27 June 2019

Africa: Black Stars Must Remain Focused!

opinion

Certainly, there are no more minnows in football, and this was amply demonstrated on Tuesday at the AFCON 2019 match between the Black Stars and the Squirrels of Benin, which ended in 2-2, at the Ismailia stadium, in Egypt.

Ordinarily, soccer fans expected the Stars to run over the Squirrels, given the credentials of the Stars in AFCONs as against the Squirrels.

The Stars have the record of four times African champions, three times silver medalist (1992,2010,2015) and three times successive appearance at the World Cup (20006,2010,2014) and one of the most featured team in AFCONs.

Unlike the Squirrels, who are making their fourth appearance at the AFCON since its inception over six decades, and in all their previous appearances, they have not gone past the group stage.

Indeed, it was a Ghanaian coach, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio of blessed memory, who qualified Benin to their first AFCON appearance, in Tunisia, in 2004.

As neighbours, Benin would like to be 'stubborn' and prove to Ghana that they have come of age in football. And they rightly did so! We commend their efforts.

Our Stars had proven that they are very resilient, having held the Squirrels 2-2 with their numerical disadvantage, following the regrettably matching off order to John Boye and some questionable decisions of the referee.

We are aware some soccer fans are already disillusioned and they have started writing off the Stars. We should believe in Ghana.

The best of the Stars is yet to come; it was a difficult start, but let's continue to give them the support.

The Stars are slow starters and they had challenges with their opening games, but eventually emerged victorious on two occasions at the AFCON.

It is recalled that at AFCON '78 that Ghana hosted and won, the Stars had a terrible beginning in their opening match against the Green Eagles of Nigeria (now Super Eagles), at the Accra Sport Stadium.

'Mathematical' Odagbeme scored first for the Green Eagles in the early minutes of the game and the Ghanaian soccer fans had to sit on tenterhooks, till substitute Willie Klutse pulled parity for Ghana around the 75th minute of the game, when he cheekily put the ball past the open legs of Nigeria's goalkeeper, Emmanuel Okalla.

The Stars then settled down in the tournament to account for Zambia, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Tunisia and the Cranes of Uganda in the finals to annexed the cup for the third time.

Then again, at AFCON '82 in Libya, the Stars went down early in the opening match against host nation, Libya, but they were never cowed into submission by the intimidating Libyan fans, and Opoku 'Zico' Nti levelled up for Ghana in the dying minutes of added time.

They went past star-studded Indomitable Lions of Cameroon with a goalless draw, defeated Tunisia, Algeria and Libya again in the grand finale on penalties, to win the cup for the unprecedented fourth time, which has now been surpassed by Egypt and Cameroon.

We urge the Stars to remain focused and deliver to give hope to soccer fans. We believe the technical handlers have learnt useful lessons from the game to restrategise for the subsequent matches, especial the crunch against the Indomitable Lions on Saturday.

We advise the Stars to be very cautious of infringement and also avoid temporary loss of concentration.

It's not over until it's all over. Our Stars will rise!

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