Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Top 10 Ghana - Nicest Neighborhoods in Accra

  1. Trasacco Valley

  2. Airport Hills

  3. Cantonments

  4. Airport Residential

  5. Ridge/LaBone

  6. East Legon

  7. Buena Vista (Beach Rd Teshie)

  8. West Legon
  9. North Dzorwulu

  10. Tema (New Communities)

Am I missing any?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

AGORO v. 2.0 - Retooling Ghana Soccer from the Grassroots

My recent post on the Top 10 greatest Ghana soccer players of all time got me thinking about how we manage sports and soccer in Ghana and West Africa as a whole. It is a fact that the West African sub-region has produced some of the greatest to ever play the game period. From former greats like George Oppong Weah, Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, JJ Okocha, to present day stars like Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, and Emmanuel Adebayor to name a few.

I have colleagues and friends at work who were born and raised in Germany, France, England, etc who would relate their experiences growing up and learning to play soccer in various leagues and school programs with constant oversight from a trained coach from kindergarten until it was clear that they had talents in other endeavors other than soccer.

I compare that to my experience growing up in the “mean streets” of Dzorwulu in the 80’s and I find the one thing missing from my football experience was structure! By that I mean there was no structure to the way football was organized below the professional level. I will bet not much has changed in that regard. Not that I was any good or would have gotten any better with a little coaching. Far from it! Like my colleageues who grew up in Europe I found my talents in other endeavors. Growing up, we used to walk unaccompanied (much to the dismay of our parents) from Dzorwulu to Abelenkpe, “Last Chance”, and “Pig Farm” to play against other 5-10 year olds in those neighborhoods. We didn’t have a coach to direct us on when and how to pass the ball, team defense, diagonal passes etc. Indulge me for a moment as I establish my case:

  1. How come West Africans account for a significant percentage of the top players in the professional leagues in Europe but we still haven’t won the World Cup?
  2. How come Egypt is the current and two-time African Champion (Egypt has won the Africa Cup 5 times in all - more than any other country on the continent) when you can’t name a single Egyptian player who is having a significant impact on the game at the professional level in Europe.

  3. How come none of the West African football power houses have a native coach for their senior national team? Name one! Go ahead! I’m waiting. Ghana? Nigeria? Ivory Coast? Togo? Cameroun? Senegal?

Ghana’s style of play has been famously called “Agoro” which literally means “having fun” or “playing”. What exactly is the “Agoro” style of play? Can we define it? Can we write books about it and teach 5-10 year olds? Isn’t it strange that we need a European coach to teach and manage “Agoro” on the senior national team level when he never played or studied “Agoro” in his life?

In America ,we hear about “Phenoms” like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams, etc. It is no secret that NBA scouts were attending LeBron James’ games in middle school. I believe the only way you know a “Phenom” when you see one is that you have a structure in place. That way, you have a process and a “unit of measure” to compare against. Whereas a “Phenom” is naturally very talented you cannot guarantee their success without a process and a structure that teaches the games. It is often said there are a lot of basketball players as talented as Michael Jordan in the ghetto. The reason they didn’t play on Michael’s level is simple – they never submitted themselves to the structure that produced Michael. So the 5 foot 5 inch guy who masters the structure by playing college basketball organized by the NCAA is better able to contribute more to the game and is paid millions to play professionally whereas the ghetto version of Michael Jordan is still….well, in the ghetto.

Enough said! It’s time to reboot “Agoro” as we know it today. Not change the style, because God knows our style of playing soccer reflects our culture and DNA like nothing else. Just organize it better! Can you imagine how many Michael Essien’s we could produce if we had a structure to football in Ghana?

Here’s my suggestion:

  1. Document “Agoro” and teach it so a 5year old or better yet a Makola woman can understand it. What is it? What is the best way to play in the “Agoro” system? What are the essential pieces you need to effectively play “Agoro” (just like Phil Jackson's triangle offense needed a small forward who could play the point like Scottie Pippen)? Do you need a right full back who doubles as a midfield winger?

  2. Organize football leagues for age groups 5-10 years, 10-15 years (if a player is any good, we will know by 16 (change his official age to 10...shhhhh...) and quickly sign him to a local premier league team coming off the bench).

  3. Let every kid have a choice of playing organized football in school or in their neighborhoods under a trained coach. (if only we had this structure we will quickly realize that we need 4 or 5 soccer field in every neighborhood and we just can’t build homes on every piece of land available….sorry I had to throw that in there!)

  4. Organize yearly regional and national championships to showcase the best amateurs.

There are larger economic and cultural benefits to having more structure to our sports that I hope to address in future blogs.

Long Live Agoro! Long live Ghana!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Top 10 Ghana - Greatest Footballers of All Time

1. Abedi Pele
2. Michael Essien
3. Tony Yeboah
4. Samuel Osei Kuffour
5. Abdul Razak
6. Opoku Afriyie
7. Mohammed Polo
8. Opoku Nti
9. Sulley Muntari
10. CK Akunnor

The rankings are mostly based on each player's impact on the professional game (mostly in Europe) and their contributions to the game in Ghana. Until the era of Tony Yeboah and Abedi Pele most of our footballers played locally. It would have been great to see the likes of Abdul Razak and Opoku Nti play in top European leagues.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

David Ofosu-Dorte: Reflections, Lamentations and Recommendations of an Ordinary Ghanaian

I’ve tried to the best of my ability to transcribe and summarize Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah’s (Joy FM) interview with David Ofosu-Dorte below. More and more I’m impression people like David (instead of the political talking heads) get a platform to speak to the people of Ghana and its leaders about building the foundations for sustainable development. He touched on a lot of basic but thoroughly thought through points that I have mentioned in my previous blog posts.

7 serious issues that need to be addressed in Ghana:

1. Failure to see that a united country is a very important factor in our development

  • Emphasize competence and merit and de-emphasize tribe - In the 50’s there were political parties and associations based on ethnic groups e.g. Ga Association, Northern People’s Party, Anlo Youth Association etc. Overtime there was a conscious effort to curb this tendency. Until the mid 80’s District Chief Executives (DCEs) did not have to come from the areas they served. For example, Ampofo from the south is associated with the development of Bolgatanga, Col. Minela from the north was instrumental in the development of Koforidua, and Joshua Alarbi a Ga was influential in forging peace between Kokomba –Nanomba in the north.
  • We should reshuffle of regional ministerial posts where the current Ashanti Regional Minister serves the Volta Region and vice versa.

2. Failure to address the “Ghanaian Attitude”

  • Attitudes to time affect productivity
  • We plan but don’t implement
  • We worship our leaders in the tradition of our tribal chiefs
  • We prefer foreigners to our own fellow citizens in awarding contracts etc.

3. Need for systematic changes (entrenched practices that need to change)

  • Waste (of resources) should not be encouraged.
  • We need to hold people accountable for what they do. We should not confuse justice with vengeance.
  • We need house numbers and street names.
  • National ID Card program will not be successful without it
  • National Health Insurance Scheme will not be successful without it
  • Fire Service Dept looks for smoke to locate a burning house
  • Police looking for arrest a suspect go around asking in the neighborhood

4. Failure to take bold steps to develop infrastructure

  • Transit systems should be built to ease traffic congestion along the following routes:
  • Medina to Accra
  • Obetsebi-Lamptey Circle to Mallam
  • Teshie Corridor

5. Issues that have an indirect impact on the economy

6. Failure to properly empower the people

7. Failure to integrate our thinking and policies so that one thing does not have a negative impact on others.

David: When should we expect the book on this topic? Seriously!