From the moment the 5-man shortlist for the Black Stars coaching job was made public by the Ghana Football Association on Monday, a lot of discussions have been done on the issue as per the most suited person to succeed Milovan Rajevac as the Ghana coach. Rajevac was himself rumoured to be on the shortlist until the official announcement put that particular story to rest. So, for the next two weeks or so, until the interviews are done and the coach named, there will undoubtedly be a lot of analysis, debate and discussion on the best man for the job and yours truly is now joining the fray to give an opinionated view on the issue.
Let me start by saying that I probably would not have chosen any of the shortlisted coaches because I felt we could have done better. Personally, I was hoping that Milovan Rajevac could be brought back to handle the team, given his achievements during his two year stay here. I know some of you will take umbrage at my comments, but lets get real for once. The man’s contract run out on August 18th and he coached the Black Stars in the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier against Swaziland in early September when he was out of contract. He may have given his word, but the naked truth is that the days when ‘your word is your bond’ are well and truly a long way behind us now. The authorities couldn’t arrive at an agreement with him and he decided to go after a double-your-money deal in Saudi Arabia. Had he been secured before the end of the World Cup, we will all be happily looking forward to the next qualifier in March without the headache of choosing a new coach. The fact is that he did not sign a new contract; his existing contract had expired and he saw an opportunity and grabbed it. He may not have done well so far in Saudi Arabia, but can anyone tell me that he would have snubbed an estimated $110,000 a month when in principle, he was due to get an estimated $66,000 a month and yet the government had yet to officially approve it? I think it is time we all stopped being hypocritical in the name of sentiment and faced facts. Having said all this, he did not make the shortlist and so we have to move on to the ones named.
I have long since held the view that the national team can be given to a local coach to handle and even though my preferred choice David Duncan did not make the list, I am glad that Herbert Addo has made the list, even though I do not think he will get the job. He has achieved a lot in his distinguished career, including leading Kumasi Cornerstone to WAFU Cup success in 1987, coaching the Black Stars in various stints as a caretaker coach and indeed taking Aduana Stars to the league title on the first attempt amongst other things. His work in taking Asante Kotoko from 9th to 2nd two seasons ago and taking Accra Hearts of Oak through an entire soccer season undefeated in 2003 marks him out as one of Ghana’s top indigenous coaches but the problem is that local coaches in general do not have the support of the Ghana Football Association when it comes to the Black Stars for various reasons. Most of the GFA executive members are involved in club administration and I am sure most of you are aware about the sort of relationships that exist between such club top guns and their coaches. Most of the time, the club administrators do not have much confidence in their coaches and sometimes claim credit when the club in question is doing well. So you can imagine what they will say when they meet at the GFA Executive Council level. Because of the lack of faith in local coaches and the general mistrust, most of them when asked will vote overwhelmingly for a foreign coach to be appointed. The average life span of a local coach at a Ghana Premier League Club is less than two years and that says it all. I feel sorry for Herbert because he deserves a shot at the top job and besides, he is the coach of the local Black Stars, but sadly, his inclusion in the shortlist could prove to be nothing more than a cosmetic exercise laced with some sympathy for the reigning coach of the year.
Marcel Desailly’s name came to the fore soon after Rajevac left the Ghana job. The Ghana-born French legend has certainly done it all as a player; winning the UEFA Champions League with Marseille and AC Milan, winning FA Cups and the defunct Cup Winners Cup with Chelsea, plus winning the European Cup and World Cup with France. With such a glittering CV, one would think that he should be a shoe-in for the job, but one has to be very careful. The only ex-footballer who made the sudden transition to national team coach and achieved success was Franz Beckenbauer, who was appointed the coach of the West Germany team in 1984. He took the Germans to the World Cup final in 1986 and the trophy itself 4 years later.
