Choosing a team’s captain can be a tricky decision, with a lasting impact. Team captains in a great way serve as role models by helping to develop and teach leadership skills to younger teammates. They also help the Coach implement or execute his coaching principles, and ideals/philosophies on the pitch. When deciding how to choose and manage team captains, every coach and any other decision maker should consider these three main factors; criteria, specific responsibilities, and maintaining culture.
Before the week began, the head coach of Ghana’s senior national football team, Charles Kwabla Akonnor announced the new leadership structure of the side’s playing body. The move has in a way help put to bed a lingering issue of the Black Stars captaincy which had caused much stir in past times.
Prior to the AFCON 2019 tournament, Andre Ayew, was named substantive captain by the erstwhile James Kwasi Appiah. The decision triggered bad blood between then captain, Asamoah Gyan and Coach Appiah; with the latter giving the position of general captain to the former.
It had to take a presidential intervention before hatchets were buried although not entirely.
In fact issues of captaincy within the Black Stars date as far back as 1992 where many believe but for this, Ghana would have won the AFCON tournament in Senegal. The ripple effects of the 1992 incident plagued the fortunes of the Stars in subsequent tournaments where Ghana flattered to deceive.
Therefore, the decision taken by new Head Coach C.K Akonnor in September 2020 is seen as very strateic and forward-thinking. Akonnor, a former captain himself has maintained Andre Ayew as substantive captain while also naming Thomas Partey and Richard Ofori as deputies.
In this feature, the writer has taken time to highlight the factors that perhaps have influenced the Coach to take these decisions.
CRITERIA- The criteria for who becomes captain of the Black Stars is crucial for sending the right message to the footballing public, particularly Ghanaians. In Andre Ayew, Ghana has a Triple-Impact Competitor as the leader of the playing body. To put in simple terms, a triple-impact competitor strives to make themselves, their team, and the game better. Therefore if the criteria for choosing a captain are represented in these qualities, the player at the helm of the team will be positive leader who will contribute to success.
In Andre Ayew, Ghana is guaranteed the above and he also has experience on his side. He made his international debut in August 2007 and has been a regular member since. His experience is not in doubt having played under three Black Stars captains, namely Stephen Appiah, John Mensah and Asamoah Gyan and other player leaders such as Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari.
Ayew currently remains the most experienced player in the Black Stars setup, having accumulated 86 appearances and notching 15 goals. His experiences aren’t limited to just time spent in the team only but also he’s being deputy skipper to Asamoah Gyan for some time now and definitely remains the prime candidate for such a role.
At age 30, Andre is also exposed to several international tournaments, (2010 & 2014 FIFA World Cups, alongside several AFCON tournaments).
In deciding who should be deputy, priority isn’t always given to who is the most experienced or the seniormost in terms of age.
However, in Partey, a player who has been a Ghana international since 2016 and Ofori (who made his debut in 2015) Ayew has two like-minded individuals who will help his cause as captain of the team.
In every setup, there should be an established culture that plays a role in how leaders are selected. A football club or national side is no different. The recent culture that has existed is that, deputy skippers are often promoted to be captains when it is that the serving leader is no longer capable of handling the role for various reasons.
In the case of the Black Stars, Andre Ayew has served for several years as Asamoah Gyan’s deputy. It was therefore expected that in Gyan’s absence, Andre will take up the role fully. However how this was implemented by former Coach Appiah is what irked most Ghanaians.
The trend of deputies taking up permanent roles as captains started with the Stephen Appiah era. Under the former Juventus player, central defender John Mensah deputised until he fully took over when Appiah’s time in the team was nearing an end. As Mensah neared his Black Stars exit, the culture was a bit distorted when then national team coach Kwasi Appiah broke protocol and named Asamoah Gyan ahead of the likes of John Pantsil, Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari when Mensah .
In Akonnor expect the old culture to be reinstated fully and starting with Andre Ayew is no surprise as he was Gyan’s deputy (as mentioned above).
Thomas Partey and Richard Ofori’s roles as deputies also to an extent is to understudy and tap something from Andre Ayew who at 30 doesn’t have a lenghty future in the national side. At age 27 and 26 respectively, both Partey and Ofori are being prepared as future leaders of the team in the absence of the team’s current leader and that is very key to maintaining team culture.
It makes transitioning easier and restores the previous order. This puts to bed what has been cacophonous experiences in the past about captaincy issues. Going forward, this order should be followed irrespective of who is in charge.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CAPTAINS
The responsibilities of Andre Ayew as Black Stars captain are basically to serve as the lead ambassador for Ghana both on and off the pitch. Before the announcement, he had played such roles excellently in the past and taking over from there should not be an issue. Ayew’s exemplary leadership style has been commended by many and he needs to continue. Partey and Ofori will follow suit and play supporting roles to Andre and subsequently act accordingly whenever he is not available.
For Richard Ofori, he serves as captain of his club side Maritzburg United and based on his experience at national and club level, he should really be a good deputy to the Black Stars captain. Partey at Atletico Madrid has played under several leaders at the Spanish club. His manager Diego Simeone was once a very good captain and has imparted his experience to his players, with Partey being a beneficiary.
He has on occasions captained the Black Stars, but with his role as deputy skipper now made formal, he should be another good deputy to Ayew.
FMIG wishes them the best in their new roles.