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“We don’t need foreign coaches” – Kwabena Yeboah

By James Harry Obeng

 

Ghana’s foremost television sportscaster and commentator, Mr Kwabena Yeboah has been known not to mince words. And in his analysis of sporting events, seldom does he stray.

 

When The Spectator spoke to him at his Osu office to, among other things, seek his take on the raging Expatriate-Vrs-Local Coach Debate, the ace sports journalists went into himself and exhaled with a lecture that was pregnant with politics, history, economics and ideology.

 

“It is a big shame and indictment to the entire African continent that in this day and age, various African FA’s continue to believe that our destiny hinges on a while coach,” declared Kwabena Yeboah who convinced that “African teams must be entrusted to African coaches”.

 

He believes that the time is due for African football administrators, especially the Ghanaian FA, to have confidence in their own black coaches, citing the examples and achievements trailblazed by C. K. Gyamfi in annexing the continental trophy on three occasions – in 1964, 1968 and 82.

 

He further corroborated the competence of African coaches by mentioning the achievements of Egyptian Hassan Shehatta and Togolese Stephen Keshie who worked tirelessly to ensure the qualification of the Togolese national team into the 2004 World Cup, but only to be dumped for a white coach. He submitted that the result of Keshi’s rejection was the fatal exiting of the Togolese team in the first round of the competition staged in Germany.

 

Kwabena Yeboah believes in the pursuit of a policy of the African identity just as Dr Kwame Nkrumah did in sending C. K. Gyamfi on a coaching attachment to Europe

 

In any case, he contends, “there has been too much hype about the role coaches play, contending that “they (coaches) are important but not decisive”. He said scientific studies show that coaches cannot add more than 20 per cent to a team’s output in absence of quality materials (players).

 

“If a team has not got quality materials, there is little the coach can do. Equal prominence should be placed on player quality as much as that of coaches.

 

Born June 26, 1960, Kwabena Yeboah hails from Okwahu Atibie in the Eastern Region of Ghana. A trained journalist, he had, before proceeding to the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), attended the Winneba Secondary School between 1973-1980

 

As a personality who literally eats, drink and breathes football, Kwabena goes back into time in his formative years as a ‘ball-boy’ when he had to follow an uncle who looked after him, Ohene Siaw, a player of Kumasi Asante Kotoko in 1974. Kwabena’s own  parents were then domiciled abroad (Manchester).

 

Ohene Siaw had earlier played for the then Okwahu Stars (now Okwahu United) before moving on the Akotex (which was founded by the Akosombo Textiles Ltd). Kwabena says becoming a ball-boy was an “enforced decision” since he had to follow his uncle to every team he (uncle) movedto

 

It is not known how many Ghanaians know for a fact that Kwabena Yeboah was once a table tennis addict. He joined the National Table Tennis team at the invitation of D. J. Hathiramani, an India merchant who was the “Doyen of Table Tennis in Ghana and for a long time, chairman of the national squad. After him came Ebo Bartels.

 

Kwabena recounted his experience when, as a result of limited funds, the number of table tennis players to represent the country at the 1987 All African Games in Kenya was pruned to only  one. Upon arrival in Kenya, the squad was asked to participate in the team events, a situation which necessitated one more player to partner Ameyaw in the competition.

 

It was at this juncture that Kwabena who had accompanied the national team as a journalist, was called upon by Ebo Bartels and coach E. A. Quaye.to don the national table tennis colours. This showdown, he said, secured him the headlines in Kenyan and Nigerian newspapers, particularly the ‘New Nation’, which headlined its story, ‘Journalist Turns Table Tennis Player’. “We placed second in the group stages but we didn’t reach the finals,” he recalled. His colleague journalists were shock to see him play..

 

Kwabena then decided, in 1992, to finally switch from table tennis to long tennis because indiscipline among players has grown so huge. He is now the vice-chairman of the national table tennis team with Ebo Bartels as the boss.

 

In his professional life as a sports journalist became the youngest editor in the country at age 20 when he edited the “Sports and Lotto”, a newspaper in 1982, after he had completed his attachment with the “Ghanaian Times”. He then founded the “Sports Guide”, a holistically sports newspaper, in partnership with Kabral Blay Amihere and Freddie Blay. The paper later metamorphosed into the “Daily Guide”.   

 

Kwabena Yeboah then established the “African Sports” newspaper in 1986, making it the only newspaper that has survived over the years to stake its place on the market, apart from the ‘Pioneer’ in Kumasi. Responding to a question whether the newspaper business was lucrative enough to sustain him, he contended negative but asserted that “the paper was not established for any other motive aside providing the platform to speak sports”.

 

He was quick to add that the newspaper venture was doing quite better until the advent of other newspapers like the “Kotoko Express” and “Hearts News”, However, he concedes: “we are surviving; at least, we break even”.

 

Turning his attention unto his TV programme, the ‘Sports Highlight” which he hosts on Ghana Television (GTV), he said people had always loved the programme not because of his personality, but his predecessors like Kwabena Adjei Adjapong and Edward Farkye brought so much life into it.

 

The programme, he said, was the brainchild of Kwabena Agyapong, but he took over in 1992 after Emmanuel Simpson who briefly hosted it after Agyapong. Kwabena Yeboah do not intend quitting the programme though several offers from other media houses keep flocking in by the day.

 

When asked about a single personality in the country he would always love to host on his programme whenever given the opportunity, Kwabena Yeboah mentioned former Black Star captain Opoku Nti whom he described as not an excellent player, but honest and sincere nationalist who also wields the moral fortitude to resist materialism.

 

“He captained the national team at a time the state paid little attention to the Black Stars,” he stated, adding that “he often used his personal resources to fuel the Stars’ bus and other activities”.

 

Married to Olive, a daughter of Mr Harry Sawyerr, the couple has two children, aged 14 and ten, Kwabena has personally trained many sports journalists in the country, including Michael Oti Adjei, Kweku Sakyi Addo, Tony Owusu Amofa and Fiifi Banson.

 

He has to his name and credit seven national awards – TV Presenter of the Year on two occasions, Commentator of the Year on five occasions and a Supersports Award which enabled him to work briefly with Metro TV in South Africa to host the 2002 World Cup as a commentator.

 

Kwabena takes inspiration from journalists like Huge Mcillavany, Winston Davies, Kabral Blay Amihere, Adjoe Yeboah Afari, Enimil Ashon and Oheneba Charles with Martin Tyler as his role model.

 

But Kwabena would not end the interview without his trademark – ‘OLU-WAA…WUNDERBAR….”

 

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September 18, 2008 - Posted by | News

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