So he remains an exception to the rule. The current UEFA President, Michel Platini, who captained France to European Cup success in 1984, took over as France coach not long after he retired but failed to qualify France, who placed third in 1986, for the 1990 World Cup and also failed to qualify the French from the group stages of the European Championships in 1992 in Sweden. We all know what happened to Diego Maradona earier this year in South Africa. For avoidance of doubt, Frank Rijkaard was one of Guus Hiddink’s assistants for the Netherlands during France ’98 before becoming the head coach himself and leading his country to the Euro semifinal two years later. So for me, even though there are exciting prospects such as a multi-million dollar deal with ADIDAS, friendly match ups with top football guns like Brazil, Argentina and France amongst others plus the world media attention such an appointment would bring to Ghana, my humble opinion is that the job has come too soon for him and he has to take on a coaching job elsewhere to prepare himself for the job in the future. He is currently doing his badges and will finish in May next year and that is a very good step, but perhaps he has to ‘muddy his hands’ a bit before taking on the job. Even though I have a deep admiration for Marcel, I think this job has come at least two years too early for him and as a nation, we have to be careful not to embark on what could be a massive gamble. I concede that coaching the national team normally involves working on the psyche of the players and instilling a winning mentality in the team, which I am sure Marcel can do easily because he is a winner, but you cannot ignore tactical expertise which is only honed through various coaching jobs.
With regard to Goran Stevanovic, he actually does not have a bad track record, which includes being an assistant coach to the Serbia and Montenegro national team for three years, a period during which Serbia and Montenegro had an impressive World Cup qualifying campaign, conceding just once in 12 games, but lost all games at the World Cup proper in Germany, including a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Argentina. He is currently out of work after resigning from his post at Partizan Belgrade in April this year after taking the reins in September last year.
Apparently he resigned because Partizan lost to Vojvodina Novi Sad 3-1 in the 2010 Serbian Cup semifinal, a loss which prevented Partizan from replicating a league and cup double from the previous season. Partizan however went on to win the Serbian championship and that is testament to his abilities, which would make him one of the favorites for the job and given Ghana’s association with Serbian coaches which from 2004 has proved successful, maybe he might be in with a shout.
Can Vanli was a strategist for Turkey coach Senol Gunes during the Turks successful run to third place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and has been a chief analyser, assistant coach and coach of Turkish sides. He is now working with VB Sports Club in the Maldives, a job to which he was appointed in January this year, but clearly wants a new challenge which is why he has applied for the job and shortlisted. If the arguments for instilling a winning mentality and tactics are to be followed, then his skill in technical analysis could prove to be a major asset, but because he hasn’t really achieved a major honour on his own, it begs the question of whether he can actually do a good job as the head coach of a national team and at the risk of sounding cynical, perhaps Turkey would have looked at him by now. For me, the jury is still out on Vanli.
Humberto Coelho is probably the most experienced of all the candidates and he does have a good track record. After cutting his teeth in coaching with Braga and Salguieros, he became the coach of the Portugal team and with stars like Luis Figo, Abel Xavier, Rui Costa, Pauleta and Fernando Couto, he led the team to the 2000 European Championship semifinal where a Zinedine Zidane golden penalty goal in extra time ended Portuguese hopes. He has had stints with Morroco and Tunisia, with the latter ending after he took the team to within a point of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. A loss in Maputo to Mozambique proved catastrophic; Tunisia failed to qualify and Coelho was fired soon after. The respected 60 year old tactician was a candidate for the Portugal job after Carlos Quieroz was fired but he lost out to Paulo Bento. Because of his experience in Africa, he probably will be more suited than the other candidates to dealing with the pressures of handling egos in the team.
So my verdict is as follows: out of the five candidates for the job, my top two candidates will be Humberto Coelho and Goran Stevanovic and personally, I would plump for Coelho because of his experience and the fact that he is fluent in English and his preparedness to work with local assistants signifies a desire to achieve something great with Ghana which is not totally motivated by money. That should appeal to the GFA who will definitely want to know if he will accept the terms they put before him should he prove successful in his bid to become the coach. Also, even though he is tactically astute, he will ally that trait with a willingness to allow the players to express themselves in the typical African way, a combination of which should make the Black Stars exciting to watch and at the same time effective.
I must state that these remain my personal opinions and the final decision rests with the Ghana Football Association. Indeed, we are told that should all five fail the interview, then the door could be opened for head-hunting and that is when Milovan Rajevac could slip right back into contention. What is certain is that the next 14 days or so will be very exciting. So let the debate begin!!