Stop Banging On About “Local Players”

One criticism of Avram Grant during his reign as Ghana manager has been that he hasn’t called up enough local players.

I came across some Tweets recently (I’ve posted them below) that got me thinking about the subject once more.

As people who have me on their timeline may attest to, I’m not Avram Grant’s biggest fan, but I feel that people who bang on about him not selecting local players are being ridiculous. For those that don’t know, only two Ghana-based players have been called up: Wa All Stars goalkeeper Richard Ofori and Ashanti Gold defender Kadri Mohammed.

One thing I’ve noted is that a lot of the people calling for the involvement of more local players (from what I’ve personally seen and heard) are rarely specific about which players they want to be included and who they should be included at the expense of-It’s just become a stick to beat Grant with.

A difficult truth to deal with is that, generally, a lot of player’s whose (stated) age is over 25 would probably be playing at a half-decent league in Europe (or probably elsewhere if offered more money) if they were good enough. Unless they’re a young starlet who’ll soon be on their way to Europe, like ex-West African Football Academy player Samuel Tetteh was, It’s unlikely they’re anywhere near the quality of Ghana’s best players playing abroad. Even Yaw Yeboah (The player the journalist above is complaining about) has received a footballing education far better than players the same age as him playing in the Ghanaian Premier League, thanks to the excellent Right to Dream Academy. He may have little first team experience, but he’s working under a resourceful FC Twente coach in Rene Hake who’s had to make due with a very young squad in the Eredivisie because of the club’s financial issues. By the end of the season, Yeboah will have a tactical understanding of the game that is far ahead of most players plying their trade in the GHPL, if it isn’t already…

I've also seen some misguided calls to introduce local player quotas. It’s almost like they would be happy for worse players to be called up just so more GHPL players get a chance. The flawed idea here is that this will somehow improve the league or the players. Let me tell you, a couple of days spent camping with Avram Grant will not improve a player-good quality coaching day in day out at club level from age 11 and upwards will. I’ve seen people say that introducing a quota serves as “encouragement” for local players. To them I say, this is elite football, not a Year 1 sports day.

Another point I’d like to make is that Ghana’s squad is actually quite deep, far deeper than ten years ago. For example, when all players are fit, Schalke’s Abdul Baba Rahman and Sclupp can cover left back. There’s even more depth in central midfield with the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah, Alfred Duncan, Afriyie Acquah, Thomas Partey and Mubarak Wakaso all playing at a decent level. Realistically, local players are more likely to be called up as cover for positions that are not as strong, like goalkeeper or centre-back. You could even argue that in-form Hammarby centre-half, Jimmy Aidoo, should’ve been called up. According to his club coaches his positional play has greatly improved since the short time he arrived in Sweden from GHPL club Inter Allies, a result of higher quality coaching. If he had been picked instead of say, Kadri Mohammed, people really would’ve gotten their knickers in a twist.

Some cite fitness reasons for their stance on more local players being selected. Surely a winger playing 90 minutes every week in the GHPL should be selected over Christian Atsu, who hasn’t played a first team minute this season, right? The thing is, when Atsu plays for Ghana, he mostly delivers. If his loan move to Newcastle goes through, that argument will go out of the window. Even if he was warming the bench in the north of England, the level of fitness training, nutrition and sports science is so far ahead of those in Ghana that I wouldn’t be surprised If Atsu was still fitter than most playing week in week out in the GHPL.

Finally, I’d like to say that I do agree with those that say there is a lot of talent in Ghana. Alongside the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, the amount of talented players Ghana send to Europe is very high. I’ve always said that if top Ghanaian clubs managed to scout, keep these players for a little longer and put them in professional environments with top class coaches, backroom staff and administration that they would be able to compete with the likes of TP Mazembe in the CAF Champions League, purely because Ghana have a big advantage over countries like DR Congo when it comes to producing youngsters. Let’s focus on building football infrastructure in the country and stop moaning about silly things like player quotas.