Analysis: Kwesi Appiah, Ghana’s new man
The man on the touchline at the Zimpeto Stadium was not a
soldier – but he looked like it. Military style haircut, trimmed beard,
sparkling shoes, coiffed features and well-pressed trousers.
After the nervy penalty shootout at Mozambique’s national stadium,
Ghana’s male team won gold at the All Africa Games after beating
Cameroon in this September 2011 final. Ghana had not been able to do
this in 56 years, yet the man in the dugout did not celebrate wildly.
He politely shook hands with his technical team. Then he said words of
congratulations to his players. Then, after hanging around for a bit
more, he quietly left for the dressing room. That sums up the exterior
of Ghana’s new coach, Kwesi Appiah, whose appointment was announced on
the evening of Easter Monday.
The news came as a surprise at a time when former French captain Marcel
Desailly was widely reported to have grabbed the job.
SuperSport.com runs the rule of the events leading to the choice and
assesses the fears and hopes associated with it.
What happened to Marcel?
Until last Saturday morning, Marcel Desailly was 97 per cent sure that
he was to lead Ghana. Once again, the job he has wanted for years is
out of his grasp.
When he met the Ghana FA president on Saturday it was to go over, for
the last time, the only issue that made up the three per cent
uncertainty for the former French captain. Kwesi Nyantakyi asked Marcel
if his offer still stood. Marcel said “yes”.
Currently an employee of Canal+, Marcel Desailly earns in excess of €2
million annually for punditry and other fringe jobs. To leave those
deals and settle in Ghana for the Back Stars would have meant a
The businessman in him could not risk it. So he did the most prudent
According to Ernest Koranteng, a journalist with Accra-based Joy FM and
one of those at the forefront of the post-Goran Stevanovic saga, Marcel
Desailly wanted some big cash. “Marcel wanted at least a €100 000. It
was not because he felt he was worth that alone but because of his
pedigree and what he would lose elsewhere if he takes the Ghana job.”
Kwesi Nyantakyi flatly told Marcel that Ghana simply could not give him
that kind of cash. SuperSport.com reported last week that Marcel also
demanded control if he was chosen. It was reported that former Chelsea
assistant Ray Wilkins would have been drafted as Marcel’s deputy.
Again, the stumbling block for that reported demand was money, which
the Ghana FA simply were not willing to pay.
So Desailly left the meeting and, perhaps, he waved goodbye for the
last time to being hands-on favourite to lead his biological nation for
the next few years.
The Ghana FA boss took his phone and placed a call. Plan B needed to be
executed and fast.
Getting Kwesi Appiah
The fact that 51-year-old Kwesi Appiah took the news calmly did not
shock anyone. His controlled temperament is one of his biggest assets.
When the call came to him, he took it on the chin, as usual.
“Kwesi was pleasantly surprised but he did not react [when he was told
he had the Black Stars job]. He was quiet at first and then later
accepted it. Even he did not expect it because he honestly believed
Marcel was already going to get it,” said a source at the FA on Monday
“[Ghana FA boss] Nyantakyi did not really want Desailly for many
reasons but he did not have a lot of options either. Appiah was
basically the lesser of two evils.”
An FA source said: “Some members of the FA were not in favour of Kwesi
getting even more than $5 000 a month, which would have been criminal.
He surprised everybody by insisting calmly that he won’t settle for
anything less than an expatriate will take.”
Kwesi Appiah’s insistence was, for a moment, an outstanding issue. It
was quickly resolved as he was promised a juicy deal. “It is not going
to be as much as a European will be paid but it will be far better than
locals are used to,” the FA source said.
SuperSport.com has learned that the new man will get nothing less than
€10 000 a month, with as much as €15 000 in total if add-ons are
Attributes and risk
“Can Kwesi Appiah do the job?”
That’s the usual question any coach will face, but this man in
particular will need to be more convincing than most. Kwesi Appiah is
Ghana's first local boss since 2002, when Emmanuel Afranie lost his job
to a European. Since then there have been three Serbians, a Frenchman,
a Portuguese and two Germans.
