Stop this illusion; we’re no longer Ghana!
• Ghana has not won the Nations Cup since 1982
Decades back, Ghana football was a sheer delight to behold – combining finesse and aggression to the approbation of the entire contingent and the world at large.
Those were the halcyon era where Ghana almost effortlessly crushed all that crossed its path, culminating in four Africa Cup of Nations conquests – the last one coming in 1982. The Black Stars had won the trophy in 1978 for keeps.
It was only a matter of course that Ghana was nicknamed the Brazil of Africa, referring to the Brazilian national team that won the World Cup for keeps after its third conquest in 1970 – as defined by FIFA President Jules Rimet in 1930.
Come to think of it, the Stars have failed to win the Nations Cup grail ever since its last feat some 41 years ago. Even though the nation made some massive gains in youth football, we could not hold competition at the senior level by the scruff of the neck. We have never been consistent. Glow today and glum tomorrow!
Egypt that had clinched the trophy only two times when we were four-time champions, are now seven-time winners, whilst Cameroon are now five-time champions, having won the first coronet in 1984.
Worst of it all is that, we still consider ourselves giants of African football, and it is that illusion, get beaten embarrassingly by teams that are deemed minnows.
As far back as 1994, an unknown band of players from little known East African Burundi beat an Anthony Yeboah-led Ghana 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier, in the then capital Bujumbura. The world was in total shock. Nobody believed the result.
It was a rude awakening for Ghana football; at least, it thought us bitter lessons. One: we should not underestimate the strength of our opponents. Two: the gulf of difference between the teams at the apex and those at the bottom of the African game, has narrowed tremendously, and lastly we are no longer the Gullivers as we used to be.
Indeed, it is very lucid that we are failing to accept the fact that other nations – who were then playing second fiddle to us, have caught up or even overtaken us. It is one bitter reality we need to accept now to enable us re-engineer our football.
Only last Sunday, our locally-assembled side – known as the Black Galaxies, were beaten 2-1 by Island side Madagascar in their opening Group C match of the ongoing Championship of African Nations (CHAN) tournament in Algeria.
In terms of team profile, the Malagasy are nowhere near Ghana. But things have changed and the high time we got that to sink deeply, the better for us.
That defeat comes on the heels of a similar loss to minnows Comoros Islands who drubbed a near star-studded Ghana team 3-2 in last year’s Africa Cup of Nations played in Cameroon. Ghana needed to account for the Islanders to qualify to the next stage of the tournament. They failed – and the shocking slump led to a distressingly calamitous first round exit.
The Galaxies’ loss to Madagascar should serve as clarion call to our football managers to work like a Trojan, break their back and fix our football.
Interestingly, the other Group C game between defending champions Morocco and Sudan did not take place because Morocco failed to turn up – due to the political cataclysm with host nation Algeria.
Morocco and Algeria are locked in a rancorous rivalry partly over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, where the Algerian-backed Polisario Movement seeks an independence referendum.
The situation has whittled down the group to three teams – meaning that anything aside victory in the Galaxies’ next game against Sudan, could blow them out of contention.
Well, whatever the upshot of that game is, may not really be the issue. The issue is that we have got to fix our domestic football to be able to build a formidable league where players would be surplus for requirement – or be made to battle fiercely for positions.
But first and foremost, we have to accept that we are no longer the best on the continent. We are no longer the Brazilians of African football. That sobriquet was surrendered long ago! We may have qualified for the World Cup four times; may have dazzled our way to the quarters of the Mundial; may have been the only African country to win the FIFA Under-20 World Cup (2009), but we should admit our football has sunk.
Of course, it is not a despairing situation, but we have a really tough row to hoe.
PlainTalk with John Vigah