Tournaments always come with weird camp news! This time, what word is coming from the Black Stars? Our supposed play-maker, Kwadwo Asamoah, who very often has flattered us with his potential only to leave us with some half-par performances seem to have self-diagnosed his problem – apparently, the poor boy is haunted anytime he wears the much revered ‘No. 10 jersey’.
Historically, the No. 10 Jersey has been left for the team talisman. Hence the jersey is believed to carry the spirits of Ghanaian greats like Abedi Pele and Stephen Appiah. Kwadwo has simply failed to walk the steps of the greats of old! He believes that the N0. 20 shirt will give him the desired impetus to live up to the hype.
Already, the debate has been sparked who to take the jersey. Following his sterling performers, Andre Ayew is the obvious ‘people’s choice’ to take his father’s favourite shirt. Without going into this kind of debate, the real question to be asked was posed by my friend Gary Al-Smith on facebook:
If you cannot help a player manage the pressure and his confidence when he wears No. 10, how can you help the same player manage the pressure his confidence when he wears No. 20?
Try as many pundits have, they cannot hide the fact that the pressure is on The Black Stars to perform. Goran Stevanovic will have his work cut out for him during this tournament. Beyond finding the right tactics, he obviously needs to manage all the pressure that seem to be creeping in from different sources if he is to succeed in this quest of bringing Ghana her 5th senior international trophy.
Speaking of pressure, one potential source of undue pressure is the thought that 2 of the 25 called-up players are not going to the tournament. By this time, many players are under pressure to stay in the team. Little wonder that some have already started talking of switching numbers, others claim they are the hope of local players.
But who are the top three most likely candidates for the famous ‘dropping’?. I came up with a list of candidates. My assumptions are that, Stevanovic will stick with players who have played for him for more than 90 minutes. He will not touch his goalkeepers and he will keep faith with anyone who is connected to his alleged Serbian connections. So, here is my list of four players who may miss the tournament:
JOHN BOYE: Boye, a central defender, is obviously in the squad because no one is sure of the fitness levels of the two Mensahs – John and Jonathan. Should any of them show signs of good physical fitness and form in camp, Boye will be surplus to requirement and headed to the guillotine!
CHARLES TAKYI: Takyi is the only true attacking midfielder in the preliminary squad. But there are too many preferred and probably more experienced players in camp for that role. Kwadwo Asamoah aside, Stevanovic has tested Sulley Muntari in that position. There are many who have argued that Andre, Gyan, and Boateng can easily fit into that role. So, if Takyi does not come up with anything extraordinary in camp, the axe will be on his neck especially since no one knows how consistently he can perform in that role.
EMMANUEL BAFFOUR: I feel Baffour is between the rock and the hard place. His call-up is probably a trap. He was invited to douse the building-up anger of supporters of the local game. Stevanovic and his technical team have treated the local league and its products as ‘useless’. Being under pressure to leave his Serbian base to scout these local players, Baffour was his politically correct response to the critics. In this my conspiracy theory, I see an excuse coming from camp that Baffour was simply not good enough and hence was sent home. Afterall, to these people are local players are bad!
However Stevanovic manages to deal with this pressure build-up, he will need to court a lot more local support to follow him and his team to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Whether he keeps Baffour in there or not, it might be prudent for the team to come home to play a couple of low-profile send-off games at Ohene Djan and or Babayara Stadia.