My compatriots who have not noticed may want to take another look at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Group E was made up of Italy, Ghana, Czech Republic and USA.
Qualification for the round of 16 was in that order IGCU. They are all missing from Russia 2018; all four.
I read this from somewhere: ‘Italy is one of the most successful national teams in the history of the World Cup, having won four titles (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) and appearing in two finals (1970, 1994), reaching a third place (1990) and a fourth place (1978).’ In spite of all that, there will be no Italy in Russia.
To win Germany 2006, Zenidine Zidane, leading the French challenge at a 1-1 draw stage, was ‘provoked by’ Italian defender Mateo Materazzi who spoke a ‘racist slur’ into the midfield maestro’s face.
Zidane headbutt the Italian in the chest and that attracted the red card for the former.
The result was a French loss and Italian win of the 2006 edition of the tournament. Maybe Zidane could be silently saying now: ‘Serves you right.’
Some years later, my little grandson cheeringly recalled ‘Zidane’s headbutt.’ It made me feel uncomfortable. It also spoke volumes about the impact of television on children. Grandson supported the Zidane headbutt when that wasn’t supposed to be. Often, especially from the perspective of upbringing children to be tolerant, human, and manage anger, Zidane headbutt cannot be the best example for the little ones to emulate.
Come 2018, there will be no Italia as the last 32 vie for the Cup. The French might say, ‘it’s pay-back time’ or something like that as the entire Group E of the 2006 World Cup Germany is out of the Russia edition. They are all excluded and having exit from a final. Italiano played empty as adult Azuri players cried like babies after drawing 0-0 with Sweden in Milan and yielding that last spot to Sweden.
One incident in that world cup dented my belief in fairness in the game. It was the year of the Ghanaian fearsome midfield threesome of Appiah, Essien, Muntari. In our penultimate match to meet Brazil, Essien was red-carded for what I still haven’t been able to understand why. So up to date, I still belief that dastardly act was to ensure we would not beat Brazil and spoil the whole fiesta.
Eight years later, Germany didn’t care spoiling the tournament with the totally unexpected drubbing of ‘invincible’ samba Brazil on the latter’s own pitch. Germania spelt Brazil having scored seven and the Brazilians reducing it by one to arrive at six goals without reply. In my mind, it meant the Black Stars could have beaten Brazil in Germany.
At the airport of the city of Milano, where Italia in 2017 met its Swedish waterloo, was the scene of my own embarrassment. I happened to have been attending a conference at Cuomo and was returning home through the Milan airport. An Italian woman who was with us at the conference pointed at a pair and said: ‘Look, Appiah and Muntari.’ I knew neither in person. She knew them; both played for Udinese. During the conference, majority, especially the Italians rooted for Ghana (not against Italy) but particularly Ghana-USA.
Germany 2006 was also the year of the infamous Osei Kufuor back pass. (I have never understood his weeping uncontrollably when Manchester United whipped his Bayern Munich for the UEFA Champions League Cup on the latter’s own grounds). That year 2006 was also the year we beat the USA 2-1 in our world cup debut encounter. We beat them same margin next one (2010 in South Africa).
Determined not to play beat always, the Americans thrashed us by a similar 2-1 margin in Brazil.
Our players had been fed with kenkey one ball of which cost USD300. It was the ‘a luta’ ‘pay or yɛnmmɔ (we don’t play)’ crisis. It was also the time the whole universe viewed live the transport of USD3 million cash from Accra Airport to an airport in Brazil to pay the players in cash so they would play. That 2014 world cup seemed to have been designed to teach our unpatriotic behaviour a lesson. As for the Brazilians, I am sure they would want it wiped off their record.
As we ponder over our absence from Russia 2018, we could reflect on our Black man can do 1960s and 70s confident thinking. The money is everything attitude will not help us. Give local players a fair chance. The either ‘you field my brother or someone else or don’t field me attitudes’ must be checked. The coach must have enough confidence to hold in check player indiscipline or official interference. This is one of the 27 million coaches talking.
By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh