View Full Version : EXCLUSIVE John Paintsil interview: “I want Rajevac to stay”

Pope Bitterz D'Alomo
29th July 2010, 01:12 AM
After the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Ghana’s players have had time to reflect on everything that happened before and during the tournament. In his first full interview for the web, Black Stars defender John Paintsil sat down with me at his residence and poured his heart out in this very emotional interview.

Gary Al-Smith: Would you say you’ve had a great World Cup?
John Paintsil: Well, if you look at the fact that this is Ghana’s first time in the quarter finals, then yes. But you also have to keep in mind that the whole nation and continent knew we could make it into the semis, so there we didn’t meet our aims.

Before the World Cup, you had fitness issues after an injury against Chelsea last December ruled you out of the Angola Nations’ Cup. Were you scared that you would miss South Africa?
My doctors assured me that I will be ok in time. But yes, I was scared. Because I have played in almost all major tournaments for Ghana since I first started [nine years ago], the thought of missing both Angola and South Africa made me quite nervous.

You did not play very well in the first few games of the World Cup, what went wrong?
I don’t think I did not play well in those games. You know, sometimes players improve as the tournaments progress. In the first game, you play at 60%, then in the second game you have 80%, and then from the third you reach 100% and maintain it. That’s what happened to me. I also had great teammates so I had never felt I was underperforming because we all played for each other.

In the game against Australia, you sustained an injury at the end of the game, what really happened?
I was going for the ball after a cross was coming into the penalty box and unfortunately, I collided with my teammate. My nose started bleeding very badly so I had a little problem with breathing. But I was soon ok after the game.

How would you describe team spirit in camp during the tournament?
It was fantastic! It was like a family because we were all willing to play for each other. Before any game, we all discussed possible strategies and waited for what the coach would tell us to do. When there were no games, we would be together watching the other [World Cup] matches or replays of the old ones or analyzing videos of our next opponents. It has always been like that and I really love the way we relate in the team.
Painstil’s Podolski problem Getty Images

Which player in the World Cup gave you the most problems, and why?
Germany’s Lukas Podolski! He is such a tricky player and technically intelligent too. His movement gives problems because one moment he is front of you and when you are about to close him down, he changes position and goes behind you. The system Germany play at the moment means that they are a very mobile team and you have to be alert to track them down.

What kind of coach is Milovan Rajevac when he is off the pitch? Does he smile, joke…?
Yes, he does. When we are on the field it’s all business but when we finish with matches, he is all smiles and he tries to attend to everyone’s problems. He is a strict guy, but he is friendly too. Sometimes he would pinch and hit your head and try to make fun of us and crack jokes.

What did Rajevac get right in order to get Ghana into the quarterfinals for the first time?
He really knew what he was about and paid attention to every detail. Nothing was taken for granted. He also demanded total concentration from his players. If you did not do what he said and expected to play in his team, forget it. He plotted a system for every game and chose players that could fit into it. I think his discipline was also a key part of why we went so far.

Saluting Soweto: Paintsil wants more Milo moments Getty Images

Do you want Milovan Rajevac to stay?

When I look at some of the decisions he has taken and some of the risks he took that have paid off, I think he is a very good coach. One important thing for me is that he gives chances to young players. The youth are the future so mixing our experience and their energy is something I like. I also think that he has brought us far, so if he wants to stay we should give him the chance to finish what he has started.

In your Black Stars career, you’ve played under expatriates like [Mariano] Barreto, [Claude] LeRoy, Doya [Ratomir Dujkovic] and now Rajevac. Which of them have you most learned from?
I’ve learned a lot from all of them but Milovan is different. He is just different. Sometimes he would tell us to do something that we would not understand immediately but when we go on the field and the game goes on, we quickly realize why he told us to do some things. From my point of view, I have been playing for Ghana for long but I haven’t won major trophies. I think Milo has a very good chance of winning something for Ghana.

When Ghana beat Serbia, he did not celebrate on the field. What was his reaction in the dressing room?
He was happy to win but I really admired the way he was professional. You know in football when players score against their former clubs, they usually do not celebrate as a mark of respect. That’s exactly what he did – he could not laugh and jump after scoring his home country.

Did the Black Stars team ever think there would be problems with Michael Essien’s absence?
Michael is a fantastic player, no two ways about that. He brings so much energy into the team and when we heard that he could not make it, we felt quite unsure about what to expect. But Milo kept telling us that we should believe in ourselves and what we could do. Some of us were not in Angola but the team got to the final. That is why I always say that the World Cup was a real team effort, we stayed together and won games together.

Even without Essien, the team did well for Africa. Why did the other African teams not fare as well as Ghana did?
If you look at Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa they looked stronger than us on paper so I was also surprised they could not go far. Before the World Cup, everyone was saying that this was Africa’s time and I thought so too. I just think the other teams did not play for each other. When you play in tournaments, you must love one another. If you don’t, then you have the case where one player does not want to give the ball to his friend for some reason and in the end, the whole team loses.

Should Africa’s places at the tournament be reduced at the next World Cup in Brazil, considering how poorly we featured in this one?
No I don’t think so. Every continent has a bad World Cup at one time or the other and I think this time Africa also had a poor tournament. I’m sure we’ll do well in the ones that would come. We only have to work on a few things.

What would you do to Luis Suarez if you saw him today?
Nothing. Luis Suarez did what he felt he had to do for his country. I blame the officials, not him. When Suarez used his hand, a goal should’ve been given – not a penalty. When I saw the ref [Olegario Benquerenca] taking out the red card I said ‘Oh no!’ because I felt he should have called it a goal.

Leave the dude alone, please? Getty Images

Would you do what Suarez did?
No. I don’t think Ghanaian players are trained like that. I would not use my hand because it is cheating. Football is about winning fairly and sportsmanship. I would never do that.

When the resulting penalty did not go in what was your reaction?
I was around the center line when Asamoah [Gyan] kicked the penalty. I was very hurt and I was wondering what he was going through. That’s why all the guys quickly went to him to talk to him. Yeah, it was an opportunity. Yeah, we missed it. That’s football.

What do you think of Paul the Octopus?
I don’t know what it does, but I know I only believe in God.

Why do you wear your jersey with one sleeve cut off?
It’s an idea that came to me at the very end of last season at Fulham so I did it once there. Then I decided to really bring it out at the World Cup. It’s just a style and that’s that [smiles].

Interview by Gary Al-Smith