Black Stars Head Coach C.K Akonnor was up in front of the media team of the Ghana Football Association on Friday, September 25, as he announced his squad for next month’s International friendly – a trip to Antalya, Turkey to face West African neighbours, Mali.
Our Head Coach was asked about his mood going into his first competitive game, the exclusion of Mohammed Salisu, inclusion of John Antwi, Kamal Deen and more.
Read on for a full transcript:
ON LUMOR AGBENYENU
With Lumor, when we had the chance to play against South Africa, he was invited but got injured and now he is back, fit and that is why I thought it necessary to bring him on board.
ON YAKUBU MOHAMMED
He is a new guy, known in this country very well through the ranks of Aduana Stars and now with Azam FC where he is captain of the team. His situation is exceptional because he can play a lot of different positions, holding midfielder and right back but his main position is centre-back. We want to have a chance to look at him in different areas of the game. Have been monitoring him for over a month because they just started and the first match, he didn’t play but now he is been on top of his game.
ON ALEXANDER DJIKU
I am personally excited about him because at a point in time, we were not sure if he really wanted to come. He didn’t have a problem switching nationality but the decision to come to play. Now he has decided to come and so am very much excited about it.
ON WHAT DJIKU BRINGS TO THE TABLE
He does bring a lot of competition to the game. He is not only a centre-back but he can as well play a holding role, depending on what area you want to go in terms of when you go on away matches. If you want to be more defensive, he is a choice and he brings a lot of experience. I saw him in Strasbourg when I went to watch him play, he was really good and so am personally happy he is coming.
DEBUT CALL UP FOR EMMANUEL LOMOTEY
When he played with the U-23, he did very well and I think he deserve a chance. He has moved from Spain to France now and in his second match he was man of the match. He has done well for himself and is improving, so I think he deserves a chance. I have had personal conversations with him in that sense purely of his performance, and I am not the only person who thinks he is doing well. When he was with the U-23’s, he did vey well and this is a progression of what he has done.
This is a friendly match and I think it is an opportunity for him. He is not here to stay but will only stay with his performance and so he needs to convince everybody that he is capable of doing it. I personally know he can, and so I’m giving him the chance.
I like players who at a point, can bring confusion into the opponent’s defense, constant disturbing in terms of making trouble, try to create chances and score goals and he is one of the guys who takes chances and also good at one on one situations. He attacks and likes to score and so we are looking forward to getting players who are constant in that sense. We don’t look for players who after five-minute action, twenty minutes before they get another chance. We want constant players and I see him to be one. I know there are other players who because of circumstances, are not there but we are giving Eugene Ansah a chance. We have two matches and all these players will have a chance to show their talent and prove to us they are equally good and are there to stay.
ON WHY SALISU MOHAMMED IS NOT PART OF THE TEAM
He is not in the team because I heard his coach spoke about him in terms of fitness level. They are looking at October after the national games, before he will be back. Based on that, I want to give him a chance to rest and get fit and start a game in Southampton and then we will look forward to get him on board.
ON BERNARD MENSAH
After he came to play, we didn’t see much of him but now he is proving himself good. He was once with a club and moved to Besiktas which tells all the story about him and I have seen him on several occasions and watched him closely. He is one of the guys when given the necessary chance and confidence can bring change into the way we move forward. His style of play and the way he controls the game, I personally want to control the game in terms of possession and him, Partey and the rest are there to do that job and it is a big chance for him to come, play,do well and stay and not to go and come again.
ON JEFFERY SCHLUPP
He is somebody who brings a force and speed into the game, speed of thought and that we have seen what he has done with Crystal Palace in the past, currently in good shape and they won recently against the big Manchester United where he played a major role. I had a personal chat with him when I was there, one on one, he told me his problems and I think once we are able to give him that necessary chance and respect, he deserves, why not, he is here and most of these guys are in to prove a point. Don’t forget this is a friendly match and I think before November, we must know exactly those who can help us in the qualifiers and that is why all these opportunities has come for these guys.
ON KAMAL DEEN
Good player, young and I think he needs patience and time. I think we need to start developing and looking at the next 4 or 5 years, these are the guys and once we are able to start with people like that, we will be motivating them slowly. We are not going to push them too much but slowly develop them into the team. He reminds me of Jeremy Doku but unfortunately, he is gone for Belgium. He has that kind of style and ability to play like him and I think it is necessary to bring him to have a look at him and also to be around the team to see the likes of Dede Ayew the captain, Jordan Ayew and others who will help him to be a better player in the National team.
ON JOHN ANTWI
John Antwi, Odartey and I unearthed him at Eleven Wise and since then, he has done well for himself. The last time we had the call-Ups, he was not part of the team because I was not personally too convinced, he should be a part of the team at that time. I am looking at consistency with the team and now I think he has proven beyond doubt he is good, scored over 100 goals, now I think 102. He deserves a chance because he has done well. The Egyptian league is not an easy league that you can just ignore. He has done well and deserves a chance. All these new guys have the chance, we want people who can help us improve and also win the AFCON.
ARE YOU TENSED GOING INTO YOUR DEBUT GAME AS BLACK STARS COACH?
I can only be proud of myself and the things I have done. I can only thank Ghanaians for giving me that opportunity and more so, the Football Association, the Ministry and the Government for bringing somebody of their own to do this job. I am certainly happy and I want to do this to the highest level of my own understanding in this game and I need support from each and every Ghanaian.
I am not tensed; this is a friendly match and it is important for me to look deep into it and see who can help the team and make it better. We want to be a team that will attack and play constructive football, easy going football, but with lots of discipline.
I want to try as much as I can to bring our style of play, I have been around for a while and everyone knows how I go about my team, how they play and that is the Ghanaian way of playing, and so I want to do my best in that area.
I am not perfect, I will need advice, help and support from anybody and once we do that, this is ours so let us do it right without any misunderstanding. We will disagree, agree but the bottom line is to hit the target, which is for us to win the AFCON.
ON THE MALI TEAM
Mali is a strong side, we have seen a couple of matches that they played in the AFCON, a very strong force and it is a very good test for us. We want to go there and try as much as possible to do our best and of course win that match.
ON BONDING WITH PLAYERS DURING THE BREAK
Yes of course, more importantly the five big guys in the team, Wakasso, Dede Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Partey and Ofori. I have been able to engage the other players as well and what I have done is to communicate positively with them on the way forward, what ought to be done, what cannot be accepted in the team and all that.
The message is clear and they are aware of what to do when it is time. I am looking forward to a very good response, a team that is disciplined. Apart from the fact that when we go on the field to play, behavior outside the field of play is also key for us.
These are things I have done and of course I have learned myself about the game in terms of how to approach it, how to give the players chance, make them comfortable when they come around to play. I have positively engaged in all these areas and I believe that what is ahead of us is difficult but can be done in a positive way.
MESSAGE TO GHANAIANS
We are grateful to the President, Nana Addo for giving us that opportunity. Yes, football is back, bring back the love, I think we all need to embrace it, work hard towards it, love it and even if there is negativity, let us leave it out, try as much as we can to bring out the positivity around the team and make sure we are with positive spirit. I believe that we will be back again or we are back again to do what is expected of us.