afcon a feast of football

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

ACCRA - Chaos at Ghana's media accreditation centres and failure to deal with ticket allocations for the games have overshadowed one of the most vibrant and successful Africa Cup of Nations finals on the field.

There have been endless complaints from the local and foreign media about accredi- tation. It has resulted in top Ghanaian government officials issuing a public apology.

Security is not as tight as we were made to believe at the media accreditation centres where some of the crooks masquerading as journalists helped themselves to wallets, cellphones and other items belonging to poor scribes.

But credit must be given where it is due. There are helpful policemen and women who always warn the media to take care of their items, including at the mixed zones the players and officials used to get to their luxury busses from the dressing rooms.

As of yesterday, I was still not sure if we would get the new accreditation the Confederation of African Football (CAF) asked members of the Fourth Estate to apply for, for all the knockout games.

Ghanaians are unhappy about the number of tickets made available to the public but the Local Organising Committee has roped in the national sports council to help them deal with the challenge.

It is only in the games where the host country's national side, the Black Stars are involved that the shortage of tickets has been an issue. Tickets for the games cost between 15 Ghana cedis for open stands and 75 Ghana cedis for the suites. One Ghana cedis is almost equal to one US dollar (about R7).

On the field of play the standard has been one of the highest in a long time with awesome goals scored by various players, which Cameroon legend Roger Milla attributed to the