The days when the world laughed at African football are long over. This fact was proved beyond doubt by the sumptuous display of high-quality football at the 26ty African Cup of Nations held in Ghana (from 20 January to 10 February), and the number of European football scouts and personalities (including Jose Mourinho and Lothar Matteus, ex-Captain of Germany) who flew to Ghana to watch the African finesse on display. Not to be left out, Our editor Baffour Ankomah decamped to his native country to watch the fiesta unfold. From Accra, he sent us this report.
In 1990, an African journalist in London was daring enough to phone the English FA and ask them why "small" Britain had forever been given four places to enter England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the Fifa World Cup tournament when "huge" Africa--made up of 53 independent countries--had only four places (at the time)? Today Africa has six places, an improvement but not quite!
As expected, the African journalist did not like the answer that came from the other end of the line. "Where was Africa when Britain invented football?", a kind English FA official asked him back. Well, today, based purely on the high standard of the African game, that English FA official would have to close his eyes before hurling such an insult at Africa again.
In fact, Ghana, both literally and metaphorically, may have changed the face of football forever! The high quality performances at Ghana 2008--the signature name for the 26th MTN African Cup of Nations tournament, and the sheer drama, passion, artistry and cultural content of the opening and closing ceremonies neatly crafted by Ghana's Local Organising Committee (LOC), headed by the indefatigable Dr Kofi Amoah, will be copied and copied the world over in the centuries ahead. It was simply the best that football had ever seen since the British invented the game.
Where else would you get gigantic Fontonfrom drums filling a stadium with their sacred, sonorous sounds? Where else would you see a trophy presentation ceremony where the trophy itself is carried onto the pitch by a mock queen in full regalia, in the shape of a beautiful young girl, herself carried in a beautiful palanquin by four "macho" men with bodies that any hot-blooded lady would drool over?
Where else ...? In fact, there were so many "where elses" at Ghana 2008 that the Angolans and South Africans will not lack for ideas when they host the next big things in Africa--the 2010 Nations Cup (in Angola) and Fifa World Cup (in South Africa). Theirs would surely be spectacles to behold--if they are to beat Ghana...