At full-time everything that transpired at the Baba Yara stadium was in pairs: on one half of the sidelines a coach stood radiating with happiness while his opposite number looked distressed.
On the pitch itself players engaged in the routine diplomatic handshakes; but only a few could be found jumping, with the others bowing their heads down, seriously jumbling.
The fans in the stands were not left out either. While some sections of the crowd beamed with smiles, the others in the stadium could only murmur in miles.
The men in red – the Black Stars B Team – had just failed to make it to a second successive African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament after losing 2-1 at home to their equivalent side of Burkina Faso.
The atmosphere around the iconic Baba Yara stadium perhaps painted the perfect picture. While Burkinabe coach Drissa Malo Traore and his charges breathed a huge sigh of relief, majority of Ghanaians were simply in disbelief. How could the nation’s supposed best 23 local players lose this crucial encounter despite holding an advantage from the first leg which they drew 2-2 away? This is a team that has had enough time to prepare, with the Ghana Football Association (GFA) going even as far as suspending the domestic league, in a bid to get the attention of the entire country focused on the side.
But last Sunday simply marked another low for Ghana football and, it is no surprise that the blame games are in full swing. Majority of Ghanaians, though, have laid the blame on the doorsteps of Maxwell Konadu.
In truth, the former Kotoko coach deserves the criticisms that have come his way. This Black Stars B team was supposed to be his own. He was given the license to mould this team into a shape and form of his choice.
It could also be argued that Konadu has been in the thick of affairs at this level for over two years now, and his experience should have counted. However, when the team walked out on Sunday, they looked totally disorganised and sans telepathy. But in all of these, Kwesi Appiah’s name has not been mentioned. Why must it be so?
He has been left off the hook despite playing a huge part in this mess.
What many have failed to realise, though, is that Kwesi Appiah is the head coach of the Black Stars B team, not Maxwell Konadu.
When the former Al Khartoum coach was unveiled in May, the FA boldly outlined his KPIs. He was tasked to qualify the main Black Stars for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, as well as build a formidable local team (Black Stars B), with an eye on the 2018 CHAN.
Appiah was not just appointed as coach of the Black Stars, but also for its local equivalent. And, in fact, he was on the bench for both the first and second legs as the team failed to qualify for the 2018 showpiece in Kenya.
Maxwell Konadu’s tactical deficiencies were evident for all to see during the first leg in Ouagadougou, and it is baffling that not even Appiah – the substantive head coach of the team – could correct them.
If the team had qualified to the CHAN tournament, Appiah’s name would have been mentioned as its coach, and that is why he cannot be exonerated from blame in this fiasco.
The decision to entrust dealings of the Black Stars B team into the hands of Konadu was solely his, and he must be ready to accept its consequences – whether good or bad.
Konadu has been lambasted for his player selections, but who was supposed to see to it that the best players in the country made it onto that list? Who was supposed to effect the necessary changes when the boys were struggling against a very physical Burkinabe side? And who was supposed to engineer a tactical plan that would see the team qualify?
The coach is responsible for all the above, and in this case Appiah should be providing the answers to those conundrums, not Konadu.
“We watched them in the first leg and saw how they played, and we mapped out a strategy to stop them and hit them on the counter attack and it worked,” Burkina Faso coach Malo Traore told the press after his side’s 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate) win.
"By the time they got wind of what we had planned, we were two goals up, hence our inability to score more, especially in the second half. Ghana gave us a very good and tough game in both legs and I was to congratulate my boys for a job well done.”
What the comments of the Burkinabe coach tells us is that they did not go to sleep after the first leg. For Ghana, though, we did not even know who the head coach of our local team was – at least per the turn of events. Crashing out of the CHAN qualifiers is definitely not what many Ghanaians had expected. But as a disappointed Konadu said in his post-match presser, “it is part of football”.
However, both he and his boss must be ready to take the criticism that is bound to come in the coming days. If Kwesi Appiah is the head coach of the Black Stars B team, why is the blame being put solely on Maxwell Konadu?