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Sports Features of Thursday, 29 August 2013

Source: Graphic Online

The hour is nigh - Will it be Appiah or Renard?

Time is running faster than you can imagine, and so soon, the Black Stars head coach, James Kwasi Appiah, and his Chipolopolo counterpart, Herve Renard, must be having sleepless nights and dreaming about nothing but victory. Yes, the clarion call at the moment is victory all the way for Ghana to the 2014 World Cup.

"I have a dream", as Martin Luther pronounced, "that the black race will be the shining stars". It is that great thinking 50 years ago that has propelled Africa forward in all fields with a lot of hope to overtake their slave masters. And today the enslavement has turned into a new vista of life.

Indeed, despite what will happen at the Supreme Court in Accra with regard to the election petition, life must go on as usual, with the Black Stars rounding up their preparation to pin down their Zambian counterparts at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, come September 6. Victory for any party must not turn this vision in a different direction.

It is simply gratifying that our football has been the centre of peace, and in the heat of any political turmoil where all things look gloomy, people are especially passionate about our national team's success to the extent that all agree to embrace each other with love, all waving the national flag, no matter which party is in power.

The Zambians are on their way to this wonderful Coast of Gold, led by a coach who knows our terrain, having been partly responsible for the building of the Black Stars during the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations hosted here.

The last time the Black Stars lost a match at home was when Cameroun won their semi-final match at the 2008 championship. Of course, this is not the time to lose at home, no matter the strategy crafted by Renard and how his boys will excel in Kumasi.

It is a fact that the Chipolopolo have displayed their powers in recent times over the Black Stars, in the Gabon/Equatorial Guinea semi-finals and the first round of the current qualifiers at the Lusaka National Stadium. But that does not pose any threat to the Stars.

If there is any threat, I believe Kwasi must have an antidote to it, and for that he is making sure he brings on board the best he can gather to ensure total victory. The other day I mentioned that if I were Kwasi Appiah, I would be very flexible in my selection, no matter the character displayed by any player worth his salt.

To the average soccer follower, the most welcome news is the return of the stars who opted out of the group. Really, a lot of discussion is going on in the selection of the latest Stars squad which, to me, is still incomplete without certain notable personalities. I don't believe it is a deliberate attempt to kill the morale of a player like Sulley Ali Muntari, the people's choice and striker extraordinary, who has in the past carried the Black Stars on his shoulders.

It will surprise every soccer fan in the world if, for sheer dissent, a player like that is thrown away in a time like this. It will not help anybody if a coach, local or expatriate, does not compromise his stand on the slightest indiscipline. I listened to a programme in which the panel was of the opinion that every player, however advanced, has his or her background.

Kwasi Appiah must by now know that defeat at the hands of Zambia would be highly disastrous, and will attract bitter comments; and perhaps the worst will be his over-reliance on discipline which can sometimes backfire.

I would like to re-assure him that, irrespective of his status, too much of everything can undermine the desire to reach this particular World Cup in Brazil. I don't believe it is too late for Kwasi to change his mind and bring on board all who matter in his drive for success. I will be very sorry if he is be made to receive all the blame. Good luck!

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