Blackstars lose in the cruellest fashion but there is genuine cause for optimism..
Another tournament comes and goes, another dose of heartbreak for the Black Stars. As our famous uncle would say, in the final of AFCON 2015 our pain was ‘delivered fresh, from nature god’. Social media following the AFCON final was a mess – people from certain countries (no names mentioned) decided to emerge from their shadowed dwellings after the final whistle to rub salt into wounds. Many Ghanaians played another round of ‘Let’s Find Who We Can Burn At The Stake This Time – AFCON Edition’. Others blamed Mahama. While others simply logged off and went to bed.
Despite an encouraging number of people who could reason, many were lost in the horde of the confused, the hurt, and the impulsive.
Which is fair enough. The manner in which Ghana threw away a two-penalty advantage, was reminiscent of beginning to dream of history being made only to watch Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick in 2010 soar past the goalkeeper, past the crossbar, and past the roof of the stadium. Categorically gutting. Ghana weren’t just close; the craftsman may as well have started crafting our name into the cup. We weren’t just within touching distance – we all practically started planning what posts we would upload, what kente we would wear into work the next day, how amazing Ghana Independence this year would be.
But alas. It was not to be. Again.
So the impulsivity of the reaction, and the rawness of the pain is understandable. But as with many things, sometimes the morning after brings so much clarity to the events of the night before. And when it comes to reviewing Ghana, that is what is needed – clarity. And perspective.
It’s easy to be short-termist when it comes to football. Heroes rise and fall with unnerring speed – daily, weekly, monthly. The manner in which Ghana lost out in the final can cause many to fall into the trap of finding a new scapegoat, a new villain to verbally flog – all while losing sight of the bigger picture…
…which is the fact that Ghana arrived at Equatorial Guinea for AFCON 2015 still bruised from an underwhelming, disappointing and disjointed World Cup campaign, smeared with the tar which poured from allegations of corruption and reports of dissent and infighting amongst the ranks. Ghana entered this competition as the least-favoured to escape what had been anointed by most as the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’. Many poured scorn on Ghana’s chances following the draw of the group. Avram Grant himself dampened expectations going into the tournament, imploring everyone that this was a tournament about assessing the team, about development, about building towards a better future.
We kicked off the first game expecting nothing…
And yet not only did we escape the Group of Death, we came out standing tall and proud in first place.
We battled past Guinea 3-0 in the quater-finals.
We eviscerated the hosts of the competition in front of a bipartisan (and as we eventually saw, bitter and disgraceful) crowd, without captain Gyan on the pitch.
We finished the tournament finalists.
We fell to the 11th spot-kick taken by Ivory Coast. For 120 minutes, and until Razak missed his penalty, we stood toe-to-toe with an Ivory Coast team who are renowned and revered as the most experienced and accomplished football team amongst the African nations, captained by Yaya Toure who is such an awesome tour-de-force of a footballer he has won African Player of the Year for the last 4 consecutive years.
Christian Atsu solidified his burgeoning reputation on the world scene by emerging from AFCON 2015 as the official Player of the Tournament. And who could fail to be moved by the visceral outpouring of passion and desire by Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, as he screamed fierce encouragement to his troops during the shoot-out before being overcome by the pain of defeat at the final whistle.
Sure, it doesn’t take away from the pain. It doesn’t do much to depreciate the idea that we are becoming the Bridesmaid of African football, so favoured, so pretty and alluring, and yet always falling short of finally becoming the Bride. We have had our fair share of misfortune and hurt in recent years, as anyone who bore witness to the Suarez 2010 quarter-final can attest to. This final was another dose of exquisitely-devastating heartbreak, as we failed once again to emerge victorious from the Russian Roulette that is the penalty shoot-out.
But Ghana came out of this AFCON tournament proud. Even prouder and in better shape than the last time we were finalists in 2010. We’ve got our spark back. Throughout the tournament, and especially with regards to our conduct during the disgusting antics of Equatorial Guinea, Ghana redeemed itself in the eyes of the world. Our reputation has been mended. Defensively, we look sounder. In Razak, (penalty kick aside, and not falling foul to short-termism in only focusing on the kick) we have an assured goalkeeper who looks as good as any on the continent. Atsu’s star will continue to soar. Dede Ayew is an awesome captain-in-waiting, developing into a man who can emulate the exploits of his legendary father.
The team looks stronger. The team will get better. AFCON 2015 saw Avram Grant and the Black Stars push the reset button. Our time as the Bride will come soon enough. The future is bright.
Jermaine Bamfo (@DrJabz_27)