Oh, and then there were those days when every Ghanaian would have wished were April 1…
Nobody likes to be pranked, especially when it’s on April 1 — and especially when the joke causes irreparable damage. That said, Ghanaian football fans have experienced instances of shock that proved so horrible that they’d rather those were nothing more serious than ‘mere’ April Fools’ Day pranks — only that they weren’t.
THE ZIMBABWEAN SUCKER PUNCH
Criticism of a rather brilliant idea by the Ghana Football Association to kit the Black Stars in all-black apparel for the third group match against Zimbabwe at the 25th Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt brought to humiliating completion the great renaissance Ghana threatened to spring after failing to qualify for the previous edition. Really, the day couldn’t have ended any worse. Two Zimbabwean goals — which had defender Issah Ahmed’s folly written all over them — condemned the Stars to an inglorious first-round exit. A very bad Wednesday it indeed was; a blotch on our memories and one lots of Ghana fans would wish had only been a very expensive, dry April Fools’ Day joke.
GHANA 1-6 NIGERIA
So much is made of results, general play, touchline demeanour of coaches and everything else when regional rivals Ghana and Nigeria lock horns at all stages in football, and the pictures beamed from Niger through grainy streams of the Black Starlets’ opening game at the 2013 African U17 Championship versus the old enemy were ones that beggared belief, really. With every few seconds that the stream maintained relative fluidity, one could see Nigerian coach Manu Garba grasping at the air, forming weird geometric shapes with his hands and beaming out instructions to his youngsters, while his Ghanaian counterpart, Paa Kwesi Fabin, sat on the bench, almost resigned to the inevitability of the sickening mauling unfolding before his very eyes as the goal margin kept widening in favour of the opposition. From 3-0, the Golden Eaglets were soon 5-0 up, before one final blow sucked the life out of the consolation strike Ghana had managed to find. It was a result that sent shock waves through the Ghanaian populace, with the less pessimistic opting to dismiss it simply as a poorly executed prank. It wasn’t.
GYAN’S MISSED SPOTKICK
With every replay, some six years later, many are still left blinking twice, rubbing their eyes, and then blinking once more, this time long and hard enough to make a tear or two drop. With a goal so wide and Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera so lithe, it seemed all Asamoah Gyan had to do, on that fateful night in Johannesburg when the Stars were on the verge of securing Africa’s maiden appearance in a Fifa World Cup’s semi-final, was pick his spot and whack the ball hard into it. Perhaps, though, he did whack the ball a bit too hard, or likely picked a spot too high — so high that, as the ball struck the outside of the crossbar and blew Ghanaian hopes into bits, Gyan wasn’t even granted the privilege of a rebound. Of course, it didn’t happen on April 1 but, had it, this would still have been one sick joke.
THE NOISY NEIGHBOURS
Ghana has been losing finalists in the Nations Cup final thrice since its fourth and last triumph in said competition, with western neighbours Ivory Coast responsible for two of those heartbreaks. Occurring last year, it happened in a fashion almost identical to the first which came over two decades prior. This time, though, it was arguably far more painful. The game stretched into a shootout, an unusually lengthy one, but only because Ghana contrived to surrender a solid two-goal advantage grabbed early in the affair after the Ivorians initially fluffed their lines, eventually losing 9-8. If the value of an April Fools’ Day prank lies in its element of surprise, this — when Ghanaians went from winning to losing faster than one could say ‘April Fool!’ — was epic, only just not very memorable.
Against Portugal in Ghana’s death-dealing final Group G fixture at the 2014 Fifa World Cup, both sides of goalkeeper Fatau Dauda — the brilliant and the dumb — became all too evident. Minutes after making a splendid reflex save from Cristiano Ronaldo (and, with wild celebration of that ‘feat’, subsequently making the whole world know he definitely intended noting the date in his diary), Dauda, perhaps feeling bad about making the Real Madrid star look bad, generously pushed a ball into his path and. . . bam — [so very not] APRIL FOOL!