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14.03.2009 Sports News

A CHAN Adventure

By Daily Guide

Sitting next to a giant drum that was jammed between the driverÕs seat and the front passenger seat I shared with another journalist- luckily very slight in stature- I couldnÕt help but laugh at the sheer audacity of this mission. 

More than 20 people were squeezed in cheering and singing as well as dancing, but itÕs doubtful if anyone could have moved a muscle.

I was in Abidjan and sitting in a car hired by the Nationwide Supporters Group of Ghana on our way to the CHAN final.

My sojourn to Cote dÔIvoire was one of severe frustration starting with the STC bus departing typically late on Friday morning. 

Indiscriminate stops along the way coupled with that late departure meant the journey took more than 14 hours and I arrived in Abidjan after dark which was far from ideal in a new city with a bad reputation.

I had organized to stay at the STC compound in Abidjan. It was not the safest part of town so I dared not venture outside especially late at night. 

It was here that I met the Nationwide Supporters Group of Ghana and was immediately taken under their collective wing which was not only reassuring in a country with pretty severe travel warnings, but also entertaining.

Also staying at the STC compound was Cassidy, a young radio journalist from Takoradi who was so helpful I will never forget his kindness. 

He tried as hard as he could to get me accreditation for the CHAN final but the authorities wouldnÕt budge and unfortunately they denied my request.  

The Nationwide Supporters were in full voice by lunch time on Sunday in preparation for the match. They decked themselves out in red, green and gold and loaded the drums, bongos, trumpets, flags and all other essential supporting equipment into the car. 

Then the supporters themselves all piled in, saving the front seat for me which surely averted a crush injury.

Once inside the stadium we tried one last time to get accreditation, unfortunately it was all to no avail.  Cassidy didnÕt use his press pass, instead he sat with me and completed his report from the stands making sure I was safe. 

Ironically it was Cassidy who had his money and phone stolen.

The match as we know was a terrible disaster for the Black Stars of Ghana.  For DR Congo it was more than just the CHAN; it was revenge and unfortunately for the local Black Stars they couldnÕt compete with that intensity and play to the level we all know they can.

With the disappointment of the match still fresh in our minds it was time to pack up and board the STC home on Monday morning. 

Faisal Awudu, aka Net 2, of Nationwide Supporters took control, making sure that I wasnÕt ripped off and that I had a ticket for the bus. He was nothing short of wonderful for the whole weekend. 

I dreaded boarding the bus again but I wanted to get home more, so I packed my bags and got ready to board for 7am.  The bus finally left at 10am, another delay and once again no explanation- my frustrations were growing.

The delay and subsequent indiscriminate stops and a broken chair that acted as a slingshot when we went over each bump left me feeling more frustrated than I can ever remember feeling. 

I just wanted to get home but there was nothing I could do to speed up the process.  We safely crossed the Cote dÕIvoire border and got organized to ease back into Ghana.

It was here that I had an experience that has left a very sour taste in my mouth- a taste that will be very difficult to wash away.

We arrived at the Ghana Immigration office. There was no order and people were pushing in and generally driving me crazy, but I tried to contain my frustrations as I filled in my arrival card and joined the queue to see an immigration officer.

After fending off a few would-be line-jumpers I reached the front of the queue and put my passport through the gap; then after a minute or so I was told that my visa had expired.  I was instantly filled with rage because I knew for a fact that it had not.

My visa was purchased from the Ghana Consulate in Sydney, Australia on 5 December 2008, from that date I had 3 months to enter Ghana which I successfully did on 12 January 2009, from which date I had 60 days to leave and enter Ghana as many times as I wished and upon each new entry I should have been given an additional 60 days in Ghana from the date of the new arrival. 

I tried to re-enter Ghana for the first and only time on 9 March 2009 which is only 56 days from my initial arrival, my visa had therefore NOT expired.

The immigration officers kept me there, crying in frustration for an hour and a half.  I firmly believe that they read my visa to say that I had 60 days from date of issue rather than date of arrival and therefore wrongly stated that my visa had expired.  Instead of admitting their mistake and issuing me with a 60 day stamp they tried to extort US $100 from me.  

I told the immigration officer that I had gone to Cote dÕIvoire to cover the CHAN match for the DAILY GUIDE and with the utterance of those two words, ÔDaily GuideÕ, the requirement for a new visa and US $100 magically disappeared and they stamped my passport, giving me 3 days in the country which forced me to apply and pay for a visa extension when my multiple entry visa dictated that I shouldnÕt have to.

This appalling mistake and the subsequent treatment I received will unfortunately be the first thing I remember when I think of my time in Ghana. 

This is unfair to the beautiful people I have met on the journey but corruption and stubbornness has left me with no choice.

Thank you to every member of the Nationwide Supporters Group of Ghana who I am grateful to call my friends.

I am happy to say that at time of going to press my faith in human kindness has been restored after I met a couple of lovely immigration officers at the headquarters in Accra who were sympathetic to my situation and showed great sadness that I was treated so poorly.  My visa has now been extended.

By Kate West