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The Long Waits

By Satish Sekar in Cameroon © Satish Sekar (January 10th 2022)

AFCON’s Waiting Game

It’s well known that Ghana’s Black Stars have not won a senior men’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title for 40 years. But they lost in the final five times, 1968, 1970, 1992, 2010 and 2015. They lost on penalties in 1992 and 2015 to the same opponent, la Côte d’Ivoire. With a bit better luck they would have been the benchmark.

Yet some laugh at them. Strangely, they don’t ridicule Morocco, even though the North Africans have a far worse record. The Atlas Lions boast only one title and that was 46 years ago. Nevertheless, the North African giants suffer far less mocking than Ghana. Why? It’s been a longer wait.

The Curse

Ghana has been far more successful too. The Black Stars remain the only team to have appeared in four consecutive finals 1963-1970 – they were the first to win the trophy outright after winning the title for the third time in 1978. The late Fred Osam-Duodu, the only person other than the late great Charles Kumi Gyamfi to win AFCON for Ghana, won that historic title.

The last time Ghana won the senior men’s AFCON title was in Libya in 1982. It almost proved otherwise. Ghana withdrew as relations between Hilla Liman and Colonel Muammar Gadaffi deteriorated. A then Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, who died last year, staged his second coup and Ghana hurried preparations to attend.

Gyamfi was not the only record breaker. The late Colonel Muammar Gadaffi’s opening address lasted almost two hours. 1982 was the third and last triumph of the late great Charles Kumi Gyamfi.

The Trophy Drought

Ghanaian great Rev. Osei Kofi

But Ghana’s four decades long drought takes some explaining. Ghanaian great Osei Kofi, now the Rev Osei Kofi, blames Ghana’s trophy drought on the failure to keep promises of bonuses from the 1960s after the February 1966 coup was used to ‘break’ the promise.

Nevertheless, the drought includes losses in the final in 1992, 2010 and 2015, twice on penalties. Joseph Paintsil was well aware of Ghana’s long wait and stressed that Ghana was keen to put this right.

Black Star, Joseph Paintsil

Solutions

Strangely, Morocco have a far worse record than Ghana. It has been 46 years since the Atlas Lions lifted the Africa Cup of Nations trophy for the first and so far only time. However, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI wanted answers. A review established not just the problem but a solution.

The Mohammed VI Complex in Salé, which includes an academy, started developing players recently. Some of them were part of Morocco’s World Cup campaign in 2018. Youssef En-Nesyri and Nayef Aguerd are part of Morocco’s AFCON squad. They are also graduates of the Mohammed VI Complex. The concept began in 2009 but it took a few years before the first batch of youngsters arrived. The Academy was transformed into the Complex and the results it has produced are amazing. It is a blueprint for development of African talent.

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