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Sports News of Monday, 18 November 2019


Filled stadium, social media trends; #BringBackTheLove passes first test

Black Stars defeated South Africa 2-0 Black Stars defeated South Africa 2-0

In Egypt and Cape Coast were two Ghanaian coaches battling for their future with their respective teams.

A draw and defeat to Cameroon and Egypt respectively had placed Tanko’s job on the line.

Qualification appeared impossible and Tanko was sooner than later going to join the list of coaches who led Ghana into a tournament and returned in the first round.

An outright sack might not have been on the cards but his status as the next in line for the dream Black Stars job would have been dealt a major blow.

In Ghana, Kwesi Appiah was also facing his first test after a poor 2019 AFCON campaign.

His job has come under intense scrutiny and a defeat or draw against South Africa would have left his job hanging by a thread.

According to an Executive Council member of the GFA, a definite pronouncement will be made on his future after this international break and he passed his first tests excellently.

“We spoke with Kwesi Appiah to find out his problems and how we can help him ahead of the Black Stars games. We did not speak about a new contract or sacking him. He still has two months to go so we assured him of our support. After the two games, we will sit down and decide whether to give him a new deal or not”, he said.

Partey’s long drive and Kudus’ solo goal gave Appiah’s Black Stars a comfortable 2-0 lead, a result that will certainly calms nerves at the seat of government, the place where Kwesi Appiah’s ‘godfathers’ allegedly reside.

But the two coaches were not the only ones facing major tests, the new GFA administration too.

Shortly after their assumption of office the Kurt Okraku-led FA embarked on a campaign to rekindle the interest of Ghanaians in football.

“The idea is to galvanize support for our football as a whole. We are not talking about only the Black Stars but the other teams. Be it the female teams, domestic football teams and other football products. We want to develop passion again”, GFA President Kurt Okraku said at his thanksgiving ceremony”.

A laudable but seemingly unachievable initiative for Kurt and his cohorts. The players’ betrayal of the love of Ghanaians at the 2014 World Cup and the infractions exposed by Anas in his Number 12 documentary had caused irreparable damage to the relationship.

Even before they rolled out their plans some ‘naysayers’ had written them off and ascribed thousands of reasons to why the move will be a flop.

But the FA had something up their sleeve. Beginning with a fierce social media campaign, the #BringBackTheLove extended to the traditional media space and soon caught up with the average Ghanaian.

But there was a bigger problem. Everyone agreed with the concept if Ghanaians were going to fall in love with football once more it had to begin with the very team that stabbed Ghanaians in the back with their obsession with money.

The team had played no game since the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and memories of their uninspiring and drab performance against Tunisia were still fresh on the minds of Ghanaians.

So the healing process had to start with the players. It’s the players who have to appease the fans whom they have over the years let down and it was interesting to note that the players fully appreciated their role in all of this.

"Football is increasingly becoming difficult on the African continent and the qualification process won't be all rosy. We will encounter tough challenges but we are determined to go through them and achieve our objective of qualifying," said Andre Ayew.

"The process begins with South Africa, which won't be an easy game but we are determined to give out our all and start on a very good note," he added.

The qualifier against the Bafana Bafana who stunned host Egypt in the AFCON was going to be crucial in the course to revive interest in Ghana football and the choice of Cape Coast as match venue was a step in the right direction.

There were initial doubts about the Cape Coast stadium but the FA had something up their sleeve. The decision to enhance player-citizen rapport by making stop-overs in some towns on the Accra-Cape Coast stretch and hand out jerseys and other paraphernalia to the people were all good.

Visiting the campus of Cape Coast University to interact with fans and subsidizing ticket prizes to allow as many supporters as possible to watch the game were commendable decisions that paid off eventually.

Then came the game itself. A win was non-negotiable and in front of a packed 15,000 stadium the only acceptable results would be victory.

From the onset, the players’ attitude was perfect, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and not giving the Bafana Bafana team any breathing space.

Take out the goals and you will still be satisfied with the performance the players put up led by Thomas Partey who for the first time in a long time took control as the star man and made the team tick.

The fans, led by the youthful exuberance of the UCC students chanted and spurred them on. Outside the stadium, were hundreds who couldn’t get into it but stayed around to have a feel of celebrations.

On social media, the hash tag #BringBackTheLove, Partey, Kudus and Black Stars were among the top trends. The comments were not vilifications but appreciation posts for a team that appeared new and determined to regain something it had lost.

Aided by the miraculous performance of the Black Meteors at the on-going Under-23, Ghana football took centre stage on social media for the right reasons.

For now it is safe to say that the Ghana football has the attention of Ghanaians, however performances and stories about the team will decide whether the love will be reignited or will remain as it has been since the Brazil debacle.