One of the worst memories for Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah was watching his team disintegrate at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He fell out publicly with Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng as the Black Stars failed to qualify from their group, which overshadowed the feat of being the first local coach to qualify the side for the Mundial.
The series of events afterwards ensured that Appiah, 56, lost his job later that year. He moved on to coach Sudanese club Al Khartoum until he was recalled to take over the team last month. But the team he takes over at the moment is in the middle of a dip in confidence. The Black Stars fell in the semi-final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations to eventual champions Cameroon and also have an uphill task having fallen behind Egypt in their 2018 World Cup qualifying group.
The Ghana team has been wracked by rumours of a clash between captain Asamoah Gyan and his deputy Andre Ayew in recent weeks. Both men, it is reported, are jostling for the armband. However, a recent statement from the Ghana Football Association this week quashed all talk about perceived problems between the two stars.
Still, Appiah needs to ensure there is harmony between his top players as well as the rest of the team in order to achieve a good win in his first game against Ethiopia in Kumasi on Sunday. He has shown in the past that he could be decisive in culling players when he dropped Andre from the 2013 Afcon squad.
Ghanaian football requires a lift in order to return to an enviable place on the continent. The Black Stars have fallen to 48th spot in the Fifa rankings and ninth in Africa behind teams like DR Congo and Burkina Faso. They need to regain their fear factor with Appiah in charge once again by banishing the uncertainty of the last few months when they collapsed against the Indomitable Lions and Burkina Faso in the semi-final and third-place match of the Afcon respectively.
Where there could be problems in player egos, Appiah needs to let players know that team comes first and he would not tolerate a divided dressing room.
Described as meek and unassertive by local media during his previous reign, and not expecting that people’s characters can change in adult life, the manager must find a balance between putting his foot down and peaceful dialogue.
The task ahead of him is too big to be underestimated. Ghana need to start shining again and therein lies his dilemma. How to remove tension from the camp and make sure all players work towards that goal, to play well and win, for themselves, for the team and for the country.
The collective interest of Ghana is bigger than any player’s ego.