Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Conversation With A Soccer "Braniac" Pt. 2

It is so refreshing to see Africa's ex-international players take up positions in  soccer and excel at it. Countries such as Nigeria,Namibia,Kenya,Zimbabwe among others have female coaches at the highest level of their women's soccer program,a sign that woman in soccer have come of age and there is room for more women in this rugged arena of women's soccer.

A while back, I wrote about a female coach I chanced upon in Ghana,whose work i admired so much but lost track of over the years. Thankfully through my usual sleuthing,I found her and had a lengthy conversation snippets of which i will share with you.
Part 2 of the conversation is as follows:

WSA: Many are disappointed by the downward spiral of the Black Queens looking back at their performance at the AWC 2010 in South Africa and there after.As an ex-international what will you attribute the dwindling fortunes of the Black Queens to ?

EK: There are so many reasons why Ghana's senior women's national team is where it is today.One of which is the mismanagement of players which has seen talented and experienced players retiring prematurely after every major tournament..The national team lacks consistency and continuity and to further compound matters,the media doesn't make it any easier for the players when they are scrutinized negatively.There was once a highly competitive league which prepared players for the national team and the league patronage back then could rival any of the premier league clubs in Ghana but that is no longer the case.

Players lack the self discipline and  drive we used to have in our day,technical ineptitude is another problem coupled with some administrative  and logistical lapses among countless others. May be if the women's national team is given an iota of the attention given the men's the tide will surely turn.There is the need for a total re-examination of the approach of stakeholders in women's soccer-perceptions towards the sport must change. Although I must say i am deeply saddened by depth to which the senior women's national team of Ghana has sunk,all is not lost there is still a little glimmer of hope provided the right structures will be put on place.

WSA : Now, the big question i'll like to ask you is, will you consider managing the women's national team if you are approached again ?

EK: (chuckles) Well,I don't know since I haven't been contacted.My answer will depend on so many factors so i'll have to leave it as that.

WSA: I'll still come back to this question some day(laughter)
I can see passion in your eyes as you talk about the women's national team and that tells me you still have  a soft spot i your heart for the women's program.Let's talk a bit about your work handling young men.Why did you choose to coach males instead of females ?

EK: Like i said earlier,i got my feet wet coaching men so it just felt right but one other reason will be because the talent pool was deeper as compared to women and i could scout for the kind of players i wanted and then mould them to suit my style something that wasn't easy to do with women back then.

WSA: On a scale of 1-10 how will you rate women's soccer in  Africa today  with reference to player output, administrative/logistic  and technical support ?

EK: Our game has evolved so much but we still have a long way to go in all departments,but considering how little is available for women's soccer  and how much success has come out of that, on a scale of 1-10 i will rate the women's game at 6 with more room for improvement.

WSA :Let's focus our attention on the female coaches in the sport today with emphasis on Nigeria.Eucharia Uche made history by winning the AWC as the first female coach ever to have done so.She is leading Nigeria to the world cup also as the first African female coach.Looking at her body of work,what's your perception of Nigeria's national team-the Super Falcons, before and after she took over as the head coach ?

EK:  I am happy for Eucharia Uche and do  respect her for  her accomplishment especially having to work under constant scrutiny and under so much pressure.As an ex-international,she obviously has had a feel of life us a player and so is well equipped with immeasurable knowledge about the terrain of women's soccer.That being said,before she took over as the head coach,the team had been where there are now in terms of winning the AWC and making appearances at previous world cups so going to the world cup under her watch is another hurdle she has to clear in order to silence her critics.

 I don't see much of a change in the team since she took over. May be discipline-wise,she has a more disciplined side,but i think she has a very  talented group of young players whom she has blended with the older and more experienced ones and with her technical guidance,they will do pretty well  at the world cup.I hope she makes it further than they have ever been at the world cup.There is much more hunger and desire in the current squad,in my humble opinion.

I am not to saying the pre-Eucharia Uche squad lacked character whatsoever,I see fire in the eyes of the current crop of players than i have ever seen  in previous years and that's my personal observation.Nigeria and Eucharia Uche will be under the microscope every step of the way and I know she is prepared for the challenge ahead.

WSA:  With Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria representing Africa at the world cup,what are the chances of both countries reaching the semi-final or the final ?

EK:  You know,though it may seem like a tall order,you and I know that soccer is a game of uncertainties so i will not say it's impossible but it's going to be a hard and bumpy road to travel with the likes of Germany,Brazil,USA,Sweden and others all in the fray.

WSA: Which country will you be rooting for at the world cup ?

EK: Definitely Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea primarily but I'll be rooting for all the countries.We all want to see them put up a 5-star performance.

WSA :I have heard so much about the good work you are doing on the quiet for some African players and considering the vast experience you have amassed over the years,do you see Ghana's women's soccer program benefiting from your deep well of knowledge in the near future?

EK:  This is a trick question(chuckles)Well, time will tell but never say never.

WSA: What words of encouragement do you have for our sisters out there ?

EK: It's my fervent hope and prayer that,our sport flourishes at all levels however,there is the need for hard work,perseverance,diligence,integrity and selflessness in order for women's soccer to reach the desired height.  If we all put our shoulders to the wheel,players,administrators,managers,fans etc with the right attitude we can dominate the world of women's soccer.It is possible,keep working the dream alive.

WSA : Thank you so much for your time and the opportunity you've given me to engage you in such a hearty and informative chat.

EK: The pleasure is all mine.

Click Here For Part 1

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