Mavis Appiah discusses taking the reins of a men's team as a female coach
Aged just 26, she has led DC United to a winning start in Ghana's second tier
Ghana women's team coach Mas-Ud Dramani has been her mentor
Throughout the world, men’s football teams are coached by men and, invariably, women’s teams are also coached by men. Ghana is no exception, though there is one coach who has decided to swim against the tide and, after back-to-back wins to start the season, she has begun impressively.
When the second division resumed in Ghana a couple of weeks ago, Mavis Appiah was standing on the sideline, instructing the players of DC United to stick to her game plan. Just like coaches all over the world do at every football match.
The 26-year-old first joined DC United as assistant coach last year and in 2017 was given the job as head coach of the Sunyani-based club in the Brong Ahafo Region. Despite having studied coaching as part of her BSc degree in Physical Education, which she completed last year at the University of Education, Winneba, and possessing a CAF coaching licence C, Appiah says it was not easy to land the job.
“Here in Ghana you see men coaching men’s football and men coaching women’s football. But I decided to change the trend," she told FIFA.com. "If you want something, you don’t go to where it is easy to obtain it, you go where obtaining it is a challenge. You challenge yourself to the highest level. That is why I wanted to coach a men’s team.”
She obviously did so with some success as officials turned to Appiah and made her an offer when the position became vacant. It was an opportunity she jumped at. “I have always had a passion for football. I started off playing myself, but my father coached at first division level in Ghana, though he never made it to the very top.
"That started an interest in me and I have known for a while, that I wanted to become a coach. I have also been lucky to have worked with some great coaches, especially Mas-Ud Dramani, who is the former Asante Kotoko head coach and is currently in charge of the Ghana women’s team, the Black Queens."
Coaching badges Dramani is also a CAF Senior Coaches Instructor and Assessor and is currently involved in a course taking Ghanaian coaches to CAF B level. One of his students on the course is Appiah, who is keen to constantly upgrade her qualifications and is now aiming to add B level coaching certificate to her CV.
She is grateful to have such an experienced coach in her corner. “Didi Dramani always gives me wisdom and guidance. If I face any challenges in my work, he always helps me out. He will always be my mentor.”
One area where she does not need any help is in communicating with her team. “My players are always listening to whatever instructions I give them and they work accordingly. My players are always ready. They don’t see me as a woman, they see me as a teacher, as a mentor, as a leader. That is how they see me. As far as gender, that does not come into it.”
Appiah is aware that she needs to take on a role with her players that goes beyond the pitch. “They see me as their father, their mother, their parents as a whole. I need to help them develop not only in football, but also in life.”
Changing perceptions The Kumasi-born coach is well on her way towards changing perceptions in Ghana. “Already the other coaches in our division embrace me. They have accepted me as one of their own. They see that I have courage and I have confidence. And that is enough for them.”
Although she knows that she could quite easily get a job coaching a women’s side, she is determined to make her mark in the men’s game. “With the experience I have, I would be able to get many different women’s jobs, but that is not what I am striving for.
“My philosophy has always been to be ambitious and aim for the top. If I do that, I will always be able to hold my head up high.
“We should be able to work and learn from some of the big names in international coaching," continues Appiah. "That would take me a step closer towards the top.”
Having only embarked on her first real coaching steps last year, it would appear that Mavis Appiah has already well on her journey towards the top.