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Sports Features of Saturday, 13 July 2013

Source: Nii Ayitey Tetteh

Satellites never die

By Nii Ayitey Tetteh

At the final whistle, an awkward silence swept across the room, my colleagues and I had taken precious time off our schedules to steal a watch of the FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-final match between Ghana’s national U-20 team, the Black Satellites, and their French counterparts. For me in particular, I earnestly wished for a Satellites’ victory not only for nationalist sentiments, but for my intended script to remain on course.

The satellites journey to the semifinals had been enthralling; one beyond football, one about life’s values of faith, will and redemption. Those attributes combined with the suspense associated with football would have made for a riveting screenplay (script for movie). Well, as you may know by now, the Satellites lost 1-2 to the French and would now play Iraq for 3rd place tomorrow July 13, in Istanbul, Turkey. Just as I entertained thoughts of tossing script into bin, the very attributes I wanted to highlight in the screenplay spoke to me. That there was no need to kill the script just because the Satellites’ name will not be engraved on the trophy; they could still secure a bronze medal by beating Iraq and that would make a decent outing, not to mention that, the moral lessons would live on. Going into the game tomorrow, will the Satellites enact a last act of redemption? Well, here is what ‘faith’ and ‘will’ said to me.

Faith reminded me that though on paper the Satellites look poorer compared to Iraq; the Satellites have scored 13 goals and conceded 13 in 6 matches compared to Iraq’s goal ratio of 11 scored and 8 conceded. These statistics mean the Satellites concede 2 goals every game and with Iraq conceding less and not losing within regulation, the Satellites might be outscored and beaten. But Faith reminded me about the Portugal game.
Going into that game, the Portuguese had better statistics (Scored 10 goals and conceded 4) and thus looked the obvious favourites, but the Satellites came back from a 2 goal deficit to win 3-2 in dramatic fashion. Indeed, the Satellites qualified for that round of 16 game against all odds as well. Having lost 2 group matches to France (3-1) and Spain (1-0), the Satellites needed to beat the USA convincingly to have a healthy goal deficit and also hope that all other group results go their way in order to qualify as one of the best placed teams in 3rd position. While pundits worked the odds and dismissed Ghana’s chance, the coach of the team, Sellas Tetteh kept faith, believing that, a higher power, an unseen hand, will see them through. Indeed, that is exactly what panned out and the Satellites qualified by the skin of their teeth. So, faith reminded me that, for this team, logical analysis would not suffice. You count them out at your own peril. Iraq, who are yet to lose a game in regulation time (they lost their semifinal game to Uruguay on penalties) will surely be taking notes. Moral of the story: never stop believing, faith can open doors.

While matters of faith, believe and spirit cannot be explained and is best left in the spiritual realm, there is another side to this Satellites team that has spurred them on and should come in handy against Iraq tomorrow. It is the Satellites’ incredible mental strength. The sheer will to keep going until goal is achieved. The Satellites showed it in the game against Portugal but dug even deeper to come from behind 2-3 to score twice in the last 6 minutes of extra time to edge out Chile 4-3, in the quarter final game.
Though the Satellites have a couple of impressive talents like goalie Eric Antwi, Baba Rahman, Clifford Aboagye, Frank Acheampong and Ebenezer Assifuah, the team’s progress in the tourney has largely been down to its collective will. Portugal and Chile’s teams were better balanced from defense through midfield to attack. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the collective will to keep on pressing for goals; the Satellites porous defense would have costed the team at the group stage and the Satellites shouldn’t have been in the last four in the first place, indeed, they almost weren’t. So, while Iraq once again looks the more balanced side going into the game tomorrow, you cannot discount the Satellites’ incredible collective will to win. Just ask Portugal and Chile. Moral of the story: talent is not enough; a strong will can take you very far; at least a bronze medal.
So, come tomorrow, I will recline into my couch and watch the 3rd place game and whatever the outcome is; win or lose, the Black Satellites would have overachieved and would have through football, served a timely reminder about life’s values. It may not be a riveting script for a Hollywood movie, but it is proudly a Ghanaian story of redemption, faith and will to overcome one’s odds; one to learn from and acknowledge. It is the reason I have chosen “Satellites Never Die” as the working title for my screenplay; but hey, I am open for suggestions, what would be your title?
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(Culled from 90 Minutes Newspaper)