in the Democratic Republic of Congo while Awal Mohammed and others are in South Africa.

It looks good and gives the local game a huge thumbs- up. At least, if we are to believe the inscription on the “surface of the pink sheet” but some recent happenings should quickly set the analytical gears in motion and get us to see the very serious “problems” that our players ingest before they embark on their adventures outside the country.

The reality is that there are scores of players who do not make the cut when they seek to make a break in foreign leagues and unfortunately, the reasons are very home-grown.

Lack of technical knowledge 

There is a general perception that talents abound in Ghana and frankly, I do not doubt that assertion. Each and every Glo Premier League season brings a new “star” and a new headline-grabber.

There is always the player who is wanted by the big clubs and with every good performance, comes the news that he has become the toast of Europe’s elite clubs.

Unfortunately, the adulation, hype, fame darken out the technical aspects of that player’s game that must be improved if he will succeed out there in a very competitive footballing world. The result? He fails to impress his suitor and the road to fame suddenly falls off into an abyss.

A good example is former Glo Premier League top scorer, Emmanuel Baffoe whose 21 goals in the 2010/2011 for New Edubiase, got him a move to South African PSL side, Mamelodi Sundowns.

The move was the last thing that was heard about the player’s activity. What followed was a long period of bench warming at the Pretoria club.

We all wondered what had happened to the player whose call-up into the national team before the CAN 2012 in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea was big news. 

The answer came from Sundowns coach, Pitso Motisimane, in a press conference in Accra in earlier in the month when his team came down for pre-season training.

He said, “ Baffoe is good player but he could not understand the dynamics of the South African game. Our game is quick and he did not seem to understand it because in truth, he is not really a very pacey player. I also discovered that he was more adept at playing as a second striker and so, he had to had to be sacrificed to save the team because I wanted two main strikers for pace and goals.”

Commiserations to Baffoe about being sacrificed because no one would want that but Pitso’s statements struck a very strong chord.

If the nation’s top striker at that time could not make the grade in South Africa, one can only imagine what is in store for those further down the ladder. 

The underlying truth is that there is very little technical education for our players and that is heavily exposed when they must compete with others who may not be necessarily better in terms of talent, but have the compliment of some sound technical education. 

We may blame players for their own failures but it also says a lot of the coaches who are grow these players. They also need to be rewired.

Fitness issues

Football is a tough sport and it requires a physical frame that is well-conditioned and durable. Being skilled without the body to carry out the basic duties is counter-productive.

There is a lot of premium placed on those who possess strength to move them about on the pitch and that is why players like Victor Wanyama and Yaya Toure are valuable even in this day when the false-nine, and the deep-lying playmakers are landlords of fans and coaches’ wish list.

Yakubu Mohammed

Yakubu Mohammed

But Yakubu Mohammed’s bizzare encounter with Orlando Pirates quickly brought home something quite interesting. According to media reports, Mohammed’s attempted move to the Buccaners ended after the first training where his awful level of fitness was revealed.

“He had one session and after 30 minutes, he pulled off. He was out of breath and he couldn’t keep up. So I mean really are we going to sign a player who can only do 30 minutes of training? You must remember that if you are going to bring in a foreigner he must be better than what you have,”

Those were the words of Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sa in an interview with Kickoff.com

The player who has scored at least ten goals in the last three seasons with AshantiGold could not go through more than 30 minutes of a training session of a South African club and that one that should look and feel like one in any standard European club. 

Yakubu Mohammed’s case is one that has received media attention but it never a novelty.

There are countless stories of players who have failed to go through simple training sessions in places like Israel where football might not have the high aura of England, Spain and Germany and frankly, it is worrying for the credentials of the local game.

Naughty habits

Our understanding (or misunderstanding) of the game has shaped our players into viewing the game in a certain way and those ideas often left them down when they must perform in better and stricter atmoshperes.

Very often, the Glo Premier League sees loads of players escaping punishment for several vicious tackles. It is quite difficult to tell if match officials fail to spot these or they overlook them but there have been challenges that should not be allowed on a football pitch. Yet, the hard tackler is cheered and hailed as a solid defender in Ghana but out there, he fails to survive because the modern game has no place for these things.

Former Kotoko defender, Gideon Baah, is now in Finland with Honka FC and he confirms this to Citi FM in an interview on Monday.

“ In Finland, the referees are very strict when it comes to some of the very strong challenges but in Ghana, they are left unpunished.”

That is a comparison that must have hit Baah hard on arrival there because it showed how wrong a direction we have been charting for the players who must eventually fill the various national teams. It spoke of our inability to bring the local game to a point where it will be really be a good platform for our players. 

Conclusion

The ideal situation would have entailed making the league very financially rewarding so that players will remain but if that is too far-fetched, we need to make the league a very good learning experience for the players who want to move outside the country.

So, with Mahatma Otoo, Awal Mohammed, Yakubu Mohammed, Daniel Nii Agyei and Fataw Dauda, all supposedly heading out to their various destinations in coming weeks, the question that should occupy our thoughts should be: “What will they show to the outside world?”

By: Nathan Quao/Citifmonline.com

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