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Inside Story: The eventual sacking of Kwesi Appiah

Coach Kwesi Appiah

Coach Kwesi Appiah

By Christopher Opoku

This has been, without a doubt a very eventful fortnight in the life of the then Black Stars head coach Kwesi Appiah, which culminated in a statement issued on Friday on the Ghana Football Association website, This piece will attempt to paint as accurate a picture as possible about the situation.

Preamble – the beginning of the end 

As we all know, on July 2 2014, the GFA held a press conference at the Alisa Hotel in Accra where it was made clear to the public that Kwesi Appiah bore no culpability for the Brazil debacle.

Indeed, according to GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi, the major reasons why Ghana could only take a point out of nine during the World Cup was due to the late payment of appearance fees and player indiscipline.

Nyantakyi also revealed that the Executive Committee had met to affirm confidence in the coach and handed him a fresh two year mandate to coach the Black Stars.

As it turned out, the new deal had already been signed by Appiah before the World Cup and in that contract, which took effect from August 1, Appiah was tasked with qualifying for the 2015 African Nations Cup and winning it.

So despite the calls for his dismissals (including myself), Appiah must have felt reasonably safe, but some of us at the time stil doubted that the GFA had full confidence in the ex-Black Stars captain and six weeks later, our worst suspicions were confirmed.

Technical adviser – the Ayariga effect

Hon. Mahama Ayariga was appointed the new Minister for Youth and Sports and in his first meeting with the top hierarchy of the GFA, he expressed his misgivings with Appiah and even initially asked for him to be replaced.

Later, after realizing that he had overstepped his bounds, Ayariga then asked for the GFA to strengthen the technical team.

Appiah was then invited by Nyantakyi to the GFA President’s private office at Asylum Down, where the idea of getting a technical adviser was broached to him.

Appiah had no option but to accept and so a three-man committee chaired by GFA Vice President Fred Crentsil was appointed to search for the successful candidate.

Another sign that the GFA, contrary to its public declarations of love for Appiah, had no confidence in the coach, was the decision to allow other members of the Executive Committee to nominate possible candidates for the proposed position.

Appiah himself initially proposed Mas-Ud Dramani, Kim Grant and finally Ben Koufie, but all suggestions by Appiah were rejected. Clearly the GFA was determined to have its own way and eventually Serrislev Flemming and Milovan Rajevac were shortlisted for the position.

Appiah’s true feelings about technical adviser land him in trouble 

Meanwhile, ahead of the 2015 African Nations Cup qualifier against Uganda, Appiah at a press conference stated that he never asked for a Technical Adviser, but even if ten of those were appointed, it did not matter to him.

“In the first place, I did not request for a technical adviser; I need to make that clear. It was a suggestion that was brought up and I said when it comes to just an advisory role, I have no problem.”

He made this statement with GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi present. Unfortunately, as this piece would later reveal, this statement was later going to be used as a basis for his eventual sacking.

Ghana drew 1-1 with Uganda in Kumasi, but by then Dane Serritslev Flemming had already arrived in Ghana for his interview for the Technical Adviser job, with Rajevac arriving on Monday night.

At the time, Kwesi Appiah had been giving an ultimatum by the GFA; to defeat Togo in Lome or risk losing his job.

The Black Stars went to Togo on Wednesday and after going behind to an early goal, rallied and eventually won the game 3-2.

But the real drama was to unfold the following day at an Executive Committee meeting at the GFA Headquarters.

Executive Committee showdown

According to our own sources and indeed, some Executive Committee members who were present, Kwesi Appiah was not part of the agenda for the meeting.

Rather, the meeting was to, amongst other things, consider the report of the Fred Crentsil-led committee, since both Flemming and Rajevac had been spoken to.

Before I go on, it is important to note that whilst Flemming requested for $20,000 a month to act as the Technical adviser for Appiah, Rajevac told the committee that he was not interested in the technical adviser role, but in the coaching job itself and figures in the region of $50,000-a-month were discussed.

At the Executive Committee on Thursday, whilst discussions on the candidates for the technical adviser role were discussed, some informal talks were going on about the relationship between Kwesi Appiah and players in the Black Stars team.

Executive Committee member Leanier Addy insists that that is how far the discussions on Appiah went; vehemently denying that any decision had been taken to fire Kwesi Appiah.

