As a Ghanaian and a proud supporter of the Black Stars, I was more than happy when the national team qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the second time. The first was in Germany 2006. It was not just the second appearance at the world fiesta that got me excited but the fact that Ghana was going to be part of history- joining thirty-one other countries for the first world cup to be hosted on African soil.
Ghana was the first country to achieve independence from the colonial masters paving way for the liberation of the whole continent. So it was not surprising when the country again became the first African country to book a slot at the 2010 world cup. South Africa as host of the tournament were automatically qualified. So the countdown began.
As far as I know every team has one coach, an assistant as well as some technical experts who also assist . But hey not in Ghana; in that West African country everyone is a coach so that means there is one national Senior football team and about twenty-eight million coaches. Tune in to any radio or fm station before or after a match and you will know am not exaggerating at all. This is one country where the passion for football supersedes political, religious ethnic and social interests.
As a matter of fact concerns were many and varied about the choice of players Ghana was sending to the World cup after many key players including Michael Essien were on injury list and could not even feature in the African Cup of Nations earlier this year in Angola.
Ghanaians were therefore skeptical about the chances of the team progressing beyond the group stages especially when it was the wish of many that the team improves on their performance in Germany. They were able to reach the one-sixteenth stage of the 2006 tournament.
Six African teams-host South Africa, Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria , Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana represented the continent at the 2010 tournament. As a Journalist in South Africa for the world cup, I took interest in sport programmes on the various television networks. Listening to some Sports analysts and experts, it was clear Ghana was not a favourite in the tournament compared to the other African teams. Winning the first group match against Serbia was not enough to erase the negative perception these so called sports analyst had about Ghana. What is interesting is that these sports analysts are Africans and as human beings have their favourite teams be they good or not. Well that is their right. But what I kept asking myself was ; where were these sports analysts when Ghana, with a very weak team beat some of these great African sides to reach the finals of Angola 2010? Luck in Angola you may want to call it , if so then luck can again be the portion of the Ghanaian side in South Africa.
BLACK STARS-BAGHANA BAGHANA
After two weeks of thrilling soccer action in twelve stadiums across South Africa, the boys have been separated from the men. The best teams are still in the game. And the only one team left from Africa is Ghana, now nicknamed BAGHANA BAGHANA –coined from BAFANA BAFANA- the name for the national team of South Africa and GHANA.
Reaching the quarter finals stage of the tournament is the first for the country and the third for Africa after Cameron in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. Expectations before even the tournamnet kicked off were that , the six African teams will make a statement for the continent in the first World cup in Africa. But disappointment proved to be a function of expectations after the other five African teams including the host had to exit so early from the tournament. Kudos- they did their part and especially for South Africa for hosting the whole world.
Now Ghana remains the only African side carrying on her shoulder the hopes of the whole continent and perhaps other soccer loving fans across the globe.
HOPE OF AFRICA
Uraguay, a nation steeped in football history is no doubt a strong team also having won the world cup twice. Coach of Ghana Milovan Rajevac has confirmed the game with the South American side will be the toughest but he has faith in his boys. Having to deal with injury in Camp at Rustenburg and loosing two other key players- Jonathan Mensah and Dede Ayew to one match suspension by FIFA, the task on Friday will certainly be a daunting one.
Now the question I keep asking myself is – Will Ghana break the record set by Cameroon and Senegal on Friday by going to the semis. Can they live up to their new title as the “Hope of Africa’’ and Can they make Africa and the rest of the world proud at the end of the tournament ? I believe time will tell . Meanwhile I wish the STARS the best of luck in their next encounter.