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Opinions of Friday, 19 March 2010

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

Why We Can't Blame Mario Balotelli

If any man tells you that life in the village is not interesting, call him a congenital liar. Kete-Krachi, where I grew up, is not a village in the strictest sense of the word village but it has all the credentials that qualify it for a village.

The best of times there in those days was usually the dry season. I still remember with a pang of nostalgia when we used to hunt rats, field mice (“bela”) and other rodents when the bushes were burnt and those helpless rodents had their habitats destroyed. When the adventure was good, we were sure to treat ourselves to a basin of fufu light soup that was indeed lighter than water. Its taste could however not be taken for granted. Yam was one of the cheapest commodities in Kete-Krachi and it wasn’t difficult getting the other ingredients that went with the pounded yam, as our dear Nigerians call it. We would eat our full, belch heavily and head for John Doeswijck Memorial JHS Park to play football, which my father would usually not allow my brothers and me to follow the area boys. He wanted us to learn. We thought he was too strict. We sometimes hated him. But we now love him. Because we now understand him. Not then! There was this hunting adventure I still remember very well. It was a “kupuor” (a day farmers are prohibited from going to farm in Kete-Krachi) and we the boys in the area were relaxing under the huge mango tree in front of my house (I mean my father’s house. I’m yet to know the price of a bag of cement.) at Kete-Krachi Lake Side. One of our colleagues went into the nearby bush to empty his bowels and we heard a loud scream from him. “Rat! Rat! Rat!”

We ran! As fast as our appetite-induced speeding feet could carry us. “Where is it?”

“Sshh!” It’s inside that shrub. “Let’s be careful it doesn’t escape.” It was true. A fat rat it was. We gave it the hottest chase. Our elders say a rat which makes the roadside its abode is either a speedster or brave and courageous. That is very true. But this rat had both qualities. Our clubs, cudgels and stones missed it narrowly when it came out. It invited us to the race for its life, our race for its soup. The long and short of the story is that the rat escaped and we had to retrace our disappointed steps to under the mango tree. With the Ghanaian blood running through our veins, we “blamestormed” a lot.

”If Kwesi had crossed it as Kwame instructed, the rat would not have found its way to under that huge rock.”

“We still could have killed it if Kwame hadn’t trembled and threw his cudgel away instead of hitting the rat.”

“You’re a fool to say I trembled. Was the rat a snake for me to tremble…” The blame game would have continued for a greater part of the afternoon but one young man among us cut in.

“We even made a mistake in the first place,” he said. “It is bad luck to kill a rat that suddenly appears in the afternoon.”

He then went ahead to catalogue people (known only to him) who had killed rats in the afternoon and the evil that befell them as a result. In Ehiamankyene, a man had killed a rat in a similar fashion only to realize that it was his son’s soul which had been turned into the rat. He went on and on and before we parted, we did not regret not killing the rat. It could have been the soul of any of us turned into a rat. But this guy had run faster than any of us in the chase and I later doubted the truthfulness of his accounts.

Guys sometimes seek solace in this sort of thing when they fail to get the lady they so much wished for. It is usually the period they, or rather we, focus on the negatives in order to console ourselves. But don’t we see those faults before declaring them the nearest approximation to angels? Love, they say, is blind. We would say. But there are certain ladies one would not be able to seek solace in focusing on their bad sides, no matter what. You may be endowed with the prowess of criticisms but it is almost impossible to fault the speed of the duiker.

That is why I do not agree with Black Stars Coach Milovan and FA President Nyantakyi when they launched an attack on Mario Balloteli for his refusal to play for Ghana.

"We are partly to blame. In the past, we made him look like our messiah and saviour. We kept going after him with high powered delegations," Coach Rajevac is reported to have told Football365.co.za.

"All these, made it seem as though, there won't be any Black Stars without him. But that is not true.

"Everybody knows how Ghana has players in excess and the difficulty sometimes I go through just to have my squad. To put it bluntly, this Black Stars team is spoilt for choice. The team has quality in excess and has no place for guys like Balotelli", he said.

