The Black Queens’ defiant display in Tunisia last week may just have provided all the clues Ghana football needed to get one giant monkey off its back
By: Sammie Frimpong
The prospect of playing a North African team away from home is enough to make many a Ghanaian team shudder and quake.
In the past 12 months, the trio of Asante Kotoko, Hearts of Oak, and Ashantigold — arguably Ghana’s three strongest clubs — have all fallen on aggregate to North African clubs in continental assignments. Not even the Black Stars are immune to such failings, with the team falling 2-1 to Egypt in a second leg 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier; thankfully, the lads did their job well enough earlier in the reverse, having thumped the Pharaohs 6-1 in Kumasi. The cocktail of intimidation, Fabian tactics, adequate preparation, and some admittedly good football has always proven, bar the odd success, too explosive for our timid psyche to deal with.
But the trend is changing — and, no, that renaissance isn’t being led by current Caf Confederation Cup campaigners Medeama who, although eliminated Libya’s Al-Ittihad in the competition’s previous round, still couldn’t avoid losing on the road before salvaging the tie at home.
The way to turning the tables on our relentless oppressors is instead being shown by a rather unlikely source: the grossly undervalued Black Queens.
Last Wednesday, Ghana’s senior women’s team visited the dreaded territory of North Africa to cross swords with their Tunisian counterparts for the first leg of the final qualification series for this year’s Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to realize they’d been set up to fail, and Senegalese referee Fatou Thione was seemingly intent on having everything to do with it. Impressively, the remarkable Ghanaian heroines tore up the script, shoved it down the opposition’s throat, and wrote one of their own.
Between two penalty kicks that perhaps never should have been, Ghana netted through a Samira Suleman connection with a fine freekick. But the Queens, unbowed and determined not to be undone by the glaring bias served by Thione, were helped in their mission by the Tunisians’ failure to make anything of their second spotkick, unable to put it past goalkeeper Nana Ama Asantewaa who had only been freshly introduced after Patricia Mantey got sent off as a casualty of said penalty concession.
Thus when Ghana netted the winner six minutes from time, through Priscilla Adubea, it really was something to be savoured; and, really,who better to hail it than Queens’ head coach Yusif Basigi?
“[The result] speaks volumes about the character of the players,” a delighted Basigi said afterwards. “I have really respected the girls. Despite all the odds, they fought to the end of the game.”
That fight is one which should empower everyone else: the pesky North Africans, regardless of what they — and any meddling, conniving officials — could throw at us, are anything but invincible.
For the Queens, this might just be the next step in making themselves a force again, following recent lows. They picked up a first major title at last year’s African Games, and — should they complete the job started in Oued Ellil come April 12’s return duel — participation at the next continental championships would be secured, setting the tone in achieving redemption for underperforming at the last edition. For all other Ghanaian teams, however, this is sheer inspiration. Preparing as well as the highly calculated North Africans do and equalling their effort on the pitch has rarely yielded much.
Far more importantly, getting the better of them requires guts, vim, and the collective will of a team to play above itself — and, for that, we all have the gallant Queens as a sterling pattern.