Meet Ghana’s coaching talent set to become new Black Stars assistant coach Ibrahim Tanko will soon be named assistant coach of the Black Stars of Ghana
He only got three games, all as a late substitute, barely seeing substantial minutes.
But Ibrahim Tanko will always thank his lucky stars for those appearances, every second that constituted them – for it gave him perhaps the biggest honour of a playing career that was largely underwhelming.
It was during the 1996/97 UEFA Champions League season. German club Borussia Dortmund, under the guidance of legendary coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, staged a spirited run that saw them win the world’s most prestigious club competition for the first time in their history.
This meant that their 20-year-old Ghanaian striker Ibrahim Tanko had found himself with an enviable winners medal, thanks to those three games.
Today, that medal remains one of the heaviest details on the C.V of Tanko, who according to sources will soon be named the assistant coach of Ghana’s national team, the Black Stars.
Sources tell Pulse.com.gh that Tanko met returnee Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah in Accra on Wednesday to discuss how the pair would work together.
It is set to be a return home for a man who left Ghana in 1994 as a teenager in search of glory and fame.
Ibrahim Tanko was born in Kumasi on July 27, 1977.
His career began at Kumasi-based King Faisal in Ghana, owned by the controversial administrator Alhaji Karim Grunzah.
He later became one of the illustrious products of Faisal – another being being UEFA-Champions League-winning Samuel Osei Kuffour of Bayern Munich fame – when he landed an early career transfer to Europe in 1994.
As a baby-faced 17-year-old, he arrived in Germany, signing for Dortmund. He made his debut on September 24 of that year, making him the third youngest player to play for the Black and Yellows after Nuri Sahin (August 2005, aged 16) and Lars Ricken (March 1994, aged 17).
However, he would fail to live up to his promise. A combination of chronic injuries – causing and lack of form and consistency – as well as a drug scandal in between (he once tested positive for cannabis) saw him struggle to get games.
In fact, following seven long years, BVB had to release him in 2001 after he had made just three appearances in his last three seasons, spending most of his time with the club’s B-team.
Efforts to revive his career at Freiburg – where he signed in 2001 – proved futile. Despite seeing an over a hundred percent increase in number of appearances in comparison to his time at Dortmund, he found the net just five times and retired in 2007 aged 30, amid injuries.
But a subsequent career in coaching would see him make strides to make up for his lack of lack as a player.
His managerial career began at Freiburg, soon after hanging his boots, where he started out coaching the club’s youth team as well assisting the reserves.
Freiburg coach Volke Finke, under whom Tanko had played for six years, saw some talent in the young Ghanaian, and when the veteran German trainer got a job offer from the Japanese League’s Urawa Red Diamonds in 2009, he took Tanko along to go assist him.
Finke, who coached Freiburg for 16 years, was actually the one who personally scouted and offered Tanko a way out of Dortmund during his difficult last few years at North Rhine-Westphalia. “He decided to come and buy me from Dortmund and we had a lot of discussions from which I saw him as an honest man,” Tanko told Ghanasoccernet in 2014. “I think we love each other because during my playing days he was like a father to me and he likes my character and all that.”
The bromance between Finke and Tanko – master and apprentice, father and son – would continue blossom, with the pair moving together to FC Koln a year later, where Finke started out as Director of Football before assuming the coaching job on an interim basis, using Tanko as his assistant. This made the Ghanaian the first black coach in the Bundesliga, just over 50 years after his compatriot, the great Charles Kumi ‘C.K’ Gyamfi, became the first black player to play professionally in Germany.
And, when Finke successfully landed a role to coach five-time African champions Cameroon in 2013, he stuck with Tanko, naming him as his deputy once again. The pair managed Cameroon at the 2014 World Cup, with Tanko continuing to amass valuable experience and education.
Now, Tanko – who has been continuing his coaching education on the low following the sacking of Finke in October 2015 – will be coming into a job that takes him a step closer to a dream. “If there is any vacancy and I am also free, then why not?” he said of a coaching role with his motherland. “I am a Ghanaian and I would love to coach my country.”
And he is no stranger to the national team: He featured nine times for the Black Stars during his playing career. He also served as a chief scout for the team during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Tanko has spoken of his belief that the years understudying Finke – which he likens to the relationship between German coaches Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Lowe – would be defining to his potential success as a coach. “When Klinsmann left, Low took over (the German national team) and we all saw his success. The only thing is that I have to learn a lot from him (Finke) because he is one of the best coaches in the world,” he opined.
Tanko, who will turn 40 in July, will hope his imminent job would be the last of his stints acting as an apprentice: the penultimate step towards finally becoming a master, a man of his own at the top of the chain, in the near future.