“TAKING THE BALL HOME” IS SO EASY TO PREDICT! ….
By CAMERON DUODU
As soon as Equatorial Guinea was allowed by the CAF to jump in and replace Morocco as the host of Africom [sic: what a delightful Freudian slip!] 2015, alarm bells began to ring in the ears of some of us.
The reason is that Equatorial Guinea is ruled by a noxious dictatorship and dictatorships seize upon every opportunity to stage spectacular sports tournaments whenever they can, because such tournaments give them a chance to prove to the world that their people are “happy” under their totalitarian regimes. The CAF had given Equatorial Guinea a taste of this unearned fruit once before. Why do it again? The answer is that the CAF does not care what those it is supposed to serve, think!
Yet, we know that sports can be the mother of chauvinism and can ruin relations between nations for years and years.
That knowledge is not rocket science: we almost all remember that when we were kids, the “section” in which we were placed in our classrooms turned us from friendly beings into adrenalin-filled fiends who would gladly have killed classmates in a different “section” if we had been allowed to!
We may also remember how difficult it was to get a ball to play with, if one lived in a small village whose inhabitants were mainly poor. Only the sons of rich parents could afford to buy proper rubber soft balls, for instance, whilst the rest of the pack tried to make do with sponge covered with rags, or even oranges and mangoes!
If one managed to be accepted into the play-group of a rich man’s son who had a rubber ball, one felt enormously privileged. Except that, in the course of play, the owner of the ball might have wanted – say – to take a penalty and was told that he couldn’t do it because he was a bad shot. Usually, that was the end of play, for the guy would just pick up his ball and walk home with it. We would fume and fret, but there was nothing we could do. Either we allowed him to lose the match for us by wasting the opportunity to score, or we had no ball to play with.
Equatorial Guinea is like one of those spoilt brats. It seems to always want to dictate the rules when its national team is playing. Its most recent “misdemeanour” occurred when, on 3 July 2014, the organising committee of AFCON 2015 declared that a match between Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania had been forfeited by Equatorial Guinea, because Equatorial Guinea had fielded a player called Thierry Tazemeta, who was ineligible to play for Equatorial Guinea. Other instances of cheating by Equatorial Guinea had preceded this.
The question is: if Equatorial Guinea was known to act in such ways, then why did the same AFCON 2015 organising committee accept, with alacrity, its offer to host the tournament, after Morocco had so ignominiously withdrawn its offer to host it?
Admittedly, there is no doubt that the CAF was immensely grateful to Equatorial Guinea for the offer, especially, since it was made at such short notice. But shouldn’t the CAF have looked beyond mere gratitude to other issues, such as the spirit of sportsmanship prevalent in Equatorial Guinea?
In its match against Tunisia on 31 January 2015, Equatorial Guinea could be inferred to have influenced the Mauritian referee to award it a dubious penalty against Tunisia.
Yes – in a bribery and corruption case, an act can be inferred to be corrupt if it is so bizarre that no sane person would have carried it out without being influenced to do so. For, of course, bribery and corruption cannot be easily proved, unless either the taker of the bribe or the giver of it chooses to confess, which is usually rather unlikely to happen.
Under the circumstances, what happened in the match between Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia on 31 January 2015 could be seen in no other light than as an act stemming from corruption. For the CAF to have sat back — despite the glaring evidence of possible corruption — and expect Equatorial Guinea to play a fair game against Ghana, was an act of collaborative irresponsibility.
True, the referee in the Equatorial Guinea versus Ghana match was blemish-free. Is it because he came from Gabon, which is also oil-producing, and was therefore less attracted by possible blandishments from oil-rich Equatorial Guinea? That aside, the Equatorial Guinea players were also largely blameless, though some of their antics of feigning — on the field of play — were deplorable.
But what about the spectators? The proverb says that there are many ways of killing a cat, and it is not outside the realms of possibility that a section of the crowd had been briefed on what to do, if the match seemed to be going against their country. Or possibly, opponents of the dictatorial regime had briefed their supporters to embarrass the regime by engaging in riotous conduct. Alternatively, the spectators could just have been infected with spontaneous combustion, occasioned by the unbridled chauvinism spoken about at the beginning of this article. Even worse, a combination of ll three factors might have been at work, for human motivation is often mixed and difficult to unravel.
Thus, with Ghana ahead by three goals to nothing, a fuse was lit among the Equatorial Guinea supporters that could have dried up Niagara Falls!. Fortunately, the practical results of the resultant explosion was bottles, broken plates and mirrors being hurled at the Ghanaian spectators. They managed to flee from the stands on to the running track just behind the field of play. Some of the bottles fell on to the field of play itself. Unconfirmed reports claim that two spectators were killed; certainly, some Ghanaians were taken to hospital and treated for injuries.
The distress caused to our nationals was undoubtedly immense: some feared that they were going to be ambushed and killed as they made their way from the stadium.
The scenes in and around the stadium were incredibly frightening. But where were the Equatorial Guinea police to evict the inflamed crowd and throw a cordon of protection around the Ghanaian spectators?
They were notable by their absence. The match was interrupted for nearly half an hour, and it is not difficult to imagine that the Equatorial Guinea trouble-makers expected it to be called off, with the prospect of a replay, in which they would, of course, beat Ghana and go to the final. Fortunately, the aforementioned Gabonese referee showed more mettle than the Mauritius fellow and the match was eventually resumed, for Ghana to win by 3 goals to 0.
Now, yes, Ghana is going to meet the Ivory Coast in the final on 8 February 2015. It should normally be the African Match Of The Year. But in what spirit will our team approach it? They will be psychologically low, believing, as they will, that the Equatorial Guinea fans will all cheer the Ivory Coast side and boo the Ghana side, in order to cause them to lose the match.
But the Ghanaians should shrug that “negative”off and turn into a “positive”, and thereby bring the Cup home.
I pray that Asamoah Gyan will be fit enough to play, and that we shall be blessed to see his quixotic victory dance once again on the field.
Ghana, Oseeeee Yeeeeeei!
Oseee yei oooooooh!
Shame to the CAF!