No room for Second Place ; the Case of the Ghana Black Stars.

Last night Ghana lost their AFCON finals bid to Cameroon in what was a heated semi finals match.

The truth is many people didn’t support the players at this years AFCON after the whole World Cup issue.

So with very few supporters in the stands to cheer them on they still pushed through and advanced to the semi finals.

And when they did, people who didn’t care as much and had even wished them the worst,were suddenly glued to their TV’s secretly praying they would win.

Unfortunately, they lost to Cameroon, in what I believe was a heated game with the boys playing their hearts out. (my opinion)

But some Ghanaians weren’t going to let them off the hook that easily, they needed to tell them how terrible they played, how over rated and over paid they were and how they knew they weren’t going to progress in the first place.

Some took it a step further to call them names, attack their families and use unsavory word to discribe them.

And then there were those who jubilated over their loss.

I’m not going to go too deep into the dynamics of football, it would be a long one; but I will say this that I doubt ANY footballer goes on the pitch to LOSE.

Teams lose for many reasons, and that’s why selections are made, players are dropped and a coach is needed to shape players and a team into form.

And some of these methods work and others don’t, there are days when a player is in top form and others where he just can’t meet up to it; either way NO player goes on the field with a ” I just want to run around for 90 mins so I can get payed mentality”, if they exist then they’re not worthy of the game.

Also I won’t deny that politics plays a huge role in football all across, it’s a profit making sport not a charity; fans go to see specific players and teams, sponsors also throw in more money depending on the audience, countries spend heavily on footballers also because it helps their image, tourism and many other benefits.

Football is used as a marketing tool for many countries, with England being on top of the list. Several tourist travel each year just to watch the European League, they spend on tickets, hotels, food, paraphernalia and many more.

So you see football is way more than 22 people chasing after one ball, it’s way more than players making a huge amount of money for what you think it’s them “just” running around.

In fact players probably are on the bottom of the hierarchy list of who profits the most.

So just remember this the next time you watch a football match.

Today however, I don’t want to just talk about football, I want to talk about our understanding of what it means to “WIN”.

Out of several teams that started the tournament, ours made it to the semifinals, a place we’ve been many times but it still doesn’t make it an easy run.

But for many Ghanaians, the semi finals was not good enough if we didn’t win; and all the effort the boys put into playing up to that point would mean NOTHING if they didn’t bring the Cup home.

And I’m sure the boys knew this, and it’s why they started playing “panicking football” when Cameroon scored.

Everyone was putting their all in it, and not necessarily in the right way; because they could already imagine the commentary on social media, radios and newspapers so they tried desperately to equalize and that desperation lead to mistakes. Our venom was already in the air and they could smell it.

Because there’s no room for second place in Ghana, if you don’t WIN every other position is considered a LOSS.

Celebrating anything other than a win is deemed “mediocre”,a word which has been abused severely.

And this is why for many the fear of losing has always been greater than the desire to win.

And fear is a crippling feeling which causes you to over think, analyze and make mistakes, why?

Because you’re so focused on “what if” and everything that can go wrong if you lose than you are about just putting in your best.

And the attitude of the black stars is evident in our daily lives.

How many times have you watched a competion and thought to yourself, ” oh I know this person would have done a better job” or tried to talk someone into joining one and they’ve said back to you “I don’t want to disgrace myself”.

Because that person is already thinking of the backlash from not winning or the embarrassing comments and glances people will shot their way.

This doesn’t encourage people who otherwise would have done a much better job to come forward, because they’d rather save themselves the embrassement than risk public scrutiny.

Sadly this is one of the reasons why we don’t take risks, because failure, even after being bold enough to try is never rewarded.

Several years ago, after the AMAA awards I made rounds on radio and television and nearly all the presenters were more interested in why we didn’t win, than they were the fact that we had been nominated against some of the best in Africa.

Thankfully I wasn’t raised with a defeatist attitude, infact the more I failed the more my parents made sure to let me know they believed that I could do better.

When I participated in Miss Teen Ambassador (yes I’ve been around) my parents got to the national theatre before it even opened; they sat in the front row and watched me after getting to the top ten completely mess up my answer.

They came to me patted me on the back and told me just how proud they were of me, I think my father even attempted to say the question was unfair, but deep down I knew he was just trying to comfort me.

But it’s from there I learned how to speak publicly, I was always one of those people too scared to raise her hands in class in case I got the answer wrong.

But after that my hand was always up in class, even right up to university with more than 500 students in a class.

I always had something to contribute, thanks to the teen ambassador I’d learned to just try,even at the risk of being wrong or failing.

Why?

Because my family was my biggest cheerleader, they urged me on at every turn and instead of that making me complacent as many people would think, I was more than determined to prove their trust and support wasn’t misplaced.

But many people didn’t grow up the way I did, they didn’t have parents believing in them at their lowest and because of this don’t know how to treat people the same way.

How do we expect excellence when effort isn’t rewarded.
How do expect patriotism when we ourselves haven’t been patriotic.

And any attempt at pointing it out leads to the usual, “mediocrity” accusation.

But you’re NOT mediocre if you’re passionate, and give it your all, you’re not mediocre if you fought to your last breath and lost.

You’re mediocre if you don’t care, lack zeal, inadequacy and can’t really be bothered.

So be sure of who you call mediocre the next time someone loses after giving it their all.

And this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be criticized, it’s necessary for anyone to grow; but it has to be constructive not “your mother will die because you lost a football match”

And it’s ok to be upset, I know I am too, somedays I even cry because that’s how emotionally invested I am in the game.

And I believe several Ghanaians are too and it’s why they get so upset when Ghana doesn’t win; but being upset is one thing, crossing over to be verbally abusive is another.

Like many of you I do believe that there are a lot of changes we need to make,and some mistakes were avoidable.

But it’s NEVER stopped me from cheering them on whenever I can.

You can’t treat these players like they are just being paid to do a job, and yet get angry when they treat the game like it’s just another paid job?

People stay counting their coins like the money they get paid will solve all of Ghana’s problems, but do you know how much money the European League is making of off you as you watch right here in Ghana?

Do you know how much stations have to pay to air these matches for you?

All the money you spend at drinking bars watching football can also be gathered to pay for the things you swear our money can be used for instead.

So yes, let’s expect the BEST from people, but in the same breath let’s encourage people at their lowest.

It’s the ONLY way people will be encouraged to come out and TRY.