An Open Letter To Mr. Milovan Rajevac
Good Morning Sir and congratulations on your appointment as coach of Ghana’s senior men’s national football team, Black Stars for the second time.
Sir, I would like to remind you that you have taken up a job that is not new to you but that remains, if not the most difficult and controversial job, then one of the most Herculean tasks on the African continent.
Having last managed the team more than a decade ago, you should be well aware of the responsibilities that you have taken upon yourself and how you would be judged. During the unveiling ceremony to announce your second coming, I believe you heard the praises (if not by yourself then through your trusted interpreter), that were lavished on you by the Ghana Football Association President, Kurt E.S Okraku and your track record he alluded to? That alone should communicate to you that the job at hand is a hugely expectant one and you can’t just fail the country, yourself and your trusted paymasters.
Ghana has been yearning for an elusive trophy for almost four decades now and I know you know that Ghana needs it and you also need it to decorate your resume and for historical purposes. I have chosen to describe your mandate as a Herculean one judging by the length of time to achieving that target set for you, the players at your disposal and the expectations of all Ghanaians, except me.
Ghana has staggeringly spent a reported USD38.5million since the last 5 editions of the African Cup of Nations, that is 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 but to no avail other than the USD4.6million gained as a result, which in business sense, is a no brainer.
Quite recently, we have been told that at a breakfast meeting between the Sports Minister, Hon. Mustapha Ussif, Corporate Ghana and Chief Executive Officers, it was revealed that an amount of USD25million will be needed to prosecute wining next year’s AFCON in Cameroon and qualifying for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. USD10million of the aforementioned amount, according to the sector minister, can be afforded by the Central Government and prevailed upon Corporate Ghana to come on board with the remaining USD15million. This is indicative enough to signal to you that the people of Ghana are more eager to achieve laurels than the usual mantra.
Your immediate predecessor, Charles Kwablan Akunnor was accused by a large majority of the Ghanaian media of not having the balls to take bold decisions and to pull the strings together and that the dressing room had broken down under his watch, culminating in lackluster performances in some matches under his belt. Some have even said his style of play was not akin to the Ghanaian way and lacked an identity and philosophy and so the onus lies on your tactical nous as your employers have known you to possess to work to change that obviously within the length of your contract duration.
As to why you agreed a one-year renewable deal beats my imagination and tells me you could be up to something especially as it has been predictably so judging from your length of stay with other national teams, post 2010. (Qatar – February 2011 to August 2011; Algeria – June 2016 to October 2016 and Thailand – April 2017 – February 2018, which was extended to cover 2020 due to the fact that you guided the country to her 15th Asian Federation Cup triumph following a 4-5 penalty shoot-out win over Belarus’ team B but you got relieved off the job in January 2019). In fact, let me point out to you that your only silverware in your managerial career was to be the AFC triumph in 2017.
I hope you are also aware of the role Ghana has played in helping build the resume you have today for which reason your serendipitous second coming should be a moment to repay Ghanaians and for that matter, your paymasters’ faith in you.
You are well aware that your first stint with Ghana was blessed with players, who, to some extent, were acclaimed the world over and had played in and with the top European leagues and sides and so the experience they had acquired meant the transition was almost smooth. At the 2010 AFCON finals, which was the competition’s 27th edition since its inception in 1957, one could easily see that you had become another beneficiary of the late Ben Koufie’s 5-Year Development Plan, which saw John Mensah, Asamoah Gyan, Michael Essien, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Jonathan Mensah, Ransford Osei, Daniel Adjei, Harrison Afful, Haminu Dramani, Dominic Adiyiah, Samuel Inkoom, Lee Addy, Anthony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Andre Dede Ayew, et al, all featuring at some stages.
Today, of the last squad you presented to the your last ‘One Goal Project’ AFCON tournament that you nearly won with over-reliance on Asamoah Gyan, only Andre Ayew and Jonathan Mensah are playing in the current squad and that should be enough to inform you that it isn’t a squad that is on the upside, which is the more reason I am bamboozled as to why you accepted a one-year deal. I thought you would have agreed or requested for a long term deal to build a squad that could stand the test of time, readily competitive and that could have your signature all over but that was not to be.
You appreciate the fact that winning the AFCON with just 102 days left is not something you can easily do though you may want to draw inspiration from Roberto Di Matteo and Thomas Tuchel, who have shown how it is done but who did not inherit disjointed, spiritless and spineless squads as you have, though I must admit there are some fine players, who may be available to you. It is good to dare to dream and believe but you have got to do that with the highest degree of caution, especially as it has got to do with the Ghana job that you would have a 30.8million population all knowing how to coach a team and win trophies.
