The statement was brief and straight to the point. Appiah, they said was returning as Black Stars coach with 1 May 2017 tied down as his start date.
“The decision was taken by the Executive Committee of the GFA on Tuesday after approving the report of the six-man coaching search committee,” the statement read.
That statement effectively fires the starting gun on Appiah’s long race with the Black Stars. It has been an enduring one through the era of a captaincy that won him widespread respect, a four-year spell as assistant that earned him many friends and a two-year period in charge as coach that started off brilliantly and ended with his reputation shredded in the eyes of some.
In 2012, Appiah took over from Goran Stevanovic after a Nations Cup campaign that sapped the life out of everyone. The Serbian’s decision to publicly ridicule his players with claims of juju and a deep sense of disunity, left Appiah with a mammoth job of mending relationships and negotiating fragmented egos. He handled that brilliantly, negotiating the Nations Cup qualifiers with some ease before masterminding wins over Zambia and Egypt and a confident march to the World Cup.
But if those qualifiers made Appiah, the tournaments themselves laid bare weaknesses and exposed too many frailties. For instance, the Black Stars started their 2013 campaign in fine style but looked suspect at the back. Yet, few would have expected the Black Stars to be so poor against Burkina Faso in the semi-finals of that competition.
Still the GFA persisted with him and he repaid the faith with that thumping of Egypt. When the tournament came around however, it didn’t go so good. Ghana was not miserable on a football front in Brazil at that World Cup, but the football did not set the tournament alight either. The Black Stars were incredible against Germany but limp against Portugal where money had wrecked everything.
Appiah’s biggest mistake in Brazil was that he dug a hole for himself. By inviting the likes of Michael Essien and Kevin Prince Boateng where he didn’t trust their energy levels and readiness, he invited difficult characters and players whose inability to get into the side fostered negative energy. It spread through the side like a cancer and the inability to pay the players on time only served to make it worse.
The moral of the lesson was that the ‘Silent Assasin’ should have stuck by his reputation and not invited those players at all. Maybe that is one of the lessons that he told the interview panel of the GFA he has learnt. He needs to.
And you have to hope he has upped his game tactically too. There were too many moments when he seemed to lose the plot. But the top brass of the Ghana Football Association are convinced they have made the right choice.
“Kwesi Appiah was chosen on merit. He was not chosen because he is Ghanaian. Out of the 95 people who applied, and the three we interviewed, we thought he was the best man,” GFA president Kwesi Nyantekyi said.
Vice-President George Afriyie was even more hopeful: “We should look forward to an exciting period ahead, we should look at winning games, building a formidable Black Stars and building a formidable Black Stars.”
Only time will tell, but this is by no means the worst decision. Appiah showed a nous for attacking football in his first spell that should thrill Ghanaian fans. Some of the football Ghana played, the energy, the set-up was world class. And the manner he dismantled Egypt and faced up to Zambia suggest a man who has the nerve for big games.
It will be a bumpy ride with tough decisions to make. Does he rip this team apart and build it up, does he appoint a new captain, how would he deal with the egos and how will he work with a section of the players who didn’t hide the fact that they don’t want him back?
Ultimately, it is a good call. It is a better call than recycling the coaches who seem to hop from one national team job to the other. It is a good call because he is a qualified Ghanaian. Whichever way you look at it, this is a better risk than going the Harry Redknapp way with all the financial implications or handing the Black Stars to a Willy Sagnol, for instance.
But we will judge Appiah the way we judged Avram Grant, the way we have judged every coach. There will be no honeymoon period.
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