Black Stars, go for the ultimate …to calm nerves of Ghanaians
Barring last minute hitch or unforeseen circumstances, which I doubt will happen, the much anticipated global soccer fiesta (World Cup), will kick-start tomorrow, November 20, 2022 in the gulf region of Qatar, which is noted to be one of the 10 top richest countries in the world. The opening ceremony of this great tournament on the world football calendar, will take place at Al Bayt, located in Al Khorin the northeast coast of Qatar amidst pomp and pageantry. This tournament will attract a large crowd of spectators from across the world, some of whom will be visiting the oil rich nation for the first time in their lives.
Thirty- two countries including Ghana are expected to battle it out for the prestigious 18-karat solid gold trophy weighing a total of 4,970 grammes. The participating countries are, GROUP A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands; GROUP B: England, Iran, USA, and Wales; GROUP C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland; GROUP D: France, Australia, Denmark and Tunisia; GROUP E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany and Japan; GROUP F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco and Croatia; GROUP G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon; GROUP H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea.
This tournament from all intents and purposes, is going to be very tough, hectic and interesting, judging from the pairings of the countries involved. Almost all the countries, have most of their players plying their trade in world class football teams in Europe, Asia, Americas, Africa among others. Connoisseurs of world football, have predicted that the top favourites to win this crucial tournament, will as usual be from either Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, Spain and England. Countries in Africa, have not been given any ‘dog’ chance in winning the cup. However, this is the time for Africa to prove to the entire world that it has come of age and now ready to lift the golden trophy by hook or crook.
AFRICA TO SHOW CLASS
All eyes are on the participating African countries – Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco and Tunisia to prove the doubting Thomases wrong by showing the highest quality in their various groupings, so that they can advance from the group stages to the quarter final stage of the competition. Nothing on this earth is impossible, and we expect Africa to show class in the tournament. We have to prove to the whole world that despite our limited resources including financial problems, which are hampering the smooth growth of football on the continent, we have what it takes to win the world cup, this time round. Players like Thomas Partey of Ghana, Sadio Mane of Senegal, Karl Toko Ekambi of Cameroon, Hakim Ziyech of Morocco and Youssef Msakni of Tunisia, are expected to be at the forefront, to lift high the national flags of their respective countries.
Ghanaians are expecting nothing but a total, swift and fluent football from the Black Stars, headed by one of the most acclaimed Ghanaian football coaches in the world, Coach Otto Addo, who was instrumental for Ghana’s qualification to the world cup tournament in Qatar. His tactical approach in handling the team, enabled Ghana to qualify at the expense of the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Ghanaians will expect more from him as we battle it out in the group stages of the competition.
TIME TO REVISIT 2010 WORLD CUP ACHIEVEMENT
This is the time for Ghana, to revisit its achievement in the 2010 World Cup tournament in South Africa in which certain Suarez of Uruguay, denied us our qualification to the semi-final stages of the competition. The Black Stars progressed beyond the group stages and reached the quarter finals, only to be eliminated. It was the wicked hands of Suarez, which prevented the ball from entering the net of which resultant penalty was wasted by our debutant and prolific striker, Asamoah Gyan. Had it not been that misfortune, Ghana would surely have progressed to the semi-finals and, indeed, the ultimate finals of the world cup in 2010. It was unfortunate that during that time, there was nothing like Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to determine whether the ball crossed the goal line before Suarez applied his hand on the ball because, judging from what transpired at that time,the general observation by people who saw the action was that, it was a perfect goal.Thank God, this time round, FIFA, the world football governing body has put in place all the various mechanisms including the almighty VAR, which has been tried and tested in various international football games across the world and is working effectively.
COACH OTTO ADDO MUST SHOW CLASS
The die is cast and, indeed, we expect the Black Stars and their charges to prove to the millions of football lovers in Ghana that, their presence is not just a fluke nor to add to the numbers at the tournament, but more importantly, to participate fully with the mindset that they will strive to ensure that the necessary impact is felt in the competition.We expect Coach Otto Addo and his various assistants to do well to condition our players to ‘die a little’ for Ghana. Steps should be taken to ensure that money and other investments that have been sunk into our preparation and participation in this tournament, are utilised for their intended purposes to prevent any unpalatable and nasty scenes and behaviours in camp.
LET’S AVOID PAST NASTY INCIDENTS
The government and for that matter, the Ghana Football Association (GFA), needs to ensure that money meant for the players and the technical handlers are readily available, while at the same time, instilling a total discipline among the rank and file of the players and their handlers. We are going to this tournament as ambassadors to represent our nation and, therefore, we must be seen to be maintaining the highest standard of discipline as we converge on Qatar to showcase our talents. The nasty incident we witnessed in a similar tournament some years back, in which because of winning bonuses, players had to fight with coaches and other handlers, that necessitated the banning of some skillful players from featuring in the national team should be a thing of the past and be consigned to history.
UNITING THE COUNTRY THROUGH WORLD CUP
Football is, indeed, a passion in Ghana, the people love their football with all the funfairs, it brings about total unity of purpose and heals certain wounds especially, political upheavals and antagonisms. No wonder, Parliament had to reschedule the date for the presentation of the 2023 Budget Statement in order not to disrupt the attention of the House and Ghanaians in general to the Black Stars opening match against Portugal. The game of football, especially when it involves our national teams, wears no party colours- no NPP, no NDC. Imagine, the Black Stars have conquered major teams such as Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, Portugal, England and the likes and have reached the finals or let say the team has won this world cup, what will be the general feeling or reaction in this country? Your guess is as good as mine. We will definitely forget about the present economic challenges and hardships of our country and go into frenzy and ecstatic mood, as well as uncontrolled excitement. Indeed, we have to use this particular World Cup tournament to calm the nerves of Ghanaians in view of the unstable nature of our economy that has led to a total anger and disaffection among the citizenry and the government.
Come Thursday, November 24, 2022, Ghana will square off with Portugal in their Group H hectic opening match in Doha at 4: 00 pm and we expect fireworks. The Black Stars will then meet South Korea on November 28, 2022, at 1: pm, then the final group match against Uruguay on December 2, 2022, at 3: pm.
All is not lost on Africa yet and it has to prove to the world that it is a force to reckon with when it comes to global football tournaments. We also have the men to rub shoulders with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Lionel Messi of Argentina, Robert Lawandawski of Poland, Kylian Mbappe of France and Harry Kane of England. Forward ever, backward never!
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By Charles Neequaye