“My secret is that I use vegebom before and after each match and training session” (Abedi Ayew Pele, Skipper of the Black Stars of Ghana at Senegal 92)
Yes! The true Ghanaian could never afford to blink an eye in the 90s whenever they chanced on both live and dead telecast football matches between the Black Stars of Ghana and any of their African country opponents in football. And oh, Nigeria was Ghana’s bitterest rival on the pitch and certainly the Ghanaian could be seen beating their chests and holding their heads up with glittering eyes to depict how proud it felt being Ghanaian in those days.
From goalkeeping through defence to midfield and ultimately attack departments of the field, you bet your favourite fufu and light/ palm nuts soup was safe. There surely was no cause for alarm as to what would become of one’s breakfast, lunch and supper. You already had the confidence that no matter the battle grounds for the match, the good old Ghana Black Stars would give you the cause to smile even if a win or draw was a tall order.
The passion and the zeal to keep one’s love for the team afloat certainly knew no bound. The likes of Eddy Ansah, Tony Baffoe, Isaac Asare, Ali Ibrahim, Emmanuel Armah “Senegal” Sam Johnson, Anthony Yeboah, Maestro Abedi Pele Ayew and the rest of the team inspired hopes of victory at the end of the day. Character interspersed with antics domineered boyish play and we laughed out loud.
Those were the days when we trekked three to seven kilometres to feast our wearied eyes on black and white screens just so we could catch glimpses of what football really meant. Even from our homes, more than a million miles away, the entirety of Ghana’s population could be felt in the stands of the Cairo City stadium chanting “Go Black Stars go and get Ghana gold”. The euphoric chants were simply no cacophony.
It was indeed the whole Ghana at play and not just some selected few representing and lifting high the red, gold with black star and green colours flag. We cheered, danced and celebrated the wins, and cried blood together in response to the outcome of our collective play.
It was obvious that no one person or groups of so-called football administrators had full control or influence over the team’s selection except the Coach and his technical team. So we collectively availed ourselves as a nation for the blame when things went awry.
Then came the millennium era. Sweet Jesus…things began falling apart and sadly the centre danced to the whoosh wash tune. Times became muddy for the entire team to the point that the so much adored Black Stars couldn’t even qualify for the 2004 Afcon. The cause of the woes? Your guess is as good as that of the gods…only heavens can tell the secrets behind the falls.
But from the grapevines, a certain ugly head called personal interest began to have the greatest of bites of the pieces that constituted the Black Stars of Ghana Team. People began forming cartels to control the ins and outs of the team. Who got the chance to be called to don the erstwhile all yellow decorated with the colours of Ghana’s flag was reduced to who knew who and how much a player – good or bad was ready to part with for inclusion.
People cursed and wished that Ghana never got back to its feet with the team called Black Stars since they were the truest definition of waste of tax payers’ money. ‘Moneycracy’ had won the day over meritocracy and quality of representation. Then came the late 2000s when Ghana had the chance to host the African Cup of Nations around 2008. The good people of Ghana out of love for the game prayed and hoped for some magic moments for the team.
And oh! the heavens listened and smiled at us, and assuredly there emerged another breed of committed, talented and ready to die a little for the nation crop of players… The days of Richard “Olele” Kingston, Sammy Osei Kufour, Hans Sapei, John Paintsil, John Mensah, Anthony Anan, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, El-Capitano Stephen Appiah, Asamoah Gyan “Baby Jet” etcetera finally arrived. And they indeed brought back to us the magic of the bright shining stars that have always been black. Football pundits the world over couldn’t help it but fall back in love with Ghana.
Of course, at the 2010 world cup in South Africa, the boys glittered to the admiration of football enthusiasts and even the indifferent. But for poor officiating during the quarter final match between the Uruguayan National Team and our once upon a time Shinning Black Stars, the brand, Ghana, would have been etched in gold today at the senior national team level globally. The spirited performances by the likes of Kingston, Kufuor, Paintsil, John Mensah, Afful, Appiah, Dede, Sulley, Wakaso, Gyan got the whole Ghana throwing an unflinching support behind Team Ghana at the South Africa 2010 mundial.
The unthinkable odd began to reel its bald and yet so ugly head into our so much cherished Senior Male National team. The sense of personal interests by the so called football administrators at the time was underestimated and certainly given a dog’s chance to cause us the heftiest blow ever, something the good people of Ghana, especially football lovers are yet to recover from after a decade of complete disaffection for what used to be touted the number one unifying force for the politically polarized Ghana.
The foremost interest in this piece is an assessment of the causes of our football woes thus far. Why are our stars not shinning any longer both in international and friendly matches?
Could it be that our local league isn’t a force to reckon with in terms of its organisation such that it is unable to churn out good enough materials for inclusion in the national team for assignments in which we can pride ourselves?
Or could it be that Ghana’s over 30 million population isn’t really interested in having successive governments investing in hunting for real talents and harnessing their potentials through the provision of the necessary sporting facilities/logistics and motivational packages as would make them powerhouse enough to be fit for purpose?
Or maybe, just maybe, we simply aren’t having the right individuals with the right mindsets to manage what makes us a people united for a common course for our mutual benefits?
Could it as well be as a result of the over pampering of the privileged few who get to be in the helm of affairs technically and don the national colours whose inclusion have been unanimously agreed by the good people of Ghana as being the resultant effects of personal interests of the powers that be in football administration of our beloved Ghana?
Back to history
A retrospective glance at the historical commentaries by soccer analysts pushes oneself into a make believe circles that reflect a Ghana beyond aid in football so far as talent is the point of interest. One then wonders what the devil in the details could be.
It is, indeed, high time we got serious with football administration in Ghana if we really want to get back to the winning ways our Senior National Male Team used to be known for and equally get the good people of Ghana glory along.
Our sister most country, Nigeria, was once hit by the blows of incompetence in the soccer terrain not too long ago. They did a very deep and credible introspection. They did the needful, the effect of their bold decision and subsequent action is what we are seeing today at the ongoing AFCON in Cameroon. There is nothing late in this life if Ghana as a country really mean business with our irreplaceable football sport.