CK Akonnor failed but he was helped to fail
Perhaps, he was the wrong man for a precious job but even if that were the case, Charles Kwabla Akonnor’s misadventure at the helm of the technical team of the Black Stars was aided by forces and fate beyond his control.
He was not a popular choice, it has to be said. There were murmurings in various hallowed corridors that the former Black Stars captain had been given a task bigger than he could stomach.
There were those who would not even shut up about the belief that the man affectionately called CK was appointed by political power far beyond the confines of association football. Whether real or imagined, that idea of who anointed CK showed itself in how the coach was supported by the Ghanaian public.
All of this was in spite of the fact that he had vowed to introduce a free-flowing football philosophy when he was appointed in January of 2020.
It is not clear at what point he realised he was incapable of delivering because, throughout his time, the football was hard on the eyes and heavy on the heart. Nothing beautiful flowed and what was free were the heartbreaks.
Ten football matches later, CK is out. He won four of these games that included a 3-1 victory over Sao Tome and Principe with a rather mournful performance.
CK’s Black Stars did not excite anyone and it did not seem like he cared. After another dreary win over Ethiopia in the penultimate game before he was given the boot, CK was quick to point out that victories meant more than how they were secured.
He wanted to project himself as a consequentialist who will deliver the necessary without the luxury. But he was not even a good consequentialist because his reign saw Ghana lose games in Sudan and South Africa, two sides who, in all fairness, have not been good at the sport of football for at least a decade.
Akonnor seemed like he had more to say than do. He boasted about carefully scouting every corner where the game is played for Ghanaian finesse, yet we were inundated with Emmanuel Lomotey for more than a few games.
He promised a pool of 40-or-so players among whom he would select his Black Stars but he ended up calling up more than 70. The comedic weight of this occurrence is made heavier by the fact that one of the players who was called, Braydon Manu, confessed he did not think he merited a call-up because he had played only 15 minutes of the new season for his German club.
But this latter point segues into why I do not think Akonnor did all this bad by himself. Even if you count all the ways in which he was an awful choice, we would be extremely unfair to forget the context.
Whether we like to admit it or not, the Black Stars have been in a rebuilding phase since the disaster of 2014. This rebuilding is difficult because the Ghanaian football fan wants to win everything, even if the team is recuperating from the loss of quality that has sustained us since 2005.
Think about it – Brazil 2014 was Sulley Muntari’s last tournament. As were the enigmatic Kevin-Prince Boateng’s and Michael Essien’s.
The heralded launch of the great Christian Atsu was permanently postponed after AFCON 2015. Bit players like Albert Adomah, Majeed Warris and Samuel Inkoom never grew into the shoes they were supposed to fill. Asamoah Gyan played 23 times for Ghana after the World Cup in Brazil and has scored only nine goals.
If we had won the ACFON in 2015, I could think of ways the Black Stars would have been granted a reprieve but that never happened.
The point being made here is that we have been in a free fall from starry heights and we called upon a man who had proven very little beyond reasonable doubts to come and play Sisyphus.
On Tuesday, September 14, the day after CK was sacked, Dr Randy Abbey, one of the tripartite committee tasked to find Ghana a new coach, disclosed that he was part of a team to find the best possible coach, foreign or local, within the shortest possible time.
My idea is that the brevity of time that the committee is said to have been given (72 hours after September 13), is a giveaway that they already know their man. But if the citizenship of the coach doesn’t matter now, did it matter when CK was given the job?
Were we in an experimental mode with the appointments of Kwesi Appiah and Akonnor?
Looking at Ghana’s pile of former coaches in the last two decades, Appiah and Akonnor are joined by only Mariano Barreto, Goran Stevanovic and Ralf Zumdick as the least experienced at the time of their appointment to the Black Stars.
There is also the very tired point of respect for local coaches of the Black Stars. I have always wondered that if it is very hard for the Ghanaian football establishment to respect Ghanaian coaches, why does the establishment think players would be willing to give that respect to the coach?
Hey, those of you in the Ghanaian football establishment, listen, the clue is in how you treat the coaches! The litany of unpaid wages, the non-provision of official homes and vehicles, forcing them to call up players who were surplus to their vision and simply undermining their efforts through your friends in the media.
Any semblance of a new dawn after the Black Stars became the bona fide cash cows for the Ghana Football Association (GFA) in 2005 has not seen the light of day. They have continued to treat our own with a dangerous lack of respect.
I am not making any suggestions that Kwesi Appiah and CK Akonnor’s inefficiencies would have been solved by prompt salaries and new cars. But the football establishment in Ghana withheld certain dignities from the two men that escalated all imperfections.
Have we not known for a long time that Ghanaian players are more inclined to listen to foreign tacticians? Do we seek to inspire patriotism and confidence in our own? Then what is the point of the institutional disrespect of our coaches?
Last but not least, it was not CK’s fault that we have lacked a footballing identity even before Brazil 2014. Sometimes when you temporarily manage the chaos, you are able to beat Egypt and make it to a World Cup but you do not manage chaos to lasting success. You have to rein in order.
A Ghanaian football identity, one that is ordered and not just wished, has not been a reality for an unforgivably long time. CK Akonnor was not going to fix that.
They say hindsight is a perfect vision but I would believe a lot of people who tell me now that they did not see CK staying in the job for two years when he was appointed at the start of 2020.
He was a hapless man who bit more than he could chew, yes. But those who fed him preside over so much deliberate mess I can only wish the next man my commiserations.