Former Ghana coach, James Kwesi Appiah, was forced to cut short his stay with Sudanese side, El Khartoum Watani, on 11 April 2017, after being reappointed to the helm of the Black Stars.

Leaving his Ghana post in September 2014, Appiah became a household name with the capital-based club after steering one of the best moments in the history of the club during his 26-months spell.

The soft-spoken trainer, a former Ghana captain talks to on his return to the Black Stars, project with El Khartoum amongst others; How do you feel being appointed Ghana coach for a second time?

James Kwesi Appiah: Ghana is my home. It is very difficult to say no when your nation needs your service, but the most important is to go and do the best you can to bring back the team to where it belongs. It will not be easy and it has never been easy, but the people have to be behind the team. As Africans, we need support to get to the level where everyone will say ‘Wow! This is an African coach’. How many African coaches have been able to qualify their national teams to the FIFA World Cup? Without support we will always be behind. It is important we support our own to make sure that African coaches raise the standard of coaching on the continent and beyond.

What motivated your choice of Sudan?

When I was coming to Sudan, many asked ‘why go to Sudan’? I had many offers at the time and even rejected one from Japan, but I had an ambition. In coaching, it is not always about money, rather making a difference and bringing something new to a society. It was one of the reasons I opted for El Khartoum, at the expense of the other options.

How do you assess the time you spent with El Khartoum?

Personally, I feel a lot of work was done and a good achievement in the sense that my project was to build a team. To do this, you need to look at the short, medium and long term to achieve results. I brought in a lot of young players to the senior team and now about 21 of them have played at the highest level. The style of play of El Khartoum has changed totally and last season we attained the highest points tally in the club’s history, 65 points (fifth place). Unfortunately, we did not qualify for the CAF Confederation Cup, but the most important thing was that the project yielding results and there was a big change in our style of play. When you look at the young players, they have the ability to carry the team for the next 5-10 years, and that is what the project is about. The results may not be clear in the first two years, but in the third and fourth years, we may be able to see the results. One of the good things is that players such as central defender Hamza Daud and left-back Ahmed Adam were called up to the senior national team, and others for the Olympic team, and that is a big achievement for the project.

How far were you aiming to go with the project?

My intention was not to stop at this point; it was to see the end results in 3-4 years, and for everyone to see. Unfortunately, it had to end midway after two-and-half years of work. The good thing is that the shape of the team has been built, which makes it easy for any coach that takes over to follow the pattern. The psychological and mental aspect of the players as well their confidence has soared, and it is easy for anyone to continue the project. My dream was seeing El Khartoum winning the Sudanese Premier League in the not too distant future and counted among the top clubs on the continent.

What are your final words for El Khartoum?

Players such as Ahmed Adam, Ahmed El Tish and Salif Malik have peaked very fast and I foresee a promising future for them and others. My advice to Management of the club is to give the players the chance to develop because we have invested a lot of money, energy and time to get here. Also, attention should be given to the Youth team and draw a policy that at least three players are promoted to the senior team. This is the only way to fuel the project and keep the team stronger for the coming years. Also, the Management should get involved heavily and offer 100 per cent support to the new coach to continue the project. I won’t be here but my heart will always be with them and I’m ready to support one way or the other. My ambition was to raise the level of players of El Khartoum to attract foreign clubs and change their mentality of always thinking of playing for either El Hilal or El Merreikh. I’m grateful to the Management, Directors, technical team and playing body for the support during my tenure. My biggest thanks go to the fans, who organized a farewell in my honour. I have never witnessed such an appreciation and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

What are your impressions of Sudanese football?

There has been improvement during the period I was around. Tactically and technically, the coaches are doing a great job as it reflects in the play of the teams. There are many good players but it is important for them to think beyond El Hilal and El Merreikh, and look to Europe and elsewhere to gain more experience and exposure, which will make the national teams stronger.

Source: Confederation Africaine de Football

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