The Thirty-second (32nd) edition of the African Cup of Nations will take place in Egypt from 21st June to 19th July, 2019 and you guys representing Ghana as the Black Stars will be making your Twenty-second (22nd) appearance at the competition. You will be going in with an enviable record, one which can lead a cursory examiner of your statistics, to conclude that you have a very great chance to win the competition.
After all, you have qualified for the tournament Twenty-two (22) times in total, won the cup four times, finished as runners-up five times, third once, and fourth, four times. You also hold the record of most consecutive semi-final appearances with six straight appearances between 2008 and 2017.
Beyond that, as far as Africa is concerned you carry significant weight on the Men’s World Cup stage. You are one of only three African Countries to have reached the Quarter Finals of the World Cup, and save some “fluke events” I dare say you would have advanced significantly in the competition.
With such an imposing record on the African and world football stage, wagers should be tilted in your favour. They will however be guided by the fact that for Thirty-seven (thirty-seven) years, the African Cup of Nations trophy has eluded you.
At your meeting with the President of The Republic, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House to bid him farewell ahead of your final training tour, he among other things reminded you of your role as the Black Stars of Ghana; the team of men charged with the responsibility of going out there to bring the ultimate football glory on the African Continent, to Ghana.
This, my friends, is the honour which out of 30 million Ghanaians, you have been bestowed with. It is no mean a feat to achieve but that should be no excuse to make a calamity out of it, with attacks on government officials and threats of boycotts at the least occurrence of dissatisfaction.
Black Stars of Ghana, as you prepare for AFCON 2019, I urge you to reflect deeply on why you have not gone beyond the level you have gotten to already, repeatedly. Are you certain without equivocation that you put in your best in the past, and even then do you seek to identify what you could have added to make your best even better? Be guided in your reflection by the famous quote "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Also, be guided by H.E President Akufo-Addo’s word of counsel “to write your own piece of history, and ensure that your names are written amongst the great names of Ghana’s footballing past, who brought honour and glory to the nation.
I urge you to learn lessons from your experience at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In doing so, focus on the magnitude of national patriotism with which you marched into the tournament, and the potential of professional enhancement offered you on that platform. Were they fully utilised?
Permit me to be blunt here, but guys, you were offered one of five (5) African slots at the World Cup, a platform contested for by over two-hundred (200) countries worldwide. You had been presented with a world viewership of over 3.4 billion, including all who matter in football to show your professional skills in honour of your country and the advancement of your own profession. Surely this should have been worth more than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000); and if you had focused and advanced in the competition, there is no doubt that you would have earned much more as you would have become more attractive as a worthy competitor to other top national football teams. It would also have put you on a better bargaining position to demand all that was due you; and in all these you would have made a better impression of yourself.
Thus at AFCON 2019 you have been presented with another platform to present your professional dexterity to the world. It is not only about working to honour Ghana. It is a dream opportunity to rekindle your professional light, no matter how dimmed it is and that my friends is more than One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) appearance fee.
H.E. President Akufo-Addo has expressed his determination to provide all the support government can give to sustain you, and give you the best opportunity to bring the cup home,” we are positive he will do that.
But the fact still remains that you can only win this competition if you go in with the sole objective of winning, no matter the cost; you should not grumble about captainship, appearance fees, winning bonuses, bad hotels, bad refereeing, bad pitch, or hooting fans. These will be written in history and judged by the next generation as peripheral reasons for failing to bring home “The Prom Queen”, as it were.
Be guided by the President’s counsel that teamwork is the heart of success in football. The Thirty million people of Ghana play secondary, who the Captain or Captain General is though we are quick to recognise however, that just as an arrow without an arrowhead will have no direction, so will a team without leadership on the field of play lack cohesion.
Black Stars of Ghana, as you prepare for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, I urge you to emulate then candidate Nana Akufo-Addo’s campaign posture in the run-up to the 2016 elections. He campaigned and campaigned and campaigned non-stop till he won. Further be boosted by Liverpool FC’s semi-final return match against FC Barcelona in the just ended 2019 UEFA Champions League. They played and played and played till they won. That was all that mattered to them; that is all that should matter to you; until the final whistle is blown.
You are the Black Stars of Ghana, nicknamed after the Black Star of Africa in our National Flag. As in several aspects of life where we have set the pace for other African countries to follow, so have we done the same in football, being the first to win the African Cup of Nations trophy for keeps?
As you get set to play your first match with Benin on 25th June at the Ismailia Stadium, with patriotism etched in your hearts and the unflinching determination to play solely to win the trophy, I am positive that you will come home with the “Prom Queen”.
Our prayers and support are with you.
God bless Ghana
YAW P. K. MAN