Jonathan Mensah hopes the Black Stars can put on a show in Gabon to win back the support from fans across the country.
Mensah is back home after the first half of the Russia Premier League season that highlighted some of the difficulties he has faced in his career; injuries, inconsistency amongst them.
But he is taking the glass is half full rather than half empty approach. “The season was okay for me”, he says. “Due to injury I missed couple of games but I play nine out of 15 games in the first half of the season so it is not bad. I think if I was fit throughout I would have played all the games.”
“Am very thankful to God and l because I have come a long way but I also know there is so much more I can do. There have been difficult moments but I have made progress. All I can hope for is good help, to be able to stay in shape do what I do best for my country, club and myself.”
In January, he will have the chance to do something for ‘club, country and myself’ as he says. If he is picked by Avram Grant for the 2017 Nations Cup it will be his fifth AFCON. In each of them he has reached the semifinals, in two of them he has endured the pain of defeat.
The highs and of his international career take pride of place on his walls at home with photos of him up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Mersut Ozil dominant. There is also a photo of him consoling a tearful Andre Ayew after the loss in the 2015 final on penalties to Ivory Coast and another as he walks past the Sepp Blatter to pick up his silver medal.
“I keep the pictures so that it drives me,” he says. “I keep the silver medals so that I can remind myself that it is not what I want again. The photos reminds me every day how far I have come but it also motivates me to go one step better every time. My hope is that soon, I can replace a lot of them with photos that speak to the ultimate triumph.”
To get anywhere close to the ultimate triumph, Mensah and his mates must get out of the group. He feel they can do that under Avram Grant even though he is keen to point out that without the necessary support there is not much the Israeli can do.
Support is also something he feels the Black Stars desperately need. Still reeling from the cash-gate in Brazil, the Black Stars has become something of damaged goods.
“We have to qualify from our group stage before we see what is next for us”, he states. “We are like the prodigal son who want acceptance again. We need that support again.
“Our performances recently have not been great compared to previous performances but the only way to change that is to play well with the full backing of the nation.
“People have said very hurtful things that has questioned our motivation and patriotism which is not fair but hopefully we can change that feeling in Gabon.”