This is not how it was meant to be. For long we have loved and cherished the Black Stars, our emotions dictated by their actions and inaction.
Failure and cash fueled scandals breeds apathy
Dede Ayew is right; the fans don't care about the Black Stars but he also knows how to win them back
It seems those days are long gone and when Andre Ayew spoke up about fans abandoning them in the build up to their Nations Cup qualifier in Mauritius last week, there would have been a lot of people screaming good riddance at that.
Luanda in 2010, Bata on a hot February afternoon in 2012. That miserable day in Nelspruit when Bance and Burkina Faso left many angry and frustrated. And then Baba again in January last year. The story of the Black Stars has been a tale of stumbling from one failure to another. The frustration for many Ghana fans is that the failure has often been rewarded with more money for the principal actors, very few lessons learnt and even more money in a bid to correct that.
Up to some point, people bought into that thinking. Give them whatever they want and they would deliver the famous trophy. Events of crazy summer in Brazil proved that is false thinking. It proved that more money was only more likely to diminish the hunger and kill the fight. It also became the moment many Ghanaian football fans realised that what they had been doing all along was to will a group of ‘workers’ intent on making hay while the sun shines on. It was the moment many Ghanaian football fans discovered that maybe it was never about the famous Black Stars, national pride. It was work, ensuring a better future, better pay checks. So the fans decided they had their work to concentrate on.
There was a poignant Facebook post after yet another qualification to the Nations Cup in Mauritius on Sunday. The Black Stars had sealed a seventh straight passage to the biggest football tournament on the continent. In fairness no one expected scenes of jubilation in Accra but neither would you have expected the stone cold attitude.
If the players who spend a fair bit of time on social media chance on that thread, they would be heart broken. The message from many of the fans was simple; players have prioritised money and made that absolutely clear. The fans say they are simply doing the same so they would rather concentrate on what earns them money themselves rather than will a group of players on to make even more money.
“They are doing their business in order to cater for their families and we are also doing our business to cater for our families too so why should we think or support their business”, one fan wrote on a Joy FM thread.
Another fan said: “So many years down the lane, no nation's cup glory, yet government uses tax payers money to pay $8.000 as winning bonuses to each Black Stars player, people sleep in dumsor!! No potable water for some people to drink. Accra sports stadium is in a deplorable state and no one cares. Are we insane as a nation?
The players are adamant that is not the case. It is the one subject that seems to fire up the passion in players more than anything when you interview them. Mubarak Wakaso recently said ‘even if we are paid $5 we would play’. Others have suggested it is ridiculous to even question their commitment. But they have also always added the caveat that they must be comfortable.
No one would ever deny that but as the build up to another Nations Cup begins, there would be many who would be asking themselves a simple question. Would this be another money making tool for a selected, privileged few even if they fail? Would it be another case of emotional heartache for many fans and enhanced bank balances for a few pampered souls?
The problem for the Black Stars is that far too often, deeds have not matched their nationalistic rhetoric. There have been too many squabbling over money and no trophies to show for that. One moment they don’t like hotel B but prefer hotel A.
It has simply made people wary. It has been tiring even for those who spend a considerable time around the players. And it is a good thing the players are noticing it.
"This past one and a half year, it's been difficult between the Black Stars and fans, to be honest," Dede said in the build up to the Mauritius game. "For me as a leader and with other leaders and my colleagues, it's very painful. When we played against Mozambique, the stadium wasn't full but when Hearts of Oak played Kotoko, I was in France but I saw the stadium was full - it's painful."
The fans are speaking with the only voice they have which is their support. They don’t earn thousands for it, they don’t get cars for failing, they don’t get five star accommodation for doing what they claim to love. They just back with their emotion. Now they are demanding that in return.
It didn’t take long after qualification for Nations Cup before coach Avram Grant and his players were saying something we would hear a lot of in the months leading up to the tournament in Gabon.
Asked if winning would be the main target, Grant said : “Of course. We know that it is a lot of team’s ambition to win, but we did so well in the last African Cup, we deserved the cup, we were better in the final, we didn’t take it because of penalties.”
Stand-in captain Dede Ayew has played in four of the last six Afcons and endured the pain of losing in two finals reckons the preparation for Gabon must start now.
“It is a great victory for us, we needed this victory so that we can seal our qualification to the AFCON, now we have made it,” Dede said.
“Six months to the tournament and we need to prepare in advance and be ready for this tournament which is an important one to us.
“These six months to the tournament, we are not going to talk too much, I think what is important is the preparation, if you want to do something in a tournament, you need to prepare well.
“People are going to go back to pre-season, they are going to have long six months, there can be injuries, there can be so many things in six months so we need to be calm, prepare ourselves mentally, physically because this tournament a very important tournament for us.”
Mubarak Wakaso had declared before the trip to Mauritius that the Nations Cup trophy is all Ghana wants and that the players are more than determined to win it.
We have heard it so many times. If there is anything consistent about the Black Stars it is that the promises have been consistent. Often they look like they would back it but as five semi finals and two losses in the final proves, they seem to choke at the most crucial stage.
First the fans thought it was ok. Now they seem not to. If the Black Stars remain consistent with that trend, Ayew would be wailing even more about the lack of fans. In the present state of affairs it won’t be the worst thing to have happened to Ghana football.
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