“We have not taken any decision. We were just discussing his relationship with players in camp; players’ attitude on the field of play and things like that. So I even briefed Cudjoe Fianoo because at the time he was not there. The committee for the technical adviser has not finished their work, so how can a decision be taken on someone who is already at post and somebody who has not been engaged? We have not advertised for coaching job. I can swear on my life that nobody did that. The committee has to finish and get back to us on the Executive Committee. We have not discussed Appiah’s future. Nobody did that and its mere speculation. He is still at post and nobody has sacked him.”

Another member of the Executive Committee and Volta Regional Football Association Chairman Francis Dogbatse, also noted that nothing of the sort was discussed.

“We discussed this issue briefly and it was referred to the committee to meet the candidates and they should have a meeting to finalise it only to hear that Appiah is sacked. We asked the committee to work on it and get back to us. We didn’t say that Kwesi Appiah should be sacked.”

It was the contribution of another Executive Committee member, Cudjoe Fianoo which sounded intriguing.

“I sat in that meeting and no such decision is taken. It is now that the committee for looking for a technical adviser is going to present his report. We were rather going to inform Appiah today (Friday) about the winning candidate for the technical adviser position. I was shocked that after the meeting, people were calling me to find out what had happened to Kwesi Appiah. As far as I am concerned, no such decision on Appiah was taken and maybe that decision was made at a meeting I was not a part off. I was the first to attend the meeting and I went out briefly, but when I got back, I was briefed by my colleague Leanier Addy on what had gone on.”

What really happened? 

Further investigations however reveal that that matter was actually brought up by GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi, albeit briefly and that was where the news actually sprung up from.

This was around the time Fianoo and another Executive Committee member had left the meeting briefly to see to visitors.

Some of the other Executive Committee members who were present when Nyantakyi proposed the sacking of Kwesi Appiah, reminded him that the meeting was to consider the final choice of a technical adviser and not the future of the coach, but the GFA President apparently explained why he felt Appiah had to be let go.

So after the meeting, Nyantakyi was advised to reach Kwesi Appiah to tell him about the decision he had taken.

Final showdown between Nyantakyi and Appiah

My checks reveal that Nyantakyi reached Kwesi Appiah by phone late on Thursday night and asked him to see him in his Asylum Office on Friday morning.

When Appiah arrived for the meeting, Nyantakyi told him that the Executive Committee had decided to relieve him of his position because Executive Committee member and Central Regional Football Association chairman, M.N.S Doe had spoken about hearing Appiah’s comments to the effect that he never asked for a technicaladviser but he wouldn’t mind if even 10 of such advisers were called.

Appiah reminded Nyantakyi that the GFA President was there when he made such comments and he doesn’t see why such a comment would warrant his dismissal.

Nyantakyi then told Appiah that some players had told him of their loss of confidence in Appiah’s competencies as a coach. Appiah then asked Nyantakyi to mention the names of the players who had made such reports; adding that some players would definitely say so because of the uneasy relationship they have with him.

Eventually Appiah told Nyantakyi to put the GFA’s reasons for sacking him in writing, so that his lawyers can respond, before leaving Nyantakyi’s Asylum Down office. So, contrary to what the statement on said, no mutual agreement was reached.

Dead man walking set to cream some dollars 

According to my sources, Appiah himself had anticipated that this would happen because he told friends that the atmosphere around the team in the lead up to the Lome game was poisonous, with everyone that mattered in Ghana football clearly ignoring him.

He knew he was a dead man walking and in truth, majority of the GFA hierarchy never expected Ghana to beat Togo.

This was confirmed when neither Appiah nor any member of his technical team received any per diem or match winning bonus for the Togo game.

I am also reliably informed that since a loss of player confidence in him and his comments on a technical adviser do not form part of the clauses in his new contract that would trigger a parting of ways or dismissal, Appiah will fight for the entire duration of the 2 year contract to be paid up by the GFA; which would come to $876,000 ($36,500-a-month over 2 years).

I remember writing an open letter to Kwesi Appiah some time ago advising him to cut his losses and run because the GFA would definitely hang him out to dry, but what I didn’t know was that it was going to happen this quickly.

At the time too, I didn’t know that he would have had to pay money to the GFA if he resigned.

Marriage of inconvenience ends in messy divorce

So as it happens, the marriage of inconvenience between Kwesi Appiah and the GFA has come to an end, but there is no doubt that the imminent divorce proceedings would be nasty and messy, unless a compromise is reached on both sides.

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