Skipper John Mensah says the tears he shed after Ghana's dramatic 4-2 victory over Cote d'Ivoire last Saturday symbolised mixed feelings as he struggled to come to terms with how the Black Stars could still not be crowned champions, even after humiliating the highly-fancied Ivorians in the final that never was. Before the tournament, the bookmakers had tipped Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire to be in the final, but fate turned that dream into a mere illusion, forcing the two giants to battle for the bronze instead.
And for Mensah it was an emotional moment he could hardly control as he figured out how the Stars, who had been shattered 48 hours earlier by Cameroun, bounced back in a difficult game against the Elephants to end the tournament with a bronze.
“Following the Cameroun defeat the team's morale was down and that affected us in the first half. But I kept talking to my teammates to fight on when things were difficult in the first half and the coach also encouraged us at half time to do our best to win something for the nation.“When the game changed in the second half and we won, so many things went through my mind as I stood in disbelief; it was tears of joy and nothing else”, the stalwart defender told the Graphic Sports in an exclusive interview at the Fiesta Royal Hotel yesterday.
According to him, what worsened the situation was the fact that the trophy still eluded them even after beating the team which was expected to stand between them and the ultimate.
“It is quite painful we could not win the cup because we were determined to die for it to make Ghanaians happy. But all the same we thank God for what he did for us because he knows best”, he said.
He said as the skipper of the team, he was dying to see the team win something to appreciate the wonderful support exhibited by Ghanaians throughout the tournament and was, therefore, happy when they won the bronze for consolation as hosts.He expressed regret at how the Stars lost to Cameroun and missed the chance to play in the final in his absence, and appealed Ghanaians to close the chapter on Shilla Illiasu's inclusion in the final team since the coach took that decision with good intentions hoping he could recover in time for the competition.
Mensah, who is still struggling to recover from the painful experience of losing the trophy to Egypt on home soil, assured Ghanaians of an improved performance from the Stars during the World Cup qualifiers which begin on May 30 with a home game against Libya.
He, however, urged his colleagues to serve the nation with selfless devotion anytime they are called upon to defend the nation.
“When we played Brazil in a friendly match in Sweden last year I had to take some injection to enable to me play all for the sake of the nation. A similar thing happened before our quarter-final game against Nigeria as Michael Essien was given some medication before he could play. We the players should learn to die for the nation at all times”.
The Stade Rennes defender who had an outstanding tournament also had a word for officials of the Ghana Football Association (GFA).
“We expect the FA to do its homework well before the World Cup qualifiers and everything will be fine”, he said.
Story by Michael Quaye