Friday, February 08, 2008

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra: The Expensive Game, Where Talk is Cheap

The defeat of the Ghana Black Stars by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon with a scoreline of 1-0 in their favour has gone to further shatter to smithereens the idea of the "host-and-win" concept. When my Cameroon colleague told me that Cameroon would beat us—and that the home crowd was nothing to write home about, I disbelieved her. Today, I bow my head in shame—not because she was right, but because Ghanaians hyped the success of the Black Stars too much.

I know that at times like this, we all become armchair coaches and pundits—and that's why blogging at this time is as instrumental in airing grievances!!!—and seek to twist and over-exploit the proverbial "hindsight is 20/20" till it's no longer funny.

But Ghanaians are wont to behave this way—and were always going to do some hyping. After all, we saw CAN2008 as the perfect opportunity to market the country—even if Ghana Tourist Board did little to sufficiently market it for us—and the beautiful game, as played by Africans. There were such high hopes—possibly excessive—of the players. Agogo, for starters, is a good player, but in the family's view, in the last game before our resounding trounce yesterday—in which we packed Nigerians home—he maximized an opportunity to best effect. The dribbling was absent—as was the good technical play. His angles could be a bit better—as in yesterday's game, when he headed the ball just slightly over the bar.

The little said of Pele's son brought on when he's not as experienced as the likes of Asamoah-Gyan (reportedly nursing an injury—as was Laryea Kingson) the better. That Ghana's "rock of Gibraltar"—John Mensah—red-carded in the Nigeria-Ghana clash, but cleared of one game into a putative final-that-never-was-for-Ghana was absent did not help the country in any way.

A discussion on CITI97.3FM today was heated—and for the right reasons. The UEFA-licensed coach and award-winning journalist/columnist Nana Ageyman attacked the literacy of our sports journalists that transmogrify, he believed, from "shoe-shine boys" to ones "behind a mike", and how they ask "stupid questions." His attitude, though decried by many, was, in my view, along the lines of what we should be asking ourselves at times like this—how responsible is our media towards tournaments like these, and, yes, how well-trained are they in generating a discerning view of the sports they report on. At what point do they cross from being fans to journalists? These are valid questions that need to be asked.

If there had, perhaps, been a more toned-down expectation of what the senior football team could offer, they would not be as crest-fallen as they, along with the nation, are.

I personally take consolation from the fact that the beautiful-yet-expensive game creates pundits from all of us, but always, we are reminded that talk truly is cheap. If not, the Ivorians would not have conceded a good four goals to title-defenders Egypt. I sent a text message to CITI Morning Breakfast Show host that too bad for Ghana, and let's rally behind the team to make it a "West African affair." I was hoping that the "ECOWAS-man" in me would come out. It wasn't to be--for Cameroon and Egypt in the final makes a nonsense of the ECOWAS nexus I had promulgated last Sunday, when we beat Nigeria, and Cote D'Ivoire qualified over fellow-ECOWAS country Guinea.

Yet again, we are all Africans.

May the best team win—and may that be one closer to West Africa—Cameroon!
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