Black Stars coach, Kwesi Appiah, has never properly offered an explanation for the constant exclusion of the Ayew brothers from the Black Stars team. Jordan in particular, arguably the country’s best player abroad last season, was consistently overlooked by the gaffer in national team selections.
The explanations haven’t been offered, not because questions haven’t been asked; but because Appiah has been dodgy with his answers. After all, Kwesi Appiah himself has remarked that call ups to the national team will purely be based on merit.
What better merit is there than consistently churning out top notch performances for a club in the best league in the world; emerging top scorer of that team; and eventually being named player of the season by your club?
Such has been the story of Jordan Ayew; king at Swansea City, an outcast in the Black Stars.
But Jordan’s exclusion is a question that will never go away, and Appiah, after several months of evading the question, has finally offered an insight into why he has consistently overlooked the Ayews.
“If a player says he’s not well or he is injured, it is my job to make sure there is another player available to fill the void. Nobody is bigger than Ghana and I’m looking for players who are committed and ready to kill themselves for the nation,” Appiah said.
Jordan and Andre have not received call ups to the Black Stars since they opted out of Ghana’s world cup qualifier against Congo last year. Jordan said he had a stomach upset while Andre said he was injured. Appiah’s side subsequently won the return encounter 5-1.
Word is that Appiah felt the brothers faked the illness and the injury. It is also understood he was not happy with Jordan’s conduct in the first leg encounter days earlier in Kumasi. If this is what sums up a lack of commitment to Appiah, well that’s within his right to judge.
The problem is that Appiah has presided over similar, if not worse cases of seemingly indifferent attitude from players his players, yet none, has faced an immediate axe as exhibited in the case of the Ayew brothers.
In 2008, Asamoah Gyan and his brother Baffour, packed up their bags and threatened to abandon the Ghana camp midway through AFCON 2008 because of intense criticism of Asamoah’s performances. They were persuaded by then President J.A. Kuffour to stay. Kwesi Appiah was assistant coach to Claude Le Roy at the time.
In 2012, Gyan, without another head of state to persuade him to stay, abandoned the national team, returned in 2013 and was rewarded with the captain’s armband for that year’s AFCON. Kwesi Appiah was head coach of the team.
But same year, Appiah left out Jordan Ayew in the AFCON squad but named his brother Andre. But after Andre turned up to the team’s training camp late (till date Andre insists he gave justifiable reason for his late show), Appiah axed him from the team.
A month later, he and his brother announced temporary retirement from the national team. Few months later however, the duo were invited back to the team, and helped Ghana qualify for the 2014 world cup in Brazil.
In 2009, Sulley Muntari threatened to walk out of Black Stars game against Zambia because his girlfriend was not allowed into the stadium without a ticket. He then fought then sports Minister Muntaka Mubarak over winning bonuses and his mother boldly claimed “No Sulley, No Black Stars.”
In 2010, Muntari was nearly sacked from the world cup in South Africa after incessantly complaining over a lack of starting berth. He had earlier been excluded from the 2010 AFCON squad over disciplinary issues. Kwesi Appiah was assistant coach of the team and witnessed all of this behavior, but when he became head coach, he consistently invited Muntari to the national team and took him to Brazil in 2014. We know what happened.
In 2011, Kevin Prince Boateng retired from the national team after using it to build a profile so high, he eventually ended up making a move to Italian giants AC Milan. His performances for the Rossoneri were superb and the Black Stars were desperately in need of his qualities for two AFCON tournaments but he turned his back on the nation.
Kwesi Appiah was assistant coach to Goran Stevanovic for AFCON 2012 and head coach for AFCON 2013.
He then invited him back to the team for the final world cup qualifier return leg against Egypt.
He was no longer at AC Milan and performing wonders. He was at Schalke 04 and playing sporadically. He needed the national team more than the team needed him. Appiah took him along to the world cup.
In 2012, Michael Essien quit the national team before making himself available just before the 2014 world cup, and made the team for the tournament.
From 2014, Kwadwo Asamoah consistently refused call ups. Yes, he was injured in parts of that period, but he was not injured for the whole four year duration. As Appiah himself remarked; ”When he regained fitness, he told me he wanted to use the period to get his position at Juventus back.”
The way some people interpret is that Kwadwo chose Juventus over the Black Stars at crucial moments. Yet, Appiah is elated to invite him back to the team.
Why was Kwesi Appiah ready to wait for Kwadwo Asamoah for FOUR years to be fit and regain his position at his club, before returning to the team but finds it hard to accord both Ayews the same courtesy? How can you believe that one player is genuinely staying away from the national team for 4 years but cannot believe that another can miss ONE game due to illness or injury?
Of the players actively playing for the Black Stars, only Asamoah Gyan (106) and Harrison Afful (76) have made more appearances for the national team than Andre Ayew (75). In fact, Andre has more appearances in Black Stars jersey than the legendary Stephen Appiah (67) himself.
A player does not reach these numbers by being uncommitted.
Since making his debut in 2010, Jordan Ayew (46) has made more appearances for the team than any other player who made his debut in and around that same period.
Appiah can have a thousand reasons for excluding the duo from his team, but to brand them uncommitted will be inconsistent with how Appiah has treated or labelled players who have behaved similarly to the Ayews in the past.
If their exclusion is to make way for newer and younger players, why is he still inviting players such as John Boye and Harrison Afful when their best football is clearly behind them? That would be inconsistent, woudn’t it?
If there is more to their exclusion (misconduct or otherwise), it is important for Kwesi Appiah to offer a proper explanation but to axe them from the team based on that one incident will be a miscarriage of justice in Kwesi Appiah’s court of fair treatment.
This is why I believe a press conference should always be organized to announce the Black Stars squad, so that Appiah can properly address questions around his choice of call ups. And there are question marks in his call ups; wherever you look.