Ghana’s foreign stars came out roaring against Rwanda, even if they shouldn’t have been there in the first place
By: Sammie Frimpong
It’s not the worst tool in the box, but it could be when wielded wrongly.
Two years ago, Ghana’s senior national team misused it spectacularly, defying the powers-that-be — and logic itself — in holding the nation to ransom at the Fifa World Cup in Brazil, refusing to play a minute of football till huge appearance fees owed them were paid in full.
It was a show of defiance the boys would get condemned for by their countrymen; an ill-timed, ill-advised display of guts they’ll pay for till this hurt and scarred generation is replaced by the next. The Black Stars have tried all they could in quest of redemption: they’ve been contrite, resolute, even brilliant on occasion. Heck, they even attempted winning last year’s Nations Cup — coming desperately close, in fact — just to reclaim some love!
What they hadn’t tried, though, was the one thing which got them entangled in this mess in the first place: defiance. Against Rwanda in their final Afcon 2017 qualifier on Saturday, though, the team had the chance to do so. It wasn’t an opportunity they were expecting, however, only one afforded them unwittingly by the Ministry of Youth and Sports’ reluctance to provide the usual luxuries on offer when international assignments are due.
Armed with the excuse that Ghana’s place at next year’s Nations Cup in Gabon had already been booked, and that the result versus the visiting Amavubi would be no threat to the hosts’ position as Group H leaders/winners, the State arbitrarily decided to withhold funds allocated to be spent on the players’ ticket fares from their respective stations overseas (reasoning that such expenses could be spared if local players were called up instead for the game) while slashing the usual winning bonus in half.
Would the already invited foreign-based professionals cough up their own travel costs? And would they even bother being at their best in a game which offered so ‘little’ in any actual gain (financial or otherwise)?
Well, to their credit, they did — and an expression of bloody-minded defiance was key, though for all the right reasons this time. The boys didn’t just show up against the Rwandans. They came with intent to win — even if Grant didn’t exactly put his strongest team out there, perhaps in assessing what alternatives he has with respect to squad depth ahead of the upcoming Russia 2018 qualifiers — and only a late equaliser from the east Africans robbed Ghana of a third straight home win in the Afcon 2017 qualifying series.
Not everyone is impressed, of course; an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians probably still consider the team a bunch of spoilt brats ever so willing to have their way. Still, they’ve won some over, haven’t they?
If the team’s rebelliousness in the past implied they didn’t give a damn about national interests, they’ve now oozed the same trait to show they do care after all.
With so many more battles to be fought — versus a fandom which remains largely skeptical of the Stars’ motives, a sports ministry growing increasingly hostile towards the team, and an FA caught in-between — in going forward, they’d have to ooze some more of that.