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Ghana v Rwanda: More than 3 points

Sat, 3 Sep 2016 Source: Nii Ayitey Tetteh

“Will you do a piece on the game?” My friend, Baffour, asked in connection with the final 2017 AFCON qualifier between Ghana’s Black Stars and Rwanda at the Accra Sports Stadium on September 3, 2016. “Maybe”, I responded nonchalantly.

Then immediately, a smile creased my face; not delight at the thought of writing but rather, the irony of it all; I would rather have a piece of chicken to be honest.

The question actually was a welcome distraction, just in time to prevent me snapping at the waiter (lunch was almost 30 minutes late .. yes, I wear my foodie badge proudly). Ok, apologies for drifting, we can now focus on football rather than “foodball”.

Tinkering

Now, if you are reading this, I did the piece after all, pretty soon you would find out why.

What should have ordinarily been a nondescript game with Ghana already booked the sole ticket in Group H with 13 points, has now drawn interest for all the wrong reasons.

Our brothers from East Africa tried desperately to outdo Ghana by spectacularly dismissing a coach and appointing two coaches in record time. Irishman Johnny McKinstry was sacked; local Gilbert Kanyankore Yaounde was appointed and then sacked to be replaced by current coach Jimmy Mulisa all within a week. Surely, “I can’t think far” on this one.

The 33 year old Mulisa who played in Belgium, Romania, Kazakhstan and Malaysia and was part of the Amavubi team that beat the Black Stars 1-0 at Amahoro National Stadium in 2003 in the qualifiers for AFCON 2004 has been in buoyant mood ahead of the tie against the Black Stars.

“Our main objective is to win the match against Ghana because we need to improve our position in FIFA rankings but also, the match is important for the pride of the country.

In the first week of training, we have been focusing more on improving the players’ fitness levels. We have players who are really working hard, are determined and devoted to ensure that this match goes well. The mood and spirit in camp is positive.

The arrival of foreign based players (Tanzania-based duo of Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza (Azam FC) and team captain Haruna Niyonzima (Yanga), Kenya’s Gor Mahia striker Jacques Tuyisenge and Ernest Sugira (AS Vita Club, DRC) has also boosted the team and we believe we can stage a good performance on Saturday” Mulisa told The New Times, a Rwanda daily.

Shadrach, Meshach, and ……..

Abednego! Yes Abednego! The plot thickens indeed! Could there have been a more apt name to pull the Black Stars out of the furnace than Adednego Tetteh? (no relation at all).

The Bechem United striker was one of the local players called up to replace some of Ghana’s foreign based players who pulled out due to injury or other commitments. Such has been the cloud over Ghana’s preparations; it’s an interesting twist of fate that Abednego’s call up in addition to Asante Kotoko’s Dauda Mohammed and Wa All Stars duo, Emmanuel Ocran and Richard Ofori have swelled to four, the total number of local based players in the squad.

That should please Ghana’s Minister of Sports, Hon. Nii Lante Vanderpuye, whose adamant stance that this game held no importance and hence a greater composition of the team should have been local, sparked a rift with Ghana FA. The ministry then slashed bonuses to $2,500 for this particular game and didn’t release monies for air fares.

Now, whether Hon. Vanderpuye is right or wrong is a discussion for another day. Another man who however cannot afford to be wrong is Ghana’s coach Avram Grant. He expressed his misgiving about the manner of preparations when he told Ghanaian media “I must say I am not happy with the preparations but I think the players' attitude has been positive so far," "I didn't like it when players were supposed to buy their own tickets for the game and we didn't know exactly when the players were supposed to report." Grant has shown a stubborn loyalty to a particular group of players, but Ghana’s larger interest would be best served if he started a couple of senior players and gave more fringe players a run out on Saturday.

This is how I expect Grant to line up: Kwarasey: Afful, Mensah, Amartey, Baba; Duncan, Acquah, Yeboah, Acheampong; Badu, Jordan. And sure enough, at some point, I expect to see Abednego (with 12 goals in the Ghana Premier League) this time, breathing fire in the game.

The opportunity to try out a new formation, new players, win back some public sympathy is what for me, makes this game, more than just three points. Along with that thought, lunch was served by the waiter who certainly wasn’t getting any points in my book.

Nii Ayitey Tetteh

niiayitey29@gmail.com

Twitter@niithesoccerguy

Source: Nii Ayitey Tetteh
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