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AVRAM GRANT AS GHANA’S TECHNICAL ADVISER

AVRAM GRANT AS GHANA’S TECHNICAL ADVISER

59- year old Avram Grant did sign a  27  month deal last week to thinker the Black Stars of Ghana to football glory, beginning with the forthcoming African Cup of Nations tournament in Equatorial Guinea next January.

Grant took over from Maxwell Konadu who had been temporarily in charge of the Black Stars since the exit of Kwesi Appiah last September.

Grant is lucky.  He has less than six weeks to prepare the Black Stars for Equatorial Guinea.  That leaves him with an opportunity to come up with excuses in the event of a failure.

Not just that.  The Ghana Football Association (GFA) gave him a very loose target of “doing well” at Equatorial Guinea.  Winning the cup was not a condition.

Kwesi Nyantekyie, president of the GFA, told BBC sports last week that it would be unfair to ask a coach appointed only one month to a tournament to win the trophy.

“But he must do well,” Kwesi argued.   “Then, the FA will assess his performance after the African Nations’ cup and determine whether he has done well or not.”

Ghanaian football, no doubt, requires a push-up.  Clearly, Grant looks like the solution.  In all of its existence, Ghana has had a total of 32 coaches who handled the Black Stars, her senior national team.   Among these had been three indigenous coaches who functioned as caretaker.  Of all these, none had been able to satisfy the teeming Ghanaian football community.   And to quench this taste, successive boards of the GFA have continued to search for a solution.

Without doubt, the current experiment with Avram Grant appears to be worthwhile.  Grant is a motivator.  And an organizer. The GRA president accepted that much.  Among other things, Kwesi said Ghanaian professional players had been their bane because of their stature in world football.

“We needed someone with a certain stature or pedigree who can manage the egos of our players as well as their expectations and those of the entire Ghanaian people,” Kwesi said.

“Grant has managed a lot of top-class players, and coping with high profile players has been the bane of many African coaches.  We believe Grant’s quality will turn things around for us.”

Between January 17 and February 8 next year, when the African Cup of Nations tournament is scheduled to be decided, Ghana will have learnt whatever lessons she expects to learn about her new coach.

Born 6th February, 1995, Avram Grant, an Israeli, has spent majority of his career coaching and managing    clubs in Israel.  Within this period, he won a number of national league and cup victories.  His name  Avram- is a short form for “Avraham,” meaning Abraham in his native language.

Of all he did at the teething stage of his career, Avram Grant’s genuine fame began with his appointment as head coach of the Israeli national team in 2002.

His organizational ability as the head coach of Israel, soon catapulted him to England in 2006 where he became manager of Portsmouth Football Club before assuming another appointment as Director of Football at Chelsea in July 2007.

Two months later, in September, 2007, Grant became manager of Chelsea following the departure of Jose Mourinho from the English Club.

Despite steering Chelsea into that year’s Champions League final, the League Cup final and seriously vying for the English Premiership   titled till the final day, his contract was terminated at the end of that season!

Grant returned to Portsmouth, again as Director of Football in October 2009 and like the case of Chelsea was made manager the following month.  But he resigned after Portsmouth was relegated to the Football League.

However, he was appointed manager of West Ham United on June 3, 2010, a role he played until May 15, 2011 before he was again sacked after West Ham was relegated.

On January 13, 2012, Avra Grant was named new manager of Partizan Belgrade, Serbia. But after guiding Partizan to their fifth consecutive Serbia Championship victory, Grant resigned on Ma, 14 2012.

Known in Israel for encouraging young players in every club he handled,  Avram Grant was absolutely very popular among Israeli players.  Ai Nimni, Itzik Zohar, Gal Alberman, goalkeeper Raffi Cohen were young players who blossomed under Grant.  These were boys who were not given any chance of making it through football in Israel. Their successes, among others, made Grant one of the most successful coaches in Israel till this day.

Grant had initial difficulties when he stepped into England.   A personal friend of Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, Avram was appointed director of football at Chelsea on July 8, 2007 and took up the manager’s role after Mourinho left on September 20, 2007.  Steve Clarke and later, Henkten Cate assisted him. He was the first Israeli to manage an English club.

