It’s alright if you’re not particularly enthused about the return of Milovan Rajevac as Ghana head coach. It’s also just fine if you happened to roll your eyes at Maxwell Konadu’s unveiling as one of Rajevac’s two assistants.
Both, after all, have been here before. We know what they’re capable of — their strengths, weaknesses and all — and what we can expect, give or take a few surprises (positive, we hope).
But — just in case none of this tickles you — you’d like to know there’s a silver lining, a member of the Black Stars’ new technical crew who lights everything up, even if just a little, and gives us something genuinely exciting to look forward to.
Enter Otto Addo, the other assistant coach.
Most Ghanaians are familiar with Addo the player, a wiry Hamburg-born midfielder who had a decent run in the Bundesliga, but an international career that never really caught fire. Addo represented Ghana, homeland of his parents, at two major tournaments, most famously the 2006 FIFA World Cup where he was a bit-part player.
Unless you’ve been paying attention, though, you would have little idea of what Addo has been up to since hanging up his boots in 2008. Addo tried his hands briefly at scouting, before joining the U-19 coaching team of Hamburger SV, his hometown side and the last club he played for.
“I stepped in and I liked it,” Addo told CNN earlier this year. “I like to work with young players and with people. It was a good experience and I said: ‘OK… I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
He would leave for FC Nordsjælland — the Danish top-flight club that continues to serve as a breeding ground for Ghanaian playing and coaching prospects — in 2016, and the year spent there would help transform Addo’s perspectives on talent development.
“Every time a young player went up, he was kind of left and felt alone,” Addo noted. “They came to the first team and they were just a number — like number 23 or 24. No one was talking to them.”
And so, after wondering how he might help ease the transition to top-level football for these teens and help them fit better into the bigger picture, Addo created a role that would make him just the man for the task — first of his kind.
“I said it would be good if there was somebody who could join the first squad just to [let the kids] know what the coach wants and also to take a little bit more time for the young players for them to adapt to his philosophy.”
That’s the sort of guy Addo has gone on to build himself into, although he insists his work — “difficult to explain in a few sentences” — entails much more. It was distinctly his, for a while, and while others elsewhere have carved up similar positions for themselves, the innovator/master has distinguished himself.
In that capacity, and as assistant first-team coach at Borussia Dortmund last season, Addo has been instrumental in shaping and sharpening the mindsets of some of football’s bright young things, from Erling Braut Haaland and Jude Bellingham to Jadon Sancho, Giovanni Reyna and Youssoufa Moukoko.
All that experience should come in handy as Addo takes up his new role with the Ghana national team, as Rajevac — a known believer in youth, especially during his earlier stint here — seeks to blood the next generation of young players for the Black Stars.
Also beneficial to Ghana would be Addo’s keen scouting eye — a service he’s actually offered the Black Stars in the past, between 2013 and 2015 — even as the country looks to spot and bring in the best eligible talent scattered around the world.
It wouldn’t be too different from the position he has reverted to at Dortmund, trainer scout/talent coach (or, officially, Head of Talent Development), following the installment of the Marco Rose-led first-team bench.
Then there is the fact that Addo, coming from a culture that has produced some of the leading thinkers of the modern game — one of whom the 46-year-old has actually enjoyed a professional relationship with — could add a nice layer of freshness to Rajevac’s tactics.
You could even entertain the hope that, someday, Addo might fancy running the show himself for Ghana — only he isn’t so certain of such a leap just yet.
“In football, you actually can’t think too far [ahead],” he said.
“I’m learning day-by-day, and at the moment, I’m happy with the role as an assistant coach, but also with the role of guiding the young players, talented players and helping them to grow up, to step into the adult football scene and to guide them, especially in difficult situations.”
Now tell me: are you still rolling those eyes?
Yaw Frimpong — Ink & Kicks