Why Naked Ghana Missed The Russia Party

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About a decade and a half ago, Ghana was in a sporting mess. The utter stench that had bounded the nation’s football had suffocated the buzz out of virtually every fan in the country. The appetite of the Ghanaian populace had been marred by the jaw-dropping turn of events within the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and the Black Stars being at the center of it all had become the bitter talking point of scorn.

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Yet another FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign had commenced and the BlackStars had wrong-footed in their opening fixture against Burkina-Faso in a mockery of a game that justly drew the harshest of criticisms from the general public.The Blackstars lost that opening qualifying game by a lone goal after a holey performance by the comical national team huffing and puffing in that cold night in Ouagadougou as adismayed nation watched in puzzle.

Ghana, an intimidating name in continental football with successes across virtually all levels of the international game had never showed its fine face on the most coveted platforms of all global football. This flamboyantly gifted West African football talent hub had never been able to ramble its way to compete at the biggest stage of all, that is, the FIFA world Cup.

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There had not been any FIFA Worldcup where the national anthem of Ghana was heard and yet we beat our chests with pride as four-time African champions with top players, playing in high level European clubs with virtually nothing to show as national service. Joying in past glories and singing the praises of years long gone had become the resort of comfort to many Ghanaians.

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The gifted West-African country,often touted as the true footballing “originals” of Africa had never been to any FIFA worldcup, right from the enthusiastic days of Nkrumah ,through the shaky coup-laden days after his overthrow to the charismatic era of Jerry Rawlings, all the Ghanaian populace knew to do was to throw their weight behind another African country, praying and wishing that that nation does well to prove to the rest of the world that Africans  can play some football too.

 

We sat behind the screens of our televisions, swallowed inanxiety, taking our blood pressures to different heights and lows just to see another African country carry the entire weight of expectation of the continent on its shoulders only to collapse under the pressure and return home empty handed and touching their sores.

 

This defeatist mentality had established itself with an inglorious school of thought that the BlackStars were cursed and Ghana would NEVER go to a worldCup till Jesus comes. The imaginary curse thrived and flourished in the minds of many Ghanaian football fans who did not only watch with scorn as the Blackstars kept failing and failing and on the sly hoped that the team would miss the mark so they could mount up missiles of accusation on football administrators in the country and arrogant foreign-based footballers who showed a lack of passion to play for the motherland.

 

However, a sudden twist to theemerged when Ghana finally qualified for the first time to the WorldCup in October 2005, itsoon felt like a different sun had arisen over the country.For a couple of days it seemed the skies were brighter and the Ghanaian air felt fresher. Everybody seemed happier and the national spirit was awakened. Economic troubles were brushed aside as a sense of merriment enveloped the land.

 

The national team players were for those following months seenin almost the same light as the heroes of our independence struggle. We were liberated from the bleakness and we were heading to the worldcup in Germany to show the rest of the world how to play football the Ghanaian way!

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And so it was! The team so impressed at the2006 worldcup in Germany that when we played against world champions Brazil in the knockout rounds it felt like the rest of the watching world was rooting for the BlackStars.

The national team followed it up with an even more glorious performance four years later at the 2010 Worldcup in South Africa when we were one well -struck penalty kick away from reaching the semi-finals with just a few seconds left in that pulsating encounter with Uruguay that Ghanaians hate to remember.

 

Then it all started to collapse at the Brazil world cup in 2014, where rumors of financial misappropriations, player payment disputes and alleged behind-the-scene scandals crowned shamefully with the flying of solid cash to pay players  before the full glare of the world as Black Star players were seen in pictures kissing and fondling dollar notes after insisting they were not going to play their third group match against Portugal if they were not given the monies promised them by authorities,only to go and lose that same match. People began to withdraw their affection for the national team and the adoration the team was enjoying was thrown to the dogs.

 

That should have provided enough thoughtfulness to the handlers of Ghana football and a sure wake up call for proper housecleaning and shaping up for the next World cup in Russia but the GFA as if under a spell kept laboring to lose their public trust in great hurry.

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Unlike what Zambia did when they appointed HerveReinhard, an industrious tactically upright coach filled with the hunger of determination and pure heat to succeed, andthus, winning the African Cup Of Nations for them,Nyantakyi and his men opted for AvramGrant, a man from the old school of coaching who might have been thinking of retirement. He led Ghana through a boring qualifying series and Egypt won the ticket to Russia ahead of the black stars. Then he decided to leave for a job elsewhere.

Complacency had reared its head into the camp of the national team and some top performers assumed the World cup was now their birthright and they expected their half-baked performances to compensate for the ill preparations to their matches. Even the petty jealousies within the team were gaining public notice and the public relations wall that had shielded the team for years was now permeable.

Instead of presiding properly over efforts to redeem the image of the Black stars the GFA was distracted by ambitions of its leaders to rise to prominence within FIFA and choked by external affairs and infightings.   Biting more than they could sometimes chew, attention was shifted more towards football politics than the actual playing of the game on the pitch. Ghana’s world cup qualifiers were affected massively by this.

Football is a massive cash cow for many nations. It is a very commercial sport with massive income boosting potential. The world cup single-handedly has the power to market a state and attract amazing levels of tourism to it. Its voice across the globe is so loud and emphatic. Missing out on any world cup when a nation has the capability to do so, like Ghana was certainly not a matter to dance about.

And so it was! The team so impressed at the2006 worldcup in Germany that when we played against world champions Brazil in the knockout rounds it felt like the rest of the watcGhana football and a sure wake up call for proper housecleaning and shaping up for the next World cup in Russia but the GFA as if under a spell kept laboring to lose their public trust in great hurry.

Image result for ghana black stars

Unlike what Zambia did when they appointed HerveReinhard, an industrious tactically upright coach filled with the hunger of determination and pure heat to succeed, andthus, winning the African Cup Of Nations for them,Nyantakyi and his men opted for AvramGrant, a man from the old school of coaching who might have been thinking of retirement. He led Ghana through a boring qualifying series and Egypt won the ticket to Russia ahead of the black stars. Then he decided to leave for a job elsewhere.

Complacency had reared its head into the camp of the national team and some top performers assumed the World cup was now their birthright and they expected their half-baked performances to compensate for the ill preparations to their matches. Even the petty jealousies within the team were gaining public notice and the public relations wall that had shielded the team for years was now permeable.

Instead of presiding properly over efforts to redeem the image of the Black stars the GFA was distracted by ambitions of its leaders to rise to prominence within FIFA and choked by external affairs and infightings.   Biting more than they could sometimes chew, attention was shifted more towards football politics than the actual playing of the game on the pitch. Ghana’s world cup qualifiers were affected massively by this.

Football is a massive cash cow for many nations. It is a very commercial sport with massive income boosting potential. The world cup single-handedly has the power to market a state and attract amazing levels of tourism to it. Its voice across the globe is so loud and emphatic. Missing out on the world cup when a we had the potential to be there was no a matter to dance about.

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