His palm covered his mouth as the tears trickled down his cheeks, cutting a dejected figure which captured exactly the mood of the moment.
His posture in the press room of the Ismalia Stadium summed up the state of the Ghanaian players which was one of sadness and disappointment.
The 23 players plus coach Kwasi Appiah entered into the tournament with the blessings and support of Ghanaians to end an almost four-decade wait for a trophy but left the tournament with the question of ‘when again’ still lingering on the minds of Ghanaians.
From start to the end, the performances were lacklustre with occasional flashes of brilliance which served as a reminder of a once great team that is on a downward spiral.
It was a poor outing for Ghana at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt and the defeat against Tunisia was more than merited but in the gloom was the sparkle of Mubarak Wakaso.
While the pre-tournament big names huffed and puffed, Wakaso remained a constant source of inspiration for Ghanaians.
He was the engine of the team, covering every grass on the pitch and playing like a man on a mission to achieve something great for his country.
When the poster boys were walking back sluggishly to defend, Wakaso was sprinting back like Usain Bolt to intercept or block a pass.
The commitment, hunger and patriotism of the players were questioned but Wakaso was singled out for praise.
The team might have exited the tournament disgracefully but he could chin up because he left absolutely everything on the field and his place in the team of the tournament is testament to that.
That tournament was not the first and only time Wakaso had shown willingness to put himself on the line for the country.
It’s part of his game and it is that aspect of him that makes him endearing to Ghanaians that while others play for the money, he labours for the love of the red, gold, green with the black star.
Since 2012 when he made his debut against Malawi, Wakaso has become a fans’ favourite for his hunger-driven challenges and ambitious long balls.
A few times he has crossed the line. There have been instances of misguided aggression which has earned him cards but it remains without question that he is perhaps the only member of the Ghana team whose motivation to play is innate and not hinged on how much he receives as bonus or per-diem.
In Akonnor’s maiden call-up he spoke about passion and commitment from the players. His administration was going to be anchored on these principles.
For Akonnor, talent is not enough. Hunger, desire and hard work are going to be the determining factors of who he rides with or who he off-loads in his Black Stars train.
“I know that there are situations when some players have been looked down on. It would change. Beyond the skill and talent, they must show commitment”.
And if there’s any active Black Stars player who has combined skill and commitment to an effective end and should be an example for other players, it's Mubarak Wakaso.
Wakaso lives and breathes Akonnor’s hallmark and could have been the ideal ambassador for Akonnor’s idea.
It, therefore, came as a surprise that when he (Akonnor) announced his new set of deputy captains last Sunday, Wakaso’s name was absent.
To be fair, Ofori who is currently the captain of his South African side and Thomas Partey both deserve some roles in the team but if Akonnor needed anyone to sell his message for commitment and dedication, no player would be a better sales agent than Wakaso.
As coach Opeele said, aside from his characteristics which ticks every box in Akonnor’s set conditions, he is one of the longest-serving members of the team and is senior to the two who got the nod ahead of him.
“Maybe we could have Wakaso and Jordan Ayew but like I said it’s a decision by the coach. I think Partey comes in because of his experience and he has also captained the Black Stars before. He was captain when Dede wasn’t around. So, putting Partey in as Dede’s deputy is the coach’s decision. Not naming Wakaso is an issue but I can’t talk about why he was not picked”, Opeele told www.ghanaweb.com.
Akonnor has not explained the factors that informed his choice of captaincy but if he wanted to show that patriotism and commitment were going to be the hallmark of his team, then Wakaso could have at least been a member of his captaincy team.
An opportunity availed itself for Akonnor to prove that commitment was going to be rewarded under his watch but he fluffed by not picking Wakaso as one of Andre Ayew’s deputies.
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