Letter from Africa: Ghana's own goals?

Ghana fan in Brazil Image copyright Reuters

In our series of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian writer Elizabeth Ohene, a former government minister and member of the opposition, tries to remain upbeat after a turbulent World Cup for Ghana.

I am trying to look on the brighter side of things just as President John Dramani Mahama has been urging all of us Ghanaians to do and stop being pessimistic.

I did not question the word of the coach of our national football team when he made his selection for Brazil 2014.

I concentrated on the announcement that electricity supply would be regular during the course of the World Cup competition.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ghana sent an official delegation of about 650 fans to Brazil
Image copyright AP
Image caption Many fans were disappointed with the team's poor performance
Image copyright AFP
Image caption But some of them tried to keep their morale high

When the power supply went off in my part of town 10 minutes into the second half of the Ghana-US match, I did not complain, I did not curse.

I simply tried to find a way of answering the sneering headlines around the world that our government was having to buy extra electricity for the duration of the World Cup.

When we lost to the US, I kept my head down and followed our president's injunction to be positive.

I even started turning off the power to my deep freezer, as the electricity company had been urging all of us to do during the matches, as an energy-saving measure.

Ghana at the World Cup

Image copyright AFP
  • Failed to win single game
  • Lost 2-1 to USA
  • Drew 2-2 with Germany
  • Lost 2-1 to Portugal
  • Last in Group G

It was the least I could do as my contribution to the Brazil effort.

When a group of fans on their way to Brazil ended up spending days at the airport here in the capital, Accra, whilst the football was being played, I was not depressed.

The then-deputy minister of sports had told the country the government had money to sponsor some fans to go to Brazil, though it would select them from members of the governing party, the National Democratic Congress.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Kevin-Prince Boateng was expelled from the team for indiscipline

I did not have the heart to begrudge these young party supporters, or foot soldiers as they are called here in the local parlance, the opportunity of a lifetime to watch the Black Stars play at a World Cup.

When we played Germany, I was positive.

This was the team that had done the demolition job on Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal; and against Ghana, they struggled and were lucky to escape with a draw.

'Attractive jersey'

When the value of our currency kept falling these past how many weeks, I turned my deep freezer off all night. It was the least I could do.

I travelled outside Accra and the state of the roads was horrendous and just as I was about to start cursing, I heard on the car radio the amazing story about the government having sent more than $3m (£1.8m) on a chartered plane to Brazil to pay appearance fee to the players.

Before I could regain my breath this was followed by the story of two senior players being expelled from the camp and of fights between players and officials.

Ghana made the headlines everywhere and became the butt of every unfunny joke in the world and I still turned off my deep freezer for two hours during the night.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sulley Muntari was also sent home early
Image copyright AFP
Image caption At least Ghana had the best kit at the World Cup

We lost the match against Portugal but I concentrated on the design of the Black Stars' kit.

To my positive, unbiased eyes, Ghana had the most attractive jersey at the tournament.

We came back home earlier than we had planned but I said to myself at least people will sleep in their own beds and not have to slum it in some dormitory in faraway Brazil.

Then the news breaks that about 200 Ghanaian fans are seeking asylum in Brazil and they claim to be running away from intra-Muslim violence here in Ghana.

How can I say this in the most positive way?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Supporters of Ghana's governing party were sent to Brazil

By all means stay in Brazil if you want; maybe the lights stay on all the time there, maybe water flows in the pipes, maybe all their roads are smooth, maybe their currency is strong and prices do not change every day.

But religious violence in Ghana? You should find a different story for your asylum application.

What is the positive angle when these asylum-seekers are selected from supporters of the governing party?

I have been around the world and I can say there is no country I would rather be than Ghana.

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