The mentality of the people he will serve will be a huge challenge for
Appiah. You would have thought someone who was assistant coach at the
last World Cup and at Afcon 2008, 2010 and 2012 would have the support
of his countrymen.
Abedi Pele, the man who took the Black Stars captaincy from Kwesi
Appiah in controversial circumstances in 1992, has been the first to
lend his support. “I don’t mind if a Ghanaian takes the job. Look,
those who have won all the trophies for Ghana are all local coaches.
What is wrong with keeping a local coach?”
That kind of support, though, is in short supply. The court of public
opinion is sharply divided over this man who, despite being Plan C, has
been given the nod. However, several people close to Ghana’s new man
told SuperSport.com that he is determined to prove doubters wrong.
GFA’s Communication Director knows how dicey this appointment is. “It
is important that we support him but the FA is aware of how
uncomfortable people will be, especially because Kwesi has not held a
team in that regard. Let’s not forget that Marcel – who the FA never
mentioned as a successor like many media people did – has not coached
any team before. Besides, Kwesi has national team experience,” said
Ibrahim Saanie Daara.
When Ghana went to Mozambique for the 2011 All Africa Games, it was
Appiah who took a hastily assembled team that had endured disorganised
administration and won gold.
Does it guarantee him support in his new job?
Appiah’s uninspiring past
In the 12 hours or so since the announcement, the FA has been at pains
to stress that the new man has their backing in every respect. They are
allowing him to choose his own assistant, which SuperSport.com has been
told will be Maxwell Konadu, the current Kotoko boss.
One argument that came up strongly for Marcel Desailly was his charisma
and ability to kill off egos in the dressing room. Ex-Ghana
international Sammy Kuffuor had pushed for Desailly based on this, on
SuperSport’s Soccer Africa show.
“For me, if there is a possibility, I think Desailly should be given
the job. It will be nice to see Kwasi Appiah assist him, because he has
been in the system for a long time and will give Marcel vital
information on the local side. If you combine Marcel's international
exposure and Kwasi's local wisdom, it will be very great.”
To the contrary, Appiah is seen as docile and unassertive. Indeed,
history is filled with situations to support this. In 2001, Appiah was
made assistant to interim Ghana boss Cecil Jones Attuquayefio. They
played four games, drawing against Nigeria and losing the rest. Kwesi
Appiah took a surprising amount of blame because he was said to be
Going further back, the legendary Charles Kumi Gyamfi, winner of three
of Ghana’s four Afcon trophies, gave the captaincy to Abedi Pele before
the 1992 African Cup simply because Appiah could not stand his ground
for it. Gyamfi, then the technical director of the team, made the point
that Abedi spoke French, a quality Gyamfi felt would be needed in the
tournament to be hosted by French-speaking Senegal.
To this day, many feel Appiah could have held on to the band had he
been a bit more forceful. In today’s era of overpaid national team
players, will his perceived docility see him being pushed around?
Those in favour of Appiah argue that he has been in leadership
positions too many times not to able to handle the big job. He played
for Ghanaian giants Kotoko from 1982 to 1993, captaining the side for a
lot of that time and leading them to many memorable trophies.
His determination is not the loud type that is noticed by all but Kwesi
Appiah wields soft power. He is principled and strong-willed, say his
supporters but even they will agree that the man is yet to show these
What he needs, Appiah’s backers say, is support. Support from the FA,
support from the media and, most importantly, support from the public.
Kwesi Appiah’s immediate task will be to win over his people when the
qualifiers come around in June. Despite being an afterthought, it will
be a great boost for local coaches should the new man do well. It just
might be the nail in the coffin for those who feel a foreigner is the
best bet for Ghana.
After all, Ghana has not made such a substantive appointment for a long
time. The last person to be credibly appointed in such a manner as
Kwesi Appiah has, was Charles Kumi Gyamfi in the lead up to Ghana’s
last African Cup win in 1982.
As Kwesi Appiah’s supporters will remind you, Ghana has never won an
African Cup under an expatriate. This may be time to revive us again.