It was refreshing to hear you say at the unveiling ceremony that you were not going to entertain interference of any kind though you would accept pieces of advice. That would be good for you if and only if you can stick to this principle you wield. That has proven to be the arch nemesis of most coaches, who have managed Ghana, especially the local breed of gaffers. Unnecessary and needless interference have been their undoing and so to hear you say that sounds very convincing. It is obvious the team lost its mojo following the debacle at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which incurred the wrath and displeasure of the good people of this country.
On player call-ups, I wish and hope that you know what time it is and so player invitation to the Black Stars would be done in consistent tandem with the criteria you would lay down. Guard against making it a conduit through which people will make money at the expense of the state as has been speculated over the years. Your call-up of Fiorentina’s Alfred Duncan is refreshing enough but was neutralised by the invitation of Philemon Baffour, who has only turned out to be a training horse anytime he has been invited to the national team. Question marks remain on the criteria used in inviting him to the national team as the local league has ended and most players have been dormant and redundant.
Mr. Rajevac, our over-reliance on these foreign-based players is not helping and hasn’t helped the Black Stars. Work to change it so that the local league would get the needed attention it deserves in order to incentivize and reinvigorate the local-based Black Stars. Your darling boy, Lee Addy was once playing in the local league with Berekum Chelsea when you first invited him to the Black Stars and later became a dependable pillar at the rear-guard and one of your able lieutenants. I would like to urge you to spend some quality time to monitor our local league than travelling outside to monitor the foreign-based contingent. There is untapped quality in the local league and so the earlier you turn your attention there, the better it would be for you and players’ desire to work hard to earn places in your team. Under your belt, no single player regardless of stature should have an automatic place in your team. Every invitee must merit the call-up and a starting berth in the Black Stars. Blackburn Rovers’ former Congo Brazzaville defender, Chris Samba was once banished from the national team for being choosy by then coach Claude Leroy and that is what I will expect from you.
Ensure there is greater and deeper discipline in the team and crack the whip as and when the need be.
Your first game against Zimbabwe should be a litmus test for us to know what you have in stock for the country. It is obviously obvious that majority of the supporters are disgruntled, distraught and disillusioned and rightly so since the spineless Black Stars have lacked the spark and energy to cause them to bring back the love to them. The length of your stay coupled with the targets set for you gives credence to the fact that the fanfare surrounding your second coming should prematurely end and prompt you to zoom straight into action and work on getting the best that there is from these players you have assembled to execute the project.
Your docile demeanour endeared you most to the hearts of Ghanaians in 2010 and I hope you would continue to demonstrate this trait as you focus on the daunting task ahead. You have to be steadfast, resolute, firm and unyielding in your decision-making. Do not be afraid or considerate to wield the axe when it matters. No matter how well your team may perform, without discipline the much-needed success cannot be attained. You will need players to show leadership both on and off the pitch and you will also need them to take up responsibility. The players do not have to be friends before they can perform but you need to imbibe in them the spirit of camaraderie and team work in an attempt to kill the recognition crisis facing the team in recent times. The dressing room should be firmly under your grips and control. Positively defy external influences when they are not in sync with your belief set up and take risks as well.
You definitely have to show that you have the balls to make big calls because your paymasters have increased the people’s confidence and hope in you and the pressure to win the next AFCON should be a privilege for you.
Many, like me, have doubts about your capability to deliver the targets set for you within that limited time but only you know how you can negotiate this task and get it done. One of the key indices to really inform the ordinary Ghanaian about the progress of the team is to ensure it is a group act the players should pursue but not individual brilliance because it doesn’t count if your team wins nothing but individual players end up winning laurels at championships.
To sum up, I would like to reiterate the point that Ghanaians are expecting huge success from you, irrespective of how it will come, especially as it has been made to appear as if such a feat would end the conundrum that has bedeviled Ghana’s most passionate sport over the years.
I wish you well and hope your second coming works to exorcise the ghost that has haunted the second comings of most gaffers, who have managed the Black Stars some years ago. To plagiarize the words of the legendary football poet, Peter Drury, I hope your return is beyond forgery and imitation and now in your immaculate maturity, you will make the Ghanaian ask whether there was a day more utopian, more utterly ideal in the recent life of the Black Stars that Ghana’s football could bounce back to life and be recognized the world over again.
Good Luck Sir!
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