Medeama’s exit at the hands of MO Bejaia is only the latest instance of an age-old challenge
It’s an old tale, really: a Ghanaian club/national team travels to North Africa on a continental assignment and returns with nothing, helpless and dejected. Ghanaian Caf Confederation Cup campaigners Medeama SC visited MO Bejaia — the very club which dumped Ghana‘s Ashantigold from the Caf Champions League earlier in the year — knowing a mere draw would be enough to see them write their own little piece of history, only to be condemned to a 1-0 loss which saw the Algerians secure that remaining ticket to the knock-out rounds on offer in Group A.
Then again, Medeama aren’t the first Ghanaian outfit to suffer such a fate in North Africa — and they certainly wouldn’t be the last. What then has accounted for such a miserable streak?
It could be any of the five factors discussed below, whichever sounds most logical:
Ghanaian sides often visit North Africa believing the odds are heavily — nay, impossibly — stacked against them. And maybe they are, but rather than being inspired and spurred on by their own quality, it’s the daunting nature of the task at hand and unfavourable experiences of the past which overwhelm them. Intimidated thus, they’re overcome even before a ball is kicked. A siege mentality is adopted and, when the opposition pummels hard and persistently enough to make the walls cave in, there’s very little to be salvaged.
The disadvantage isn’t always imagined, though. From deliberately drenched pitches and Fabian tactics to below-par living standards afforded their guests and referee-assisted bullying, these North Africans rarely ever seem to run out of intimidatory antics.
From the very first minute, most Ghanaian teams who play in North Africa set out to defend leads they don’t even have. The defending gets a bit more intense when an actual lead is taken — and that plan usually goes well till it doesn’t anymore, as is often the case.
North African sides have traditionally dominated continental football. Egypt are three Nations Cup titles better than everyone else, while its biggest club, Al Ahly, boasts the most Caf Champions League crowns. The most frequent winners of the Caf Confederation Cup are Tunisia’s CS Sfaxien, and the current holders of that trophy, Etoile du Sahel, are from the same country. Nearly every year, teams from the region tend to reach farthest in said club competitions. Perhaps, then, they’re just too good, too strong. No?
For those who believe in the force of ‘luck’ and the difference it can make in any given football match, there is a rather simplistic way of explaining all of this. But, then again, it’s probably too simplistic to be probable.