Barreto Came, He Saw, And… What Is He Still Here For?
Mariano Barreto wouldn’t need a Daniel to decipher the writing on the wall: his days as Asante Kotoko head coach are numbered.
Barreto has been weighed in the balances and found lacking — in the eyes of many a Kotoko fan, anyway, and it appears it’s only a matter of time before that opinion becomes official.
Nana Yaw Amponsah, Kotoko’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), has promised an end-of-term assessment of Barreto’s performance — and a verdict.
“At the end of the season we will assess him,” Amponsah revealed in a radio interview, “and if he has not met our target, we will take a decision.”
That review, I suspect, could come even sooner, given recent developments. Barreto has been busy hitting out at his own employers — however legitimate his concerns are — and could force the hand of the Amponsah-led management in swinging the axe.
But it isn’t just Kotoko that has experienced, in his four months as the club’s head coach, Barreto’s appetite for stirring up controversy. He has already copped a ban-and-fine combo from the Ghana Football Association (GFA) for lashing out at referees, remember?
All that could have been pardoned, you know, if he had anything to show for his exertions in the 2010/21 season. Yet that isn’t the case, as Kotoko are already out of contention for any silverware.
First came the collapse of a Ghana Premier League title challenge, with only a handful of games to the season’s end, but things soon got worse. Within a matter of weeks, Kotoko’s bid to hold on to the FA Cup — the only other trophy they could still win — also unravelled, following elimination at the quarter-final stage.
And as Berekum Chelsea’s players sped off in ecstasy in Obuasi last Sunday, after beating Barreto’s Kotoko on penalties, the Portuguese must have wondered how it had all gone so awry after the bright start to his tenure.
Or did he?
“People who are supposed to be Kotoko supporters came to where we were having our lunch to insult our players [before the Chelsea game], so most of the players played today because we told them to play,” Barreto said instead, minutes later.
“I have told the management to investigate and punish those supporters who did that.”
One wonders, then, why a matter Barreto claims is being handled by the club’s hierarchy would be publicised in such a manner. Rants like that — oh, and there have been quite a few, warranted or not — suggests Barreto isn’t the most discreet guy in the business, betraying a worrying lack of tact.
At a time when their archrivals and recently crowned league champions, Accra Hearts of Oak, are operating smoothly and seek to shut out the noise — surely, even the seemingly perfect Phobian bubble isn’t so flawless — Kotoko can’t afford to be steered by a man who seems unable, or simply unwilling, to do same.
Now, more than ever, Kotoko need all the focus they can muster — with as few distractions as possible — to neutralise Hearts’ fresh threat, and Barreto doesn’t look like the kind of man who can lead that cause; results haven’t spoken too loudly in his favour, and his admittedly loud mouth isn’t doing much better.
There is a case to be made that he only took charge of Kotoko mid-season, and that things were going reasonably well until a rainbow-coloured iceberg sank the ship — never mind that the opposing trainer who masterminded that defeat and ultimately won Hearts the title, Samuel Boadu, was also appointed just around the same stage of the campaign.
That fateful defeat was bad enough, but it was the reaction of Barreto and his team — poor, on both counts — that has been a genuine source of concern, along with reports of tensions between the coach and some of his players (and now, obviously, with his bosses).
Throw in, too, his tendency to deflect blame for a bad day to one thing or the other (never his own methods, though, quite remarkably)… all of which leaves the 64-year-old in a rather untenable position. Barreto might still have plenty to offer — there remains a little over a year left of his contract, after all — but the likely conclusion might just be that he’s not worth the trouble.