CEASEFIRE!: GHANA AND ITS BLACK STARS NEED TO MAKE UP NOW

Two years of animosity haven’t helped either side and could prove especially detrimental going forward

There comes a time during every conflict when both parties realize the need to call a truce, that moment when common sense kicks in and they are forced to acknowledge the fact that they cannot be at each other’s throats forever.

It’s how some — if not all — of the world’s greatest wars ended at some point, however advanced, and it’s why the running feud between Ghana’s senior national team and its fans should extend no further than it’s reached.

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There’s been little harmony since Ghana’s Black Stars humiliated the nation at the 2014 Fifa World Cup, refusing to honour their final, crucial group game at the tournament unless hefty appearance fees were paid in full. The team received said funds — a whopping $100,000 per man — under even more embarrassing circumstances, lost the aforementioned match against Portugal (courtesy two individual errors, too), and got eliminated bottom of Group G. Needless to say, the Stars haven’t been forgiven and probably wouldn’t for a very, very long time.

It’s been almost three years since Ghanaians got genuinely excited over a Stars’ win — Ghana 6-1 Egypt in October 2013, I believe — and, when they play at home these days, the apathy is quite palpable, even if hostility towards the team isn’t as intense as it was in the immediate aftermath of the Brazil 2014 fiasco.

It certainly was at its peak, though, as Ghana hosted Uganda in their first game in the country after said Mundial’s horrors, when fans in Kumasi — majority of whom boycotted the game, anyway — summed up the bitterness of a nation by jeering their own and cheering the visitors at a venue which had always been a warm fortress for the Stars.
In exactly a month from now, incidentally, Ghana takes on the east African country again in the first of its six group qualifiers for the next Mundial. Between these two games with the Cranes, the Stars have achieved successes — mainly, qualifying for successive editions of the Africa Cup of Nations and nearly winning one, while they’ve never lost a fixture at home in that period — even if the affection from their fans still isn’t at the level it once was.

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All that has to change, though — and now. The stakes are far higher in attempting to reach the World Cup, and home advantage far more crucial. Uganda, Egypt and Congo would surely be counting on such comforts — but could Ghana do same?

Spewed out of Kumasi, met with enduring apathy when playing in the capital, and with no proper connection yet with Tamale, Sekondi and Cape Coast, the team is effectively homeless. Even worse, it is alienated by an increasingly indifferent — even aggressive — Government which withheld cash otherwise reserved for funding players’ winning bonuses and ticket fares of the side’s foreign-based members ahead of last weekend’s game versus Rwanda.

It’s a pretty uncomfortable situation for Avram Grant’s men and, given that appearing at Russia 2018 should be as important to them as it is to the country itself (with the exception of anyone unwilling to witness a redemption of the last World Cup’s sins, of course), they need to be saved from themselves by the only people who can.

And that, my dear, starts with the man in the mirror.

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