Hypocrisy! To the 360th degree!

Hadn’t they known this when they went pleading with the Inter Milan’s striker? Had they forgotten that Ghana had more than enough options to choose from? Did they only have to realize this when it became clear that no amount of inducement would make Balotelli wear the Ghanaian jersey? Or does his refusal to play for us diminish his skills?

I don’t think so.

I’m not very fond of the foreign leagues (Neither do I enjoy the dying local league) and only watch when my Essien’s team is playing. I must confess I’m among the millions who support Chelsea because of Essien, Drogba and the other black stars (not Black Stars). The only time I watched Balotelli play was when Chelsea lost to Inter at the first leg of the UEFA Champions League recently. He came on as a substitute. It was a delight watching the youngster weaving his way through pillars of defenders anytime he got the ball. He’s a speedster and his moves are terribly threatening. To have him in our national team would be more than a great boost since lack of potent strikers has remained the bane of our national team for years.

Unfortunately Balotelli has made himself more than clear enough to us. "I have never felt Ghanaian,” he’s quoted in an interview. "My parents come from Ghana but I don't know anything about that country. I have never thought of playing for Ghana neither do I have any inclination towards the team. It is Italy or no other country."

But some Italians say they do not have Black Italians in their country? I know there are no Black Italians, where I want to play but I prefer being called a black monkey in the Azzurri’s jersey than a hero in the Ghanaian jersey. This is his stance, I think his thought. Period.

But, hey, spare him the insults. Ghanaians do not appreciate it when someone sacrifices for the nation. To me the most committed footballer ever, to the national cause, has been Samuel Osei Kuffuor. I remember his hey days in Bayern Munich. He was one player who played so well in his club and when he was invited for even a friendly match, he played as if his survival depended solely on the outcome of that match.

But how did he end? What didn’t the GFA mafias do to him? They disgraced him in Mali 2002 and finished his career at Germany 2006. His woes in the hands of our football “administrators” are very well documented and I need not catalogue them here.

What about Abedi Ayew Pele and his family? What haven’t the maestro and his brother Kwame done for Ghana? Even after his retirement, his contribution didn’t die. While others were loving their wives in weird sex positions that would eventually produce armed robbers to terrorize us, the maestro seemed to know the position that produced footballers.

The inclusion of Dede and Rahim in the national teams has always received a barrage of criticism from people who believe that it is purely through their father’s influence that they are included. Andre Ayew led the Satellites to lift the Wafu Cup, the African and World Youth Championship trophies, but we still did not see any potential in the dedicated youngster. Before the Angola 2010 ended, however, Dede Ayew proved all his enemies wrong. At the first ever CHAN tournament in Cote d’IVoire, when Rahim had adequate time and right position in the tournament, we all saw his exploits. But all these are not enough to silence Abedi’s implacable enemies.

During the Ghana 2008 African Cup of Nations, Asamoah Gyan’s mother could not cope with the curses all the over twenty-million “coaches” were heaping on her son. So he called Asamoah and his brother Barfuor to come home. They almost left camp. Former President Kufuor had to intervene. Asamoah Gyan was our saviour in Angola 2010.

How many fathers did not offer Junior Manuel Agogo their daughters after he scored our winning goal against Nigeria in the CAN 2008 quarter-final match? What did we not say when he was losing form? Did we have to encourage him to regain form or treat him like a useless piece of rag that had never been of use to us?

The list is endless.

So is Balotelli right or wrong? His fate is more unpredictable than the character of that mad man in Keke-Krachi if he agrees to play for Ghana. Until we learn to treat our sports personalities and national figures well, we cannot be justified in castigating those who would prefer to be slaves in Europe than kings in Africa.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [www.maxighana.com] Email: azureachebe@yahoo.com. The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism and the Press and Information Secretary of the Northern Students’ Union. To read more of his works, visit www.maxighana.com