Since leading Sekondi XI Wise to a shock win over Asante Kotoko in Kumasi on his debut for the club, it has been a blur for CK Akonnor to this point where he mans the Head Coaching spot at the Black Stars. It all seems like just yesterday when Annor and the equally bright eyed Odartey Lamptey (both spotting their eye catching pink long sleeve shirts) manned the sidelines of the Sekondi based club.
Since those fine days in one half of the Oil City, Akonnor has stuck around filling his CV with job stints at Ashanti Gold, Kotoko and Dreams FC before landing the top role as Head Coach of Ghana’s National Men’s Football team. Thus far, it has been anything but fun watching CK conduct affairs from the sidelines and Ghana is in real danger of missing out on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year.
That would represent the second time in a row Ghana would miss a travesty for a football talent laden country that should make the most of its appearances at the world’s grandest football stage after several frustrating decades of failing to make it to the mundial. At the time of writing this article, Ghana trails South Africa and has Ethiopia snapping at its heels for Group G’s sole automatic qualification spot to the next round. A loss to South Africa and a narrow win over Ethiopia amid a poor poor display has optimism at all time low in the football community and beyond it to the average fan.
While Akonnor’s mantra has been “wins” first, style of win later, it comes at an ill opportune time where the latter is an ill fit on the wings of Bring Back The Love Campaign. Akonnor is the headline appointee of the Kurt Okraku led Ghana Football Association (GFA) whose main call is to get the Ghanaian public to fall back in love with the Black Stars. Bringing back the love isn’t solely geared towards the Black Stars; the Ghana Premier League is included but with Ghana football over the past decade and a half, it is always about the Black Stars.
Judging from the small sample size of games played under Akonnor, it is clear he wants his team to play a conservative style that takes advantage of mistakes from opposing teams, relies heavily on the quality talent of individuals to come up with moments of brilliance to unlock opponents and pretty much CK sets his team out to not lose games rather than have them as a team that goes out hunting for a win. It is of no surprise CK’s Black Stars struggles to create chances and relies on heavy doses of broken plays from other teams and damn luck to grind out wins.
Ghana has played uninspired football with less time on the ball and errant passes failing to find intended targets has attracted the ire of many a fan. This style surely isn’t the type to get people to fall back in love with the Black Stars on the back of the team’s extensive history with controversies. However, there was a time where CK’s approach was accepted and pretty much applauded. During Milovan Rajevac’s tenure as Black Stars Head Coach, the wins were all that mattered and style was damned even if Ghana had a glorious collection of top talents who could play as elegantly with the best of them.
Even if Rajevac’s Stars hadn’t won as many games as they did, it is very unlikely his team would have been the target of such vitriol and flat out apathy simply because Ghana was too in love with its Black Stars. It should be noted, there was space for Rajevac to have his way with his style since Ghana had missed out on the 2008 AFCON gold medal as an elegant playing outfit. Allied to this, the Under 20 side won the 2009 World Cup by beating Brazil with a gutsy performance despite being a man down for almost the entire game. The triumph in the final game in Egypt proved to be a template that served as a successful counter to proponents of the elegant way football should be played. Making it to the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal and almost making a historical semifinal berth sure did help Rajevac’s stance.
Worse for CK, he comes in as Black Stars Coach with Kwesi Appiah as his predecessor; a man who presided over a handful of Black Stars teams that played the Ghanaian way and created a lot of chances while scoring at a decent clip. There was the famous 6-1 win over Egypt at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi and the Black Stars hammered Ethiopia 5-0 in 2017 all under Appiah.
However, this past weekend had the Black Stars struggle to beat Ethiopia 1-0 where the game’s only goal came via a howler from Ethiopian keeper Teklemariam Shanko and still struggle to create chances. CK Akonnor clearly has issues he needs to improve in order to get the Stars ticking as a tough team to beat not exclusively because of the way the team defends but also because of its attacking threat that has been blunt under the former Black Stars Captain.
However, Akonnor is operating in a space that gives him little support and patience to see out his way of getting the Stars back to the top. In a funny way, Kwesi Appiah was booted out under similar circumstances when he constructing a team that had just funneled out long serving stalwarts such as Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien and John Mensah. Timing is everything in life and sports is life and CK Akonnor’s ascension to the throne has come at the worst possible time.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter