Brimah outburst highlights ongoing Ghana tension

Can the Black Stars continue to thrive in the face of ongoing criticism back home?

Just when public sentiment back home has begun to get behind Ghana during their run to the Nations Cup semi-finals, Razak Brimah goes and does that.

We all know that players have a lot of time on their hands, wasting away in plush hotels, during major tournaments, but even this—the goalkeeper’s astonishing Facebook Live outburst on Monday—was something out of the ordinary.

It was as ill-advised as Sunday Oliseh’s tenure-ending rant against the Nigerian media on You Tube during his brief, unhappy spell as national team boss, and is as potentially damaging as Serge Aurier’s Periscope revelations about his Paris Saint-Germain teammates midway through last season.

With more expletives than a Quentin Tarantino movie, Brimah tore into his critics—both fans and journalists—and fairly ineloquently backed up his argument with reference to his performance at the ongoing Afcon as well as the continental showpiece in Equatorial Guinea two years ago.

You can sympathise with the keeper, certainly to an extent.

Ahead of the Egypt match, he’d gone five games at the Nations Cup without conceding a goal—managing to navigate three knockout games at the last tournament without being beaten—and his net has only rippled this tournament after thunderous efforts from Mohamed Salah and Paul Jose M’Poku.

You could hardly blame any goalkeeper in the world for being beaten by those two strikes—neither of which dented Ghana’s prospects of reaching another semi-final—and indeed, Brimah deserves immense credit for his performance in the Black Stars’ second group game.

In the clash against Mali, Ghana took the lead but wilted during the second half, and had Brimah to thank—with a series of resolute saves—for guaranteeing all three points. It was a match-winning performance, but one which only received begrudging praise in the local press.

Avram Grant of Ghana

Brimah clearly feels slighted and underappreciated, while perhaps his raging outburst was an indictment of how the pressure of Adam Kwarasey’s flirtation with the national side over the last 18 months has taken its toll.

Despite the latter’s misdemeanours in the past, he still has the weight of public opinion behind him, and who knows whether he’d have replaced Brimah in the Black Stars’ starting XI had he not suffered with injury concerns ahead of the match.

Better players than Brimah have struggled with the ongoing threat of an emerging rival, and it’s perhaps hardly surprising that he felt the need to assert himself online in such vocal fashion.

It’s clearly not just Brimah within the Ghana camp who feels like the criticism from back home often overstretches the mark.

While the kind of onslaught the Black Stars have become used to—from many journalists who seek the popular support but often should know better—have also riled manager Grant, who like Brimah, will argue that his performances at major tournaments are enough to earn him at least a measure of loyalty and backing from fans.

“Ghana is a great country with a good people,” he said after the Black Stars’ victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo, “but they like to criticise people.

“I think everybody that was here got criticism one day or another, and this is one of the things I want to change in this country, I want them to respect what the players are doing because it’s the best way.

“The players will fight,” he added. “I said to the team after the World Cup, the players will fight, I promise you, and you need to respect that.

“Sometimes, I don’t know why they target one player or another, but all the players—the big players—just need to think about what they’re doing on the pitch.”

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On that occasion, Grant was primarily referring to Jordan Ayew, but his words could equally apply to Brimah, particularly as the latter continues to put his struggles at club level behind him to thrive for the Black Stars.

“The answers need to be on the pitch, and I think the Ghana people, most of them are very nice, need to support the players even when they’re not doing so well,” Grant concluded, “especially when they give everything.”

Grant is confident that performances—the kind that Brimah and Jordan are delivering—are the only way to get fans onside, although you sometimes question whether even that will be enough for some portions of the local press.