WITH Zimbabwe having since fired Zdravko Logarušić, Ghana’s own new European expatriate coach is walking into a delicate situation in which his appointment was hotly disputed by the president of the country in a classic case of politics and football clashing over people’s hearts.
Ghana host Zimbabwe in the two teams’ next World Cup qualifier in Cape Coast on 6 October before travelling to Harare for the return leg four days later.
While bottom-of-the-table Zimbabwe have replaced Croat Logarušić with former national team captain Norman Mapeza, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) has done the opposite following the sacking of local coach Charles Akonnor last week.
The GFA went against the wishes of the government and swiftly hired Milovan Rajevac (pictured), a Serbian who will earn a monthly salary of US$45 000 on a two-year contract.
Without the full support of the state, pressure will now be brought to bear on Rajevac to deliver, not only by reviving three-points Ghana’s World Cup bid, but also go all the way to clinch the Africa Cup of Nations title in Cameroon early next year.
“The issue has to do with the president of the land (Nana Akufo-Addo),” a top-ranking official in Ghanaian sports told The NewsHawks this week.
“He is described as a true African. He simply doesn’t want any foreign coach to come on board. He has always been consistently saying that we should always oversee our own affairs, that a black man is capable of handling his own affairs. The government and the FA president (Kurt Okraku) are on different wavelengths. The president of the FA preferred a foreign coach to take over the mettle from CK. The government preferred an indigenous coach to take over, they believe that a Ghanaian or an African can also do the job well. His (Akufo-Addo) mantra has always been ‘we also have quality’. So if it was left to the FA alone, they would have sacked the coach (Akonnor) a long time ago. But there were certain interventions from the part of the government of the day, and I’m gathering that the coach himself (Akonnor) is a strong NPP guy. (Ghana’s ruling party, the New Patriotic Party).”
Akonnor’s sacking, and the subsequent hiring of Rajevac, is the second occasion in recent times that the GFA – whose president Okraku is a supporter of the main opposition party that was in power until 2017 – has defied the government.
“You know, the previous coach, Kwesi Appiah, he is also a strong NPP guy so when he was sacked, believe you me, the government was so mad with the current FA for sacking him because Appiah was contributing so much to the party, the ruling government’s party. He was paying his dues to them, and they were even giving him contracts. So the government wasn’t happy, I mean, because he (Appiah) is a party boy and this current FA sacked him. So the government felt that this current FA president is an NDC (National Democratic Congress) man, and you know, they think that he is in a way trying to silence the NPP people within the FA.”
A deep-rooted belief in Ghana is that whoever wins the battle for control of the country’s most popular sport subsequently controls the minds of people, which explains the haggling by politicians in the football arena.
“You know, in Ghana football, the politics is so amazing,” continued the official.
“It transcends what you guys usually see. You know what, when the NDC lost the last elections (in 2020), would you believe that it was captured in their green-book that they should go to all lengths to ensure that they seize football in Ghana! So the government believe that if the coach who is a Ghanaian, moreover and NPP guy, is being allowed to be sacked by the current FA president who prior to that had sacked Kwesi Appiah, another NPP person, it means that the current FA president is playing politics. What is interesting is that here in Ghana, the politicians, they use football as means to siphon the state off a lot of monies. For insistence, I’m sure you’ve heard that the government in collaboration with the FA and other personalities are trying to organise US$25 million for the Black Stars of Ghana to win the Afcon and subsequently play in the semi-finals of the upcoming World Cup. It’s so interesting and you ask yourselves whether in reality Ghana would really have a team that can compete to the extent of getting to the semi-final stage of the World Cup. But the point is that it is strategy, you know, to siphon the state off a lot of monies.”