Sammy Bartels writes: It takes humility and pragmatism to win the Afcon trophy

– Right now Ghana lacks them

The arrogance and self-entitlement of Ghanaian football supporters are perhaps second only to the English. I am convinced that is the case.

The outpouring of scorn and vitriol on the Black Stars in the aftermath of their draw with Benin is a rather harsh reaction given the pit Ghana football has had to clamber from in the last year.

Low ranked West African countries have been responsible for some of Ghana’s most painful experiences at the African Cup of Nations (Afcon). So logically they are never to be taken lightly – even if the present incarnation was Benin, a country that has never won a game at this tournament. Togo left Ghanaians shocked in 1998, Burkina made a mockery of Kwasi Appiah and his team in 2013. Yet in the build-up to the Ghana-Benin match, the same people proffering coaching tips to Kwasi Appiah after the 2-2 draw were predicting fanciful score lines in Ghana’s favour – the all too familiar haughtiness was reprehensible, but I do not blame them.

Not since 1978 has the state invested so much in a team’s participation in the African Cup of Nations. Best practices on financing the national teams’ campaigns and proposals from the Justice Senyo Dzamefe commission have been conveniently jettisoned as the President spares no expense in a bid to achieve what 5 previous heads of states failed to accomplish. The stakes have inevitably become high and with it the pressure on the lads to deliver. The rhetoric from Government about “winning the cup” further ratcheted the expectations of the nation. Unfortunately, this pressure is disproportionate to the depth of quality in the current Ghana team. This squad of fading stars and untested hopefuls lacks the star power and the consistent top regular-season players experience previous teams have possessed. It is not as if that in itself wins trophies – if it did Ghana would not be in a 37-year drought.

The reality though is that the odds are stacked against the Black Stars. In Afcon 2019; there are teams with more quality, teams with more firepower and better-organised teams than the Black Stars. Clearly Ghana is not among the firm favourites. If there is however one source of succour for Ghana, it is the fact winning the nations cup is rarely contingent on previous form or star power, apart from a few exceptions. Cameroon’s win in the last tournament, Burkina Faso’s romp to the final in 2013 and Nigeria’s victory in the same tournament and Zambia’s historic 2012 success point to this fact.

A first match in any competition is a fair gauge of a team’s strengths and weaknesses. If fans expected perfection from the Black Stars, then theirs was a blinkered vision cultivated in a parallel football universe exposed to the realities of ours. If they expected an honest effort sprinkled with sparks of hope and optimism to build on, then that was a good place to start this campaign from.

Rose-tinted lenses will not help anyone when assessing the chances of the Black Stars. Emotions aside the bottom-line remains that Ghana was exposed yet again by a so-called West African minnow. The Black Stars dropped points against a bunch of players who were up for a fight.

Finally, familiar failings of timorous technical decision-making and silly mistakes by players who should know better. The team is under the cosh. What follows next and the team’s ability to recover from this setback and string together the results needed to win the trophy does not depend entirely on the Coach and players. The trophy talk must cease pronto. Regrettably, the self-destruct button which has so often wrecked previous campaigns and which was manifested by certain ill-advised moves before the tournament is still lurking and I fear someone might press it again, under pressure.





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