There is a marked difference between divinity and football though that difference is thin. Nonetheless, how the 2012 African Nations Cup is panning out for Ghana will force some of us, who believe in God, to ascribe divine intervention to the road to a possible 5th continental glory for the Black Stars. Nevertheless, let me emphatically state that Heaven helps those who help themselves and so if the Black Stars do not put in any effort glory will elude them.
The draw was held last Saturday in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. As expected, nations came to know their group stage opponents and more importantly where they will have to base for at least two weeks. As scheduled, the opening ceremony and match will take place in Bata, Equatorial Guinea while the closing ceremony and match will take place in Libreville, Gabon.
Besides the above-mentioned two cities, Malabo and Franceville will also serve as bases for some of the teams. To be specific, Group A will base in Bata in Equatorial Guinea, Group B in Malabo in the same country and Group C in Libreville, the capital of Gabon. Group D, which is of great interest to me and Ghanaians in general, will play in Francevile in Gabon.
Franceville or Masuku
The Black Stars, without doubt, play under enormous pressure when playing home. Indeed, the Black Stars pull surprises when the odds are always against them. It is in this light that I see the drawing of Ghana into Group D, taking them to relatively unknown Franceville, as divinely crafted. Franceville will definitely drift Ghana from the frenzy that Bata, the football capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, the country’s capital and Libreville, the capital of Gabon will be accompanied with during the Africa Cup of Nations season. I must admit though that Ghanaian supporters will conspicuously be in Franceville. In his reaction to the draw on the British Broadcasting Coporation, Kwesi Nyantakyi, the President of the Ghana Football was spot-on in stating that he is satisfied with Ghana going ‘undercover’ in Franceville. That statement was made to the effect that pressure will ease from the Black Stars just like the Zebras(Botswana), the Eagles(Mali) and the Syli Nationals(Guinea), who will also be based in Franceville. I could not agree with Kwesi Nyantakyi more. Indeed, it is because of pressure to impress friends and relatives in Accra that the Black Star players tend to perform poorly when playing at the Accra Sports Stadium. As a result, matches of the senior national team are favoured to be played in more Kumasi than any of the three Ghanaian cities with stadiums.
Opponents of Grour D
Another fall-out from the draw I find favourable and will be forced to ascribe divine intervention to is the opponents of group matches. Indisputably, Ghana’s male national teams from the Black Starlets to the Black Stars progress in terms of performance with the tournaments. In most tourneys Ghana has won, the players peak as the tourney wears on. Therefore, for Ghana to begin the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations with an inexperienced side like Botswana can do lots of good. Let me quickly state, before some people get me wrong, that the fact that Botswana has not played in the nations cup before does not mean they cannot beat the Black Stars. Nonetheless, I expect the Black Stars to pick the three points at stake though they will find the Zebras very tough nuts to crack. It will be after that reality check that the Black Stars will take seriously their next match against Mali on 28th January, 2012.
Ghana or Cote d’Ivoire
It is needless and, perhaps, out of date at this point to state that teams that would have posed a major threat to Ghana will not make it to Gabon/Equatorial Guinea. Yes, I see a divine hand in that too. As it stands now no one will see any surprise in Ghana or Cote d’Ivoire winning the 2012 Africa Cu of Nations. The two neighbouring countries have been tagged as favourites and it will only come as a surprise if none of the two wins the 2012 Nations Cup. In the case of the Black Stars, it will come as the least of surprises if they win the nations cup in Gabon judging from performance in the last two nations cups. In Ghana 2008, the Black Stars came third. They furthered that performance a step in the last edition in Angola and many will not be surprised if they win the tournament in 2012.
The last time Ghana won the Africa Cup of Nations was in Libya 1982. Incidentally, it was Ghana’s record fourth title. Since then some nations have surpassed and equaled Ghana’s haul. But the chase for Ghana’s fifth title in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea is, in my opinion, divinely backed but will dwell on the efforts put up by the players because Heaven helps those who help themselves.