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In the wake of Manchester United’s string of dismal outputs, former skipper Ron Keane throws the big question as to “who is running that dressing room at Old Trafford”. This is of course a rhetoric question for it is known by all that the coach/manager is in charge of the dressing room.

For football clubs, the dressing room can be described as the strong room where the coach or manager gives out his final strategy or tactics and motivates the players for action especially at half time when the first session comes under serious scrutiny Roy Keane has passed through the mill and appreciates the importance of dressing room atmosphere. He believes the players lack concentration, “You leave your ego at the door when you play for Man United”, Keane adds.

If for any reason the manager loses control of dressing room discipline the team is doomed to fail.

I have long admired the duties of a football coach/manager since I joined the sporting press six decades ago. Even though with no intention of becoming one I take interest in their job and get quite close to them at the least opportunity offered.

Working with top coaches

Over the years I have been privileged to work closely with many top Ghanaian coaches and some of the foreign ones that handled the Black Stars. I can say we became friends I tell you they are quite enigmatic breed who treasure the value of a warm dressing room atmosphere Coach C.K Gyamfi was my first close friend on his return from Brazil in the early sixties. Apart from the dressing room culture he was bent on reforming players who turned spectators when they don’t have the ball. “Tactics with the ball and tactics without the ball” was his main concern.

Coaches Aggrey Fynn and Ben Kwofie at Sudan AFCON 1970 were in full control at the dressing room and boardwork sessions. It’s during boardwork that you get players like Joe Ghartey and Sunday Ibrahim asking pertinent questions on tactics, Ben and Aggrey were in full control of affairs.

Even when certain key players breached discipline by entertaining strange visitors on the eve of the cup final, the coaches stood firm and created warm dressing room atmosphere that nearly won the cup for Ghana. We unfortunately lost 1-0 to the host country.

At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, foreign coach Karl Marotzke was tough on the players who tried to be unruly during boardroom work on the eve of Black Stars match against Poland. The coach analysing the Polish team warned of their fast play singling out Lubanski as a player to be watched. Marotzke said “Don’t police Lubanski, look into his eyes.” The Black Star players murmured the coach was frightening them. I thought he had managed to calm their nerves but Lubanski couldn’t be stopped and Ghana lost 4-0.

In 1978 AFCON in Ghana Osam Duodu and Hagan were superb and run the dressing room well to enable the Black Stars beat Uganda 2-0 to win the original cup for keeps following the 1963 and 1965 triumphs.

Indeed, it was this victory that earned Ghana the nickname of Brazil of Africa emulating Brazils third time World Cup triumph in Mexico 1970 that won them the Jules Rimet Cup for keeps following the 1958 and 1962 triumphs.
In the 1982 AFCON in Libya, veteran C. K. Gyamfi teamed up with Osam Duodu and Kwasi Afranie to run a smooth dressing room and ultimately became the second nation to win the new African Unity Cup beating hosts Libya in a penalty shootout. Nigeria had won the new cup in 1980.

In 1983 as PR consultant for Yaw Bawuah new Asante Kotoko administration, I was privileged to work closely with coach Sunday Ibrahim who led the Porcupine Warriors to win the champions league beating Al Ahly of Egypt 1-0 in the final in Kumasi Sunday a great midfielder in his heyday was, assisted by his old team mate Malik Jabir an accomplished goal getter who as players won the Africa Cup for Kotoko on January 1971. No wonder they run the dressing room well to motivate skipper Papa Arko and his youngsters to become the nation’s twice Africa Cup winners.

As a coach, Ibrahim Sunday was cool and collected instructor with similar traits like Sam Arday who won Ghana’s only Olympic football medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games with the Black Meteors. Incidentally, I was a member of the team’s management Board. I led the contingent and I can testify that Sam Arday, assisted by Isaac Paha run the dressing room well and the Meteors really deserved their bronze medal at the expense of Australia.

Burkhard Ziese’s dressing room

The last master of the dressing room culture on my list was Burkhard Ziese who I
dealt with in my capacity as Black Stars Management member.

I can bet my last cedi Burkhard was a compete manager. He worked on all aspects of the team. A disciplinarian of repute he made sure players comported themselves both on and off the pitch. Players were not allowed to bring their cars to camp at Winneba. You can’t be late to training and sleeping time was compulsory. He personally checked the diet of players and adopted a novelty bonus system.

Bonus was not across the board. Full 90 minutes’ players got more than the substitutes. Those on the bench had even less. He hardly allowed intruders into the dressing room after half time. He said he needed full concentration to motivate the players for the ten minutes at his disposal. It still baffles me that his second coming became such a spectacular
flop. For the Burkhard I knew his poor show could be deliberate. He was never happy with the treatment meted out to him after qualifying the Black Stars for AFCON after six years absence.

Apologies for the small diversion.
So this answers the question posed by Roy Keane of Manchester United fame.

The coach/manager is in charge of running the dressing room. It is hoped this will get to the handlers of the Black Stars as they prepare for that dicey World Cup qualifier against the Super Green Eagles of Nigeria. There seems to be some uneasy quiet about this home and away encounter. What can the matter be? Your guess is as good as mine Cheers everybody and keep loving Sports.

By Ken Bediako

www.sports24ghana.com