Black Stars goalkeepers

So who becomes Ghana’s next great goalkeeper?

This is something that has caused me to think for some time now.

I do not know why I cannot shake the feeling that goalkeeping remains the Achilles’ heel of the current Black Stars squad.

Fact is that even though Ghana’s three goalkeepers called up for every national assignment are Ernest Sowah, Fatau Dauda and Razak Braimah, but none of them inspire confidence from me, especially when the going gets tough.

Indeed, I believe that Avram Grant needs to be brave in gambling on younger goalkeeping talent and there are many available.

I will come to that soon, but let us take a trip back in time to look at our great goalkeepers of yesteryear.

Edward Dodoo Ankrah was the first choice goalkeeper for the Black Stars when Ghana won the 1963 African Nations Cup.

His back up was the promising Ernest Joe de Graft from Kumasi Cornerstone. Ankrah, who was then with Real Republikans, was in confident form and played his role well.

Two years later, Ankrah was one of just three players from the 1963 squad retained for the 1965 African Nations Cup.

He eventually lost his first team place to John Naawu, who played in all the games as Ghana successfully defended the title in Tunisia.

As you know, John Naawu’s son, Richard Naawu represented Ghana at the 1992 African Nations Cup and indeed came on as a substitute in the final.

In 1968, John Naawu was accompanied by two goalkeepers from Asante Kotoko for the Nations Cup tournament.

One was Anue Kofie and the other was the late Robert Mensah.

Naawu and Mensah shared goalkeeping duties in the first round.

Interestingly, Robert Mensah was in goal when Ghana defeated Cote d’Ivoire 4-3 after extra time in the semifinal, but Naawu returned to play in the final, in which the Black Stars lost 0-1 to Congo-Kinshasa.

Robert Mensah became the undisputed first choice for the 1970 African Nations Cup; playing all the games as Ghana once again reached the final.

Even though the Black Stars eventually lost the final, Mensah’s brilliance was there for all to see, but he was tragically murdered a year later, after helping Asante Kotoko win the 1970 African Champions Cup.

In 1978, Joseph Carr was the first choice goalkeeper as Ghana won the AFCON title for the third time. He retained his place as Ghana failed to go past the first round in Nigeria two years later.

Carr was actually supposed to be the number one choice for the 1982 AFCON, but a series of events saw both himself and second choice John Baker overlooked in favour of third choice goalkeeper Owusu Mensah, who became a hero as Ghana won the competition for the fourth time in Libya.

There have been some very good goalkeepers since then, with the likes of Abukari Damba, Edward Ansah, the late Salifu Ansah through to the likes of Richard Kingson and Sammy Adjei amongst others.

I am sorry, but I do not think that our current national team goalkeepers cut the mustard. Indeed, I do not even think that Adam Kwarasey can be classified as belonging to the pantheon of greats when it comes to goalkeeping, even though he is not that bad.

There seems to be a dearth of talent where goalkeeping is concerned right now in Ghana but I believe that our coaching staff is way too conservative in breaking grounds.

I remember that Andre Arendse had only six caps before Clive Barker made him first choice for South Africa ahead of the 1996 African Nations Cup. That was bravery from Barker and that is the kind of bravery we also saw from the Cameroon coaching staff at the last African Nations Cup.

Why can’t we go down that path?

Already Richard Ofori is doing so well that he received a late call up ahead of the AFCON qualifier against Mauritius. Lawrence Ati in my opinion did well enough at the 2015 World Youth Cup to merit consideration.

Add the likes of Robert Dabuo and Felix Annan and we do have goalkeeping talent in the country.

Again, I do not get why Ernest Sowah gets call ups and has still not seen minutes on the pitch for the Black Stars.

If he is good enough, play him, but if not, don’t call him up. Period.

I have said it before and I will say it again. As a nation we have become extremely lazy when scouting for talents.

Even worse, polishing such talent when discovered is itself a major challenge, which highlights the many ills of our coaching structure in Ghana.

We need to go back to what we used to do that unearthed the Dodoo Ankrahs, the John Naawus, the Robert Mensahs and the Joe Carrs among others.

Unless that happens, winning a major trophy will become more problematic for the Black Stars.

 

By Christopher Opoku