‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God is with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Deut 31:6)
Coach Sam Arday was not just a friend in his lifetime to me, he was indeed a brother and together we shared lots of conversations in the area of football and other social affairs.
I know many people will remember our days together in 1995 when we took the world by storm with Ghana’s under 17 national team and eventually wrestled the diadem from the grips of mighty Brazil.
The euphoria which greeted our arrival in Ghana with the cup was so huge that the entire team, Coach Arday included was taken by surprise.
In reality, I first met Coach Arday in person when RTU had a titanic clash with Okwahu United in Nkawkaw. It had rained heavily and the maestro Abedi Pele was up against goalkeeper Odoom. It was no mean task for both teams.
With so much pressure on the coaches, I could hear my good friend who was then on the other side, at Okwahu United yell, out to his players: “Don’t let the ball bounce. Bouncing balls are dangerous”.
With this I had formed a terrific impression about this coach to the extent that when as fate would have it, I was made Chairman of the Under-17 national team, the Black Starlets with Coach Arday as the coach in charge, I knew that we had our work cut out for us.
Indeed, he had already made his mark at the Olympics football tournament in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992, when he led the national Under-23 team, the Black Meteors to a feat then never before attained by any African country, clinching a bronze at the competition.
Now see the names of some of his players and you will know he had mapped out Ghana’s future from his able hands: Frank Acheampong, Ibrahim Dossey, Isaac Asare, Kwame Ayew, Mohammed Gargo, Nii Odartey Lamptey, Yaw Preko, Shamo Quaye and coach of the moment Maxwell Konadu.
Coach Arday was thoroughly gifted in player selection for particular positions and seemed to know his players particularly their strengths and weaknesses so well that you would love him on the field of play.
Particularly, in the selection of the 1995 Ecuador team, he didn’t pick players by positions. With so much to choose from, he picked the best mid fielders that the country could afford at the time and based on the strength of the left or the right leg, he put them into positions and with that the boys excelled.
He was so deft in the exercise of this professional competence that he carefully and pleasantly allowed a certain inter positional play that was so well applauded at the global level that the media in Ecuador nicknamed Ghana’s style of play as the ‘Multi System’.
Perhap, coach Oti Akenteng and I are the only persons alive who can properly describe what the ‘Multi System’ really is.
Suffice it to say that at a particular press conference organised in Ecuador to celebrate Ghana, I told them our football was all “Gboshi, gbogbo shi’, coming out of the eating of ‘Kaa, waa, nyaa’. These were strange terminologies coming out of Ghana and the world media took Coach Arday serious.
Coach Sam Arday was not only a good coach, but also a great planner who looked ahead with respect to the strength of his opponents and chartered the course of victory. For instance, he drew a chart that carried the Starlets first of all, to Niger in preparation for the African competition in Mali.
We landed in Niger at 2a.m. with a temperature of 32°C. Such that by the time we got to Bamako, the 40°C at noon was much easier to handle.
With the African victory at hand, we now plotted the global victory and thanks to Coach Arday in his forecasting, we found ourselves in Manchester, camping at the grounds of the Great Manchester United.
With so many trial matches carefully plotted by Coach Arday against tough Division I teams in England, the confidence of our boys was boosted before we found ourselves at the highest peaks of Ecuador. Ecuador was a real test of tenacity of the great Coach Arday because we faced an altitude higher than the highest point in Africa, yet with careful training and tenacity of purpose, we beat the host nation in the opening match and all the other matches fell in our way, as if the tournament was designed for us.
It is not just about Coach Arday that Barcelona and Ecuador were significant. It was about the future of the Black Stars. You saw the Barcelona squad. But it is interesting that, miraculously, Ecuador did not make a mass appeal on future Black Stars selection. But at least Coachito produced Christian Sarbah, Awudu Issaka and mercurial Tornado Stephen Appiah. Stephen was too shy to play in qualification matches, but Coach Arday told me the player had a terrific future and got him to play in the final match. How right he was!
I have known Coach Arday closely enough to understand some of his tactics and no wonder he is a champion coach with several accolades in his name.
He was greatly influenced by Sir Alex Ferguson and that also kept him a strong fan of Manchester United.
This country has lost a terrific coach and personally I have lost a terrific friend who would always speak Hausa with me.
Safe journey my dear friend, this nation Ghana will miss you. Your friends of the football fraternity will miss you. You run a perfect family, as far as I am concerned and they will miss you.
What is important in all this, is that you had a clean heart and an honest and pleasant personality. I never saw Coach in a fit of rage and the angels will lead you safely to your destination.
In this journey of no return and in this journey which awaits all mankind at everybody’s appointed time, we pray to God for Coachito to be granted a peaceful rest.
……….Coach Arday, Yaa woodjogbaa!
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