President Akufo-Addo with the Black Stars team
President Akufo-Addo with the Black Stars team

AFCON 2024 : Forlorn hopes, cooked yam

I have a confession. Prior to the 2024 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) I was blissfully unaware of when exactly it would start, even though I was vaguely aware of the imminent event. 

Advertisement

Perhaps it was because I was quite consumed with the funeral arrangements of my good friend Bernard, who passed away suddenly on Boxing Day. 

Pre-tournament snippets

Ahead of the tournament, I saw photographs of the national team, the Black Stars, clad majestically in kente cloths, with some inexperienced wearers awkwardly clinging on to theirs for dear life lest the apparel fell apart.

I strongly suspect that some safety pins were strategically deployed to support these amateur wearers.

Perhaps the Ghana Football Association (GFA) should arrange crash tutorials for the team next time round before unveiling them. 

I also enjoyed watching parts of the opening ceremony at an open-air pub on Kumasi’s Bantama High Street, where a few friends and I sought refuge to drown our sorrows into a jug or two of ‘Bubra’ after Benard’s funeral.  

It was quite an impressive affair and I believe La Cote d’Ivoire has sold itself quite well.

I have never been to Abidjan. Perhaps I should plan a long weekend there later in the year. 

Nationalistic fervour

My friends who know me well dismiss my ‘funeral excuse’, claiming that my ignorance would have been blissful anyway, funeral or no funeral.

I will not quarrel with them.

In truth, I do not exactly ooze testosterone at the sight or prospect of a football match, nor do I understand the offside rule despite several crash tutorials from well-meaning friends.

I cannot name more than four of the national team members, nor can I reel off the top of my head which country is in which group.

The list goes on.

But it is not that bad. 

At the very least, I know of Salah, Sadio Mane, Kudus and Onana, among a few others, as well as the European teams they play for.

I love the emotions and the high drama around football.  

I particularly enjoy watching Ghana play, perhaps fired more by nationalistic fervour than a love of what football loyalists insist is ‘the beautiful game’.

In 1992, as final year undergraduate student at the University of Ghana, I remember with great clarity the thrilling final match between Ghana and La Cote d’Ivoire at the AFCON that year held in Senegal.

After a goalless draw, the penalty shootout went up to 11-10, with Ghana losing out most painfully.

I believe this is the only football match I have watched that shot my blood pressure through the roof and had me literally chewing off my fingernails. 

Cape Verde, Egypt brimstone

I was too tired from a round of funeral engagements to watch Ghana’s opening match with Cape Verde and slept soundly throughout the match and beyond. Maybe I had assumed it would be a walkover, but it was not to be.

I followed the commentary on social media following our loss. It was quite unsurprisingly vitriolic and unforgiving, directed at the players, technical team and the GFA in varying measure.

The comment I found most amusing on Facebook was from Yaw Nsarkoh. “It is finished.

Advertisement

Our kente will be remembered.

We were unsure which was priority; sports or the fashion parade”, he wrote.

I found time to watch our second match, played against Egypt.

Like everyone else, I was elated by Kudus’ two goals and was scandalised by the two rather cheap goals we gave away freely like wedding confetti.

Again, another round of acidic vitriol, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Advertisement

Many have suggested that the aircraft to carry the Black Starts home should start warming its engines in readiness for our early exit from the tournament.

However, others believe in the Hearts of Oak maxim ‘never say die until all the bones are rotten.’

Such optimists have fiercely anchored their hopes on mathematical calculations premised on the ‘if’ factor; “if A wins its next match and if B loses its next match and if we draw in our next match, we are likely to qualify for the next stage.”

But then as my good friend Nana Awere Damoah keeps repeating, ‘hope does not cook yam’. I agree.

Advertisement

Only a competent fire does. 

I have no idea how far Ghana can go in this tournament.

I am unqualified to make any bold assertions either way.

All I can do is tap into my nationalism pot of hope and dream of Ghana lifting its 5th AFCON cup after a particularly long drought.

After all, it is my constitutional right to dream — even if soppily.

The writer, Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng is Head, Communications & Public Affairs Unit, Ministry of Energy.

E-mail: [email protected]

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...

0
Shares