Born in a community called Petah Tikva, his father’s name was Meir Granat, who himself was born in Poland.  The confusion following the period led to the deportation of Granat to Kolyma, Siberia during the 2nd World war.  Most of Grant’s family died in that Holocaust and he physically buried his parents, brothers and sisters with his own hands.  His mother, Aliza Nisan, was an Iraqi Jewish immigrant who met Meir in Petah Tikva.

Grant is married to an Israeli TV personality Tzufit Grant, with a son and a daughter. His professional coaching career started at the age of 18 in 1972 as youth coach of his home side, Hapoel Petah Tikva. After a 14 year spell, he was promoted to first team coach and led the club to two cup victories in 1990 and 1991. Those victories brought the club back to the top of Israeli football after 25 years.

Grant was employed by Maccabi Tel Aviv after this feat, winning the LIga Leumit (then the Israeli top division) in his first season with a 13 point gap over the 2nd placed team.  Maccabi however, lost out closely in the final of the Israeli Cup and was thus, denied a   historic double that year.

However, they won the cup the following year in 1994, followed by another championship victory in 1995, all under Avram Grant.

Following these achievements,  Avram Grant moved to Hapoel Haifa for what has been described as a  short and unsuccessful spell, finishing fourth in the Israeli championship.  Not given to failure, he immediately returned to Maccabi Tel Aviv between 1997 and 2000 but again met a less successful spell.

He then moved to Maccabi Haifa in 2000 where he made his career great successes, winning the Israeli Premier League in 2001 and 2002 as well as the Toto Cup in 2002.

In 2001, he took Haifa to the UEFA Champions League second round, beating Finnish side, FC Haka on a (5 -0) aggregate win.  But despite winning both legs (1 -0 and 4  0), Maccabi Haifa did not progress further. The use of Walid Badir as a substitute in the dying minutes of the second half of that match while under suspension caused Haifa’s disqualification on ground of “culpable negligence.”

Nevertheless, Grants exploits earned him a lot of respect in Israeli football and by 2002, became the youngest coach to handle the Israeli national side, replacing former Denmark Coach, Richard Moller Nielsen.

He took Israeli to the Group 1 of the UEFA Euro 2004 qualifying round but finished third    and so failed to participate in the finals in Portugal.

Although, they did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Israel finished third in their qualifying group behind winners, France and runners up, Switzerland.

It is however, interesting that despite his exploits in football, Avram Grant did not hold the required top-flight certificate from UEFA when he took the helm of affairs in Chelsea.   In fact, he did not have the UEFA “B” and “A” level coaching certificates in Europe at that time.

Many Chelsea fans protested his appointment and bemoaned the departure of Mourinho, brandishing banners at games which read: “Mourinho The Special One” Some chanted pro-Morinho songs.  His presence clearly became a distraction.  But many of Chelsea’s fans felt they had a point citing his “lack of expertise at the highest level of football and lack of a   formal UEFA qualification as a manager.

Several unnamed Chelsea players were quoted as saying that Grant’s methods were “25 years behind the times” and “Chelsea deserve a bigger coach than him.”

Avram Grant played his first game only three days after taking the manager’s role, losing 0 -2 to Manchester United on September 20, 2006.  But at his first UEFA Champions League match, he led Chelsea to a 2 -1 away win a over Valencia.

There was no going back for Avram Grant after this.  In fact, he led Chelsea to register a 16 game unbeaten run under one of which was a 6 -0 white-wash of Manchester city. He was subsequently offered a 4 year contract in December, 2007.

The rest of his exploits within this contract is now history.  But it is imperative to mention that he has a record of not losing a single home match during his tenure just like his predecessor,  Mourinho.  Sadly, at 6pm on May 24, 2008, Chelsea announced the termination of Avram Grant’s contract.

Team                                     From     To

Hopoel Petah Tikva         1986       1991

Maccabi Tel Aviv               1991       1995

Hopoel Haifa                      1995       1996

Maccabi Tel Aviv               1996       2000

Maccabi Haifa                    2000       2002

Israeli Nat. Team              2002       2005

Chelsea                                2007       2008

Portsmouth                        2009       2010

West Ham United            2010       2011

Partizan Belgrade             2012       May 2012

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