Sports Features of Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Source: Tetteh-Nartey, Enoch
The call from Ghana came at about 5:50pm New York time, about 9:50pm Ghana time. It was Thursday September 5th 2013. The voice was clear and when the caller said Mr. Tetteh-Nartey, I had only one response – Mr. Sikelo.
I was dropping my youngest son off at the Soccer (football) pitch for his twice-a -week training. Mr. Sikelo, one of my in-laws, had made it to Ghana on a chartered flight as part of a Zambian contingent to watch the much anticipated Ghana-Zambia clash in Kumasi.
At the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) he had bought a sim card and was calling almost instantly to inform me of his safe arrival. Days before his trip, I had had apprehensions of the trip to Ghana because of the entire hullabaloo surrounding the impending judgment of the Ghana Supreme Court on the Election Petition. I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to reassure him that all will be well. To make matters worse, Derek Boateng, one of the Ghana national team players, had asked Ghanaians to pay the Zambians back in kind for what he alleged was maltreatment he had suffered at the hands Zambian Police during the last match between Ghana and Zambia in Ndola, in June last year. A YouTube video of the alleged attack was making rounds on the web. I was not a happy camper. I was treated so well in Zambia during my visit this summer by both family and friends that, I wished I was in Ghana to “retaliate” (A la Iddi Amin to the Queen of England). Mr. Sikelo and his friends were staying for just about 48 hours in Ghana and so there was not much time for anything else.
My in-law’s first reaction in Ghana was very positive. The reception at the KIA, according to him, was superb and he was looking forward to his long bus ride from Accra to Kumasi. I kept in touch throughout the night – time being favorable to me here in the United States.
After I picked up my son after training, my wife showed me face book postings including videos of some happenings in Kumasi which did not sit well with me. One of the posting was from a former college colleague of ours in London – a Zambian lady, who was telling my wife to tell me to tell my “people to behave”. I saw a video of the incident outside the Baba Yara Stadium, when the Zambian national team arrived late for their training session and was denied access to the stadium. Joyonline also posted the video online. I was totally confused sent text and e-mail messages to former colleagues in both Ghana and Zambia. The responses were mixed. One thing was certain, something was happening but in the confusion and sensational reporting especially via social media, the truth was difficult to ascertain. A text came from one of my former colleagues in Zambia stating that the Ghana High Commission in Lusaka had given a press briefing providing the Zambian nation with up to date information as to what was actually happening in Ghana. He told me he was relieved, so was I.
On Friday (Sept 6th) morning I got hold of Mr. Sikelo at his hotel and he was not happy about some of the things he had heard from his fellow travelers. Throughout our conversation, he assured me that security around them was very solid. Then his text message came in “We are on our way to the stadium. We will see what happens there.” I wrote back asking about security for his contingent. His response was “Heavy, very heavy like the type provided for foreign dignitaries”. At the stadium he was alarmed that the Zambia supporters were sitting among Ghanaian fans. He reported no incidents, although he was perched in the VIP side of the stadium. He became more relaxed. Apparently everyone was there to enjoy a good game.
The game itself started well and even after Ghana scored, Mr. Sikelo was still hopeful. Then Kwadwo Asamoah’s screamer put a dent in his hopes. His text read “We have been beaten hands down”. Then Zambia pulled one back and it was Ghanaian fans that became jittery. The Zambia pressure was smothered with Essien’s introduction. I got the final text on the game “It’s all over, better luck next time, but I have no regrets coming to Ghana, I have really enjoyed my short stay”
On their way back to Accra, he sent a text message that they were eating fufu with light soup and goat meat and that he was enjoying it so well. His message for my wife was that she should call her younger sister in Zambia (before he got there) and take her through fufu preparing tutorials; otherwise her marriage was in danger. He had to eat fufu from now on. I laughed. Mr. Sikelo had been bitten by the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality bug, crowned with a great Ghanaian meal.
In Accra, he went to a mall to buy some ”Chitenge” (in Zambian parlance Ghanaian textile prints) for family back in Zambia. There wasn’t much time left so he left for the airport. At the airport he called to thank me for “being with him in Ghana” and that he would definitely visit again. I was more than pleased that he enjoyed himself in my home country. He knew he would.
Reporting on the Ghana-Zambia clash was generally fair. The tension surrounding the encounter clouded some of the reporting. Interestingly the Zambia press did not spare the Zambian authorities for the poor travelling arrangements made. While some reported the inability of the Chipolopolo to have a training session as required by FIFA rules, others reported correctly that the team was late to the stadium and that the decision to protest by attempting to do warm drills near the team bus was dangerous and uncalled for as well as provocative. The good news was that, security was very tight around the team at all times. The Ghanaian press did well too, with Myjoynline writing a very interesting piece lace with pictures titled:
When ‘war’ turns love; the fascinating behind-the-scene story of the Ghana-Zambia game.
Messages received from friends and relatives in Zambia after the game were very positive, with best wishes at the next stage of the qualifying series. My household in New York survived the day with little disruption. My daughter as always was neutral – she always supports Switzerland; it doesn’t matter whether Switzerland is playing or not. I had my elder son was on my side – named for my late brother and my younger son supported Zambia – named for my late father –in – law. My wife was happy it was over, she had had enough. All said we survived.
Well, now that we have drawn the mighty Pharaohs of Egypt in the final play offs, Zambia definitely is in our rearview mirror. Our attention has to be on the Egyptians. They will definitely be a bigger and tougher test, especially since the second leg is slated for Cairo.
Enoch Tetteh-Nartey Monroe, New York firstname.lastname@example.org