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16.04.2008 Feature Article

Sportsmanship!``

On 7th of February, 2008,  Ghana had to face the Republic of Cameroon,   in a match, which was very much  “hyped” by the Ghanaian public,  because, if Ghana was to have a shot at the Africa Cup of Nations  tournament,  (and win, as every Ghanaian thought we deserved),  we could not afford to lose this match.  

I was a Medical Student in Germany, when the legendary Mohamad Ali, (alias Cassius Clay) came down to Frankfurt, and in the “Jahrhundershalle”   successfully defended his World Heavy Weight Championship against the Challenger, Karl Mildenberger of Germany, in 1967. 

Whenever Ali fought, -and he had many fights staged in Germany-,  there were always two main groups of “fans” that would get up 4AM,  and watch him on Television,  not caring  they had to be at work 7AM.  One group admired the brash young “Nigger”, who was so fast with his punches that, it had to be slow motion, if you had to see the punches that might have flawed the opponent. 

A second group, so much hated him, that, they wished him beaten, and if it happened, they didn't want to miss it.  I do not know, since when the word “ballyhoo” exists.  Ali would talk so much about the fight, and then about himself, before the fight. 

Sometimes, he even would be talking, and taunting his opponent, inside the ring, to the annoyance of the referee.  Since Ali fought those days every 6 weeks, we all loved it.  He entertained us a lot.

The “do- or-die match” that Thursday at the “Ohene Djan Sports-Stadium” in Accra reminded me of the good-old-days, when Ali fought so often, winning all the fights, and making the Black Man proud.  At the time, there was no black football players in Europe, there were very few Doctors, or Engineers, working in Europe, or even America, of our color. 

It was a different world then, and you better believe it.  On that Thursday, ballyhoo was given a rebirth. All pundits in Ghana tipped a 2-1, or 3-0 win for Ghana. Nobody wished the Cameroonians anything good, and a draw was not an option.  The players, having enjoyed the 60th birth-day party of their boss three days previously, were to celebrate with the nation, after winning on Thursday.

Is it true the German Coach with the Cameroonians had once coached the Ghanaians, and the French Boss of the Ghanaians had once trained the Cameroonians?  That added a lot more of spices to the pot containing the duel-soup.  The Stadium,  so it seemed, was packed to full capacity, and I understand in Accra,  a wealthy Cabinet Minister,  whose initials are this time not AC,  had instructed his butler to have a  cooling system that could contain one hundred  beer bottles,  ready with chilled beer. 

The kebab would arrive from Flair, when it was all over, and Ghana had to prepare only to finalize it on Sunday, February, 11th.  Well, since we did not “get posted”, what happened to that Minister's arrangement?  I hope he got the “Teshie boys” to drink it all, and bless his soul, when he needed such blessings.  Well, I have never attempted to give a football commentary, and I won't attempt to do so now, fearing it could be disastrous.

 I am sure there wasn't a Ghanaian who was blessed to have full eye-sight, who wasn't in front of some television screen.  What I found remarkable, was why not a soul wished the Cameroonians well.  Not that I did not understand it.  Hey, are we not talking of sportsmanship?  There was once a British Heavy-Weight Boxer of   Jamaican origin called Frank Bruno.

He had a shot many times at the Championship, but never won the title.  On one encounter, where he did not go down within the first rounds, to get counted out, he went all twelve rounds against Mike Tyson, the title holder then.  His face was battered like a fish clobbered and taken from a pond. His fans welcoming him at Heathrow as a hero had it on a placard, “You do not have to win, to be a hero, Frank!” I loved it!

Looking at the passion with which the nation went through the season, (both players and spectators), perhaps I may be allowed to express my opinion as a citizen, (and I guess we all agree, each and every one is so entitled).  Brazil happens to be one country, which has clocked the World Title, (football), five times.

Most of the successes were during the time that people like the “legendary Pele” played for their country.  Most of the players were home-grown, and home-groomed.  For them, football in Brazil was like the Gospel According to St. Luke, or for my compatriots who follow Islam, like the Qumran.

Even so, Brazil does not win all the time.  The last World Cup was played in Germany, but Germany did not take the cup.  Before then, when it was co-hosted by Japan and Korea, neither of the two won it.  Brazil did.  Besides, if you went to the US-Embassy anywhere and you wanted a visa to Travel to  America, (for business, or tourism),  they will give it to you immediately,  if you were Singaporean,  or from  Hong Kong, or Taiwan. 

If you were Brazilian or Ghanaian, I guess I don't need to tell you anything further.  It seems, it's Economy that drives World Politics, and not football.  This is not to say that, Foot-ball is not important.  It is, of course.  The birth of a male child in a Brazilian family brings so much joy. The reason is that, he might one day be like Pele.  Perhaps, the same degree of joy may accompany the birth of a girl, when  female football reaches the same height.  I watched the match on the 7th of February, and I would hate to suggest that, the coach, or for that matter, anyone among the Ghanaian players made any mistakes.  I understand football too little to risk such an utterance. It doesn't pay to suggest, “if our captain hadn't gotten the red card the match before,” -the  “ifs”, and the “would-have-beens”, don't help at all. The Cameroonians in my opinion that day were simply better, and so they won.

Simple!  Perhaps, the lesson may have been learned, that we celebrate less, before we win.  Nothing to condemn when. spectators express dissatisfaction. The populace should do the same, (criticize), when Doctors, for example,  make mistakes, and human lives are lost. Psychologists  should be busy,  studying and analyzing why someone, anyone should kill himself, when his nation, or his team loses a match.

I watched a press conference on one of our local channels, (TV3)  on Friday, February 8th, in which our guest, the Coach of the Black Stars was asked a question,  which he perceived as rude,  and he gave an inordinately unfortunate answer, which many thought he should have “been taller than”.  At the end of the game, don't they shake hands, and exchange jerseys?  That is the spirit.  That should drive mankind, so that games do bring us more togetherness. It was that way, at Mount Olympus!

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle, © 2008

The author has 1023 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: GhanaianChronicle

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