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Sports News of Thursday, 7 July 2022


The story of how Ghana's jersey got missing at 2004 Olympic games

2004 Black Meteors team (Photo credit, alamy stock photo) 2004 Black Meteors team (Photo credit, alamy stock photo)

The Black Meteors, a mighty African under 23 side, returned to the Olympics Games in 2004 after missing out on the 2000 edition in Sydney, Australia.

Ghana's Olympic football team was one of the best in Africa, having won bronze in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992.

Mariano Barreto's highly-rated team included talented players such as Yussif Chaibsah (captain), John Paintsil, John Mensah, Sulley Muntari, Stephen Appiah, Laryea Kingston, Asamoah Gyan, and others.

In the qualifying rounds, Ghana won its group ahead of Algeria, South Africa, and Zambia.

During their pre-tournament preparations, The Black Meteors defeated FC Porto and Sporting CP of Portugal, 2-1 and 3-1, respectively.

The Meteors possessed a wealth of talent as well as strong team cohesion. However, with only a few days until their first game against Italy, the team was dogged by controversies.

Sulley Muntari was expelled from camp for indiscipline in the first incident. Barreto replaced him with Shaibu Yakubu of Ashanti Gold.

The dust had not yet settled. A day before a match, there should be a pre-match where both teams present their game jerseys as well as the squad names while the coaches engage the press.

Ghana showed up for the pre-match, as did logistics officer Owahene Acheampong, who arrived empty-handed. Why? The team did not travel with their jerseys, and the team manager was unaware until the night before the game.

When Owoahene was asked to present Ghana's jerseys, he said he had left them behind but assured the referees and the opponent that Ghana would wear an all-yellow jersey for the match.

This is because Mariano Barreto's kit sponsors Nike had gifted him yellow training jerseys upon the team's arrival in Athens.

After the pre-match, Barreto lost his cool and resorted to the jerseys Nike had given him. It was 18 shirts without numbers and did not include shorts or socks.

Meanwhile, the players were completely unaware of what was going on. The technical team and members of the management committee had to plan everything perfectly so that the players did not notice and lose focus.

Ghana's first game was crucial because Italy sought vengeance for a 3-2 loss to Ghana in the 1992 Olympics in Atlanta.

The leader of the delegation was former Ghana Football Association, Vice President, Fred Pappoe. Pappoe went on a yellow shorts and socks hunt in Volos, where the team was based.

The hunt in Volos proved futile. He had to board a cab to Athens to continue the search. Fortunately, he got a store that was close. With the game scheduled at 1 PM, Pappoe decided to sleep over and get the shorts and well as print the players' names and numbers as early as possible.

Pappoe got the job done as the players wore the jersey, headed into the game and picked up a point in a 2-2.

(Baffour Gyan in action against Italy)

How did the mishap come about?

The Black Metroes jersey was produced by a local manufacturer called Mingle. For known reasons then GFA secretary Kofi Nsiah left the jerseys at London airport with then GFA chairman Dr Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe's name on the cargo.

But Nyaho Tamakloe who arrived in Greece a night before the game through London said he had no idea the cargo was in his name.

Nonetheless, the jerseys were traced and brought to Volos ahead of Ghana's second game against Paraguay. Ghana won 2-1 but a 1-0 defeat to Japan in the final group game brought an end to the Meteors Olympics medal quest.

(The second jersey used for the remaining matches)

Credit: Saddick Adams