Ghana’s dream of ending their 37 years trophyless campaign at the Africa Cup of Nations was truncated on Monday by Tunisia, a side many felt was not carved to beat the Black Stars.
After a pulsating 1-1 stalemate, the Black Stars lost 5-4 through the lottery of penalty kicks to the Carthage Eagles at the Ismailia Stadium to continue their winless run at the venue.
Ghana, and for that matter, the Black Stars have never won a game at the Ismailia Stadium and that continued on Monday.
For many Ghanaians, the team was not carved for the trophy but for the optimists, the time was now or never.
The President Nana Akufo-Addo, the Sports Ministry and the Ghana FA Normalization Committee put in place all the necessary apparatus to enable the team win the trophy.
A meeting at the presidency, followed by a presidential dinner, capped with a three-week training tour in Dubai plus a sumptuous financial package for the team just to ensure the wait is over, all went out of the window.
Of course, it was termed the ‘Presidential Project’ but the project never saw the light of day. In actual fact, the project turned into a mirage and a huge embarrassment for Ghana and for the first time in 11 years, Ghana could not make it to the semis of the AFCON.
But realistically, were the Black Stars really ready for the trophy? Did events ahead of the tournament show that Ghana was ending the 37 years wait?
FootballMadeInGhana.com has identified some key reasons for Ghana’s poor show at the tournament and the embarrassment it came with.
1. NPP vs NDC
This may sound a bit controversial but truth be told, the politicisation of the national team has turned some Ghanaians into strong doomsayers for political reasons. And this did not start today. It started in 2015 when NPP sympathisers and top officials were publicly politicising the Black Stars’ failure to win the AFCON. The trend was the same in 2017 when NDC sympathisers and officials also did same to the NPP government when Ghana failed to reach the finals in Gabon, and the posture of Nana Akufo-Addo was a pictorial nomenclature of how we have allowed politics to seep deep into our football. If the NPP and NDC will not support each other to help the Black Stars succeed because of settling political scores, then we must,as a country, forget about the trophy for now.
2. The Anas Exposé
For the wise and intelligent, for the visionary and for the religious football people who understand the dynamics of the game and for the players, it is obvious that Ghana is suffering from the remnants of the Anas Exposé. During the Women’s AFCON in Ghana last year, Ghana suffered serious refereeing decisions during our clash with Mali in the last group game and for the first time in so many years, Ghana couldn’t even March out of the group stage. Fans started shouting the name of Kwesi Nyantakyi, casting aspersions and curses on Anas for destroying Ghana football in the name of investigation. Of course many people still applaud Anas for his dramatic investigation, but there are extremely greater number of people who have regretted what he staged. While on TV during the Women’s AFCON, I mentioned how hard officiating will turn into Ghana’s direction following the Exposé and a top referee on the continent sent me a message telling me Ghana must prepare for the worse when it comes to officiating. The embarrassment Anas forced referees into, all over the world, forcing FIFA to even limit African referees in major tournaments will be paid for by our national teams. Are you aware that not a single Ghanaian referee was invited for the #AFCON2019? Well, Ghanaian referees, according to Anas, are bribe takers and these are some of the repercussions. Players get frustrated with refereeing decisions on the field but they helplessly look on. Take it or leave it, the Anas Exposé is sending Ghana football two decades back. SAD!
3. Kwasi Appiah vs Maxwell Konadu and Ismail Hamidu
With just three months to the #TotalAFCON2019, Coach Kwasi Appiah called for the sacking of his 2nd assistant coach Maxwell Konadu and the Equipment Officer Ismail Hamidu for reasons better known to him. A deep throat source disclosed that Appiah took the decision because he considered the two as allies of embattled Kwesi Nyantakyi and will not spiritually support the team to succeed. Meanwhile, the two were part of the team when they played all the qualifying matches. The decision rocked confusion in the Black Stars with some of the players becoming very unhappy. Maxwell and Ismail, obviously had friends in the playing body and surely, they were all embittered. The unity of the team started crumbling at that point. Some of the players called me to ask the reason for that action and you could clearly see how unhappy they were. Insiders say some top government officials tried to speak to Kwasi Appiah to change the decision even before it was announced and he said, ‘If you force the two on me, I’ll resign.” The decision was not the best and obviously took some mojo from the team.
4. The captaincy row (Andre Ayew vs Asamoah Gyan)
It was not just a decision but a war, an endless war to an end. The decision to take the arm band from Gyan and give it to Dede was not handled well in my opinion and further worsened the disunity in the team. The press statement by Gyan announcing his decision to quit the national team epitomized his real feeling and just as he said in his statement that he can’t be in the team while another player becomes the skipper, Gyan meant it. Following his return and as human as he is, he looked lively, tried unifying the team, brought the players together, sung, danced and did everything, but you can never know what’s in a man’s head. That decision by Coach Kwasi Appiah rocked the boat leaving Andre Ayew with much more responsibilities than we all expected. The seeming camps in the team further grew and the disunity among the players swelled further. The players – Gyan and Dede – may have tried their best to patch the team together for the tournament but the magical unity the team needed for the AFCON was blown into the Mediterranean Sea the very moment the captaincy decision was announced and the subsequent statement by Gyan. At least, it could have been managed better.
5. The sting operation against Kwesi Nyantakyi
Ghana has never, in the history of our football, had an FA President like Kwesi Nyantakyi considering his achievements with the country’s football and his personal achievement as a football administrator. A step away from becoming the CAF President and inching closer to the FIFA seat, a sting operation led by some known former football administrators with overwhelming support from some journalists, truncated the dream of Nyantakyi and the larger vision of Ghana. The operation is what has led Ghana to where our football is today. Many Ghanaians, especially those in high positions and those closer to Kwesi Nyantakyi are overly embittered and still hold bitterness towards the country’s football. Apart from his influential role as a CAF Executive and a FIFA Council member which was an embodiment of solidification and consolidation of the continent’s football, Nyantakyi’s experience was the boat on which Ghana football was sailing. Pulling the man down because of the selfish interest of a few greedy individuals, the repercussions shall be hugely demning. The outcome of what happened in Egypt is just a sign of the collapse of Ghana football. Many believe that even if Kwesi Nyantakyi was no more needed in Ghana football, the way and manner he was disgraced and brought down will have grave effects on the country’s football. And the result in Egypt is just an iota of what Ghana is yet to confront.
6. The hypocrisy within the Ghanaian sports media
A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. The level of hypocrisy demonstrated by the Ghanaian sports media is not just amazing by completely shocking and eye-popping. Media personnel who had consistently run down the Black Stars, questioned their loyalty and patriotism for the national team, and branded players as money conscious, turned into praise singers who saw nothing wrong with the $10k winning bonus promised the Black Stars by President Nana Akufo-Addo. These same journalists blamed the previous administration led by Kwesi Nyantakyi for paying even $5k as winning bonus for the same team, branding Black Stars players as money conscious players whose interest was only on the money they will make and not for the interest of the state. How these same journalists turned blind eyes towards the $10k promised the team and pretended all was well left the international media and the few genuine Ghanaians completely flummoxed and flabbergasted. The hypocritical posture of the Ghanaian sports media demonstrated clearly that hate and envy was the reason they kept branding players unpatriotic and not because they were genuine in their submissions. With these people around the team, the playing body became completely angry seeing these people around the team. If $5k was too much two or three years ago, how come $10k is hailed by the same people? Well, wherever a hypocrite is found, progress is bull or limited.
Clearly, Ghana’s dream was not going to be realised and the signs were all over the walls.