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Sports Features of Friday, 14 June 2019

Source: Sheikh Tophic Sienu

Can Ghana’s AFCON trophy drought end in Egypt?

Two years ago, while working for Ghanasoccernet, I wrote an article entitled – ‘Ghana likely to extend 35 years AFCON trophy-less run for the next 10 years.’

Fast forward, the scenarios seem worse and I keep getting the conviction that Egypt is not the place. Perhaps, this is not the time.

Ghana may end the over three decades wait for the AFCON trophy but it doesn’t look like now. I’m not sounding too negative but I keep being convinced by recent happenings and the prevailing environment that, the search is not ending anytime soon.

When I look back at the article I wrote two years ago, I get overly optimistic that we have not done enough as a country to win the trophy, and if measures are not swiftly taken to end the wait and make the dream a reality, Ghana can go for the next decade without the trophy.

This may sound strange but that is surely what is likely to happen in the next five AFCONS and Ghana could extend their trophy-less run at the tournament to 45 years.

I am not sounding a prophet of doom but the strange happenings in the country, especially during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon creates the impression that the wait will not end now, at least not in the next ten years.

Many a time, pundits of the game claim football has the power to unify people, groups and a nation at large but this assertion has been defeated by the current wind blowing in Ghana and that gives me the impression that it will take much longer a time to get to the Promised Land.

The reason is simple; Party Politics.

Party politics have always divided Ghanaians but football has proved to be the unifying element. Unfortunately, politicians have succeeded in infesting that element of unity with their political chants breaking the country’s only component of togetherness.

And Nana Akufo-Addo’s present role in getting the Black Stars lift the AFCON trophy is enough a testimony.

A meeting with the President at the Flagstaff House was followed by a dinner at the Kempinski Hotel before the team left for Dubai for a three-week training tour.

Above all, each player shall be given an $80k appearance fee, winning bonuses increased from $5k to $10k per game.

Ironically, all these are decision taken by the current NPP government were criticized under the NDC government, and in fact, the winning bonus under the NDC government was even $5k.

Honestly speaking, are these not political decisions?

As a writer, I have witnessed the conduct of Ghanaians whenever the Black Stars are playing games but what I’ve seen between 2015 and now are absolutely amazing.

When Ghana lost to Cameroon in the 2017 semifinal, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw some Ghanaians jubilating over the defeat.

I was completely bewildered, flummoxed and flabbergasted. For a moment, I thought I was dreaming. Is this Ghana? I asked.

I went closer to the jubilant fans and in amazement, I asked one of them why they were jubilating while Ghana have been defeated. His answer was simple, ‘Since we didn’t win the AFCON, no party will also win it.’ I was shocked but as if I was not satisfied with his answer, I asked again why he was saying that. He explained: ‘Some of the players said they were going to win the trophy for Nana Addo so who should support them to bring that trophy to him? He retorted.

I then realised the jubilant fans could be members of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party.

Social media was erupting at the same time with similar chants. Some Ghanaians don’t want the Black Stars to win AFCON because a certain political party will include it in their next manifesto as an achievement.

I know many communicators of the main opposition party, NDC, who were very excited with the loss of the Black Stars to Cameroon in the semifinals in 2017 and strangely, they couldn’t hold it but to make it public. With this attitude, expect Ghana to keep waiting for the AFCON trophy for a much longer time.

All was not well in Cameroon likewise Egypt but both countries ended up in the finals of the 2017 edition of the tournament because their respective countries were behind them.

It was more shocking in 2015 when Ghana lost in the finals to Ivory Coast. I was then in Kumasi and the atmosphere was unimaginable. People actually jubilated that Ghana failed to win the trophy.

Of course majority were heartbroken but I was shocked when I saw Ghanaians expressing joy over Ghana’s inability to lift the trophy because the NDC party would have taken credit for that.

Some journalists, who were supposed to be ambassadors of the national crusade towards winning the trophy boldly declared their joy on radio demonstrating their hatred for the then GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi, chanting he would have claimed credit for Ghana’s success.

Politicians have succeeded in making anything political in the country and majority of Ghanaians now view everything with party political lenses. And since this will not end now, Black Stars will not win now.

Research has shown that for every country to be able to win a major tournament like the AFCON or the World Cup, there are three thematic areas they must tackle;

The unity and sense of purpose of the team

The technical and tactical sharpness of the coach and players The unity, togetherness and sense of solidarity from the country Sadly, the last part was missing when the Black Stars were at the 2017 AFCON. And the same thing appears to be the situation now.

The country was divided, while some were supporting the team, others were rooting strongly against the team.

Is it not amazing for a Ghanaian to argue that since their party failed to win the AFCON, no other party will also not win it?

When is this ending, as Ghana’s quest for the trophy intensifies?

Will the NPP and the NDC continue to kick against each other in our quest to win the trophy?

And so long as we will continue to be divided as a country to the extent of wishing the country fails in a competition because of politics, we shall wallow in the quest for the trophy but can never win it. If you fail to go to heaven, don’t blame Jesus.

People will point accusing fingers at others for Ghana’s unsuccessful attempt to win the AFCON despite our numerous attempts but will fail to nail it right on the head. Blame the GFA not for our AFCON dilemma. Blame POLITICS!

The very moment Ghanaians will begin to appreciate the fact that party politics is the major enemy of our progress, the swifter our development and success will be.

Ghana can win the AFCON trophy but will the NDC be happy that the Black Stars ended the trophy-less drought under the NPP?

At this juncture, let all our politicians come together and sing the national pledge and abide by it if indeed Ghana must win the AFCON.