Ghanaians warm to Black Stars despite defeat to Portugal

The day is November 24, which simply means it is that time Ghana finally plays Portugal in the Qatar World Cup. The Makola atmosphere is not particularly euphoric in anticipation of the Ghana game just yet.

In fact, the vibe is just about the same as ever: salespeople haggling with customers, station preachers singing tunelessly to sad gospel music, trotro mates screaming at the top of their lungs.

But to take an observant stroll through the Makola vicinity is to notice how well aware most people are that Ghana plays a crucial game this day. One of Grace Ashy’s Black Stars song blares from a speaker in a distance.

A saleswoman who deals in the sale of jewellery and men’s underwear informs her buyer with unbreakable faith “it will be 4-0” in Ga. A few women among the multitude have beautifully put on their Ghana football scarfs. Still, none of the street preachers has yet to offer a few words of prayer for the team as far as the ears can hear.

Noticeably, a small number of people in the crowds are in their Ghana jerseys; some the latest ones and others the old, some the original ones and others the fake.

The game is now hours away and gradually the people of Accra Central, Tudu and Makola are talking more and more of the victory that awaits the Black Stars by the close of day.

Yet, in Makola’s fully air-conditioned offices, not many people share the same sentiment. Here, optimism is slightly mixed with pessimism. Just a few have unshakeable belief in the team. Now there is a brief and civilised chatter in these offices of how Portugal can do damage to the Black Stars in so many ways.

Bernado Silva and Cancelo are mentioned with some higher form of reverence. Cristiano Ronaldo is talked about too; how he’s capable of changing a game at the flick of a switch.

It must be said that Ronaldo is often presented in the global media as a tremendous footballing oracle, ditto for Lionel Messi. And truth be told his greatness in the football fraternity will be talked about by generations yet unborn.

At this juncture, a hot debate threatens to break out because someone among the group has just said aloud the Portuguese is no match for Messi. But it doesn’t and the clock ticks to 8.00am and the office doors crack open to the public for serious business.

Thursday morning has now yielded to Thursday afternoon. The sun is unbearably hot. Accra, strictly speaking, is a hive of activity. The clock continues to quietly tick. And then, finally, the time reads 3:07pm.

It’s now roughly an hour to the game and the lineups have been put out. One of the Ayew brothers is in, but it’s certainly not Jordan. Many on Twitter drink a toast to that.

Mohammed Kudus is in, as is Inaki Williams. Salis Samed partners Thomas Partey in the middle of the park. Ghana will play a back three comprising Amartey, Djiku and Salisu. Baba Rahman and Alidu Seidu play as wingbacks.

A good number of people have now departed Makola and the ones left are hurriedly searching for places to watch the game. The clock strikes 4:00pm, the game is now in full swing.

Portugal have done much of the attacking, but Black Stars have defended well in the opening 45 minutes of the game. The first half is out and now belongs to history, 0-0. The second half starts, tempers rise and fall, fouls are committed and won, and a number of players on the pitch have been booked. Seidu has been tremendous so far, likewise Kudus and the three solid guys at the back.

But the destiny of Ghana will soon change. The centre referee awards a lousy penalty to Portugal after a legal challenge by Salisu on Ronaldo. And of course Ronaldo doesn’t miss. The whole of Makola is quieted. In no time Ghana score to level the score and heighten Portuguese anxiety.

The entire Makola screams and shakes in jubilation. But then Otto Addo subs off his best players and brings on Jordan Ayew to the disbelief of many Ghanaians. Portugal score a second, and then a third at the blink of an eye.

The game is now beyond the reach of Black Stars, but hope is slightly restored when Osman Bukari nets Ghana’s second of the game in the closing stages. Nine minutes of additional time are added.

The game becomes ugly and tension is at a peak. Williams almost nets a dramatic equaliser, but painfully doesn’t. The whistle sounds and the people of Makola, who are now filled with repressed feelings of rage, pour out to the streets.

Even though Black Stars rose to the occasion, it didn’t reflect in the result. But nothing has been lost just yet. There are still two crucial games to play. And so surely, the sun will rise and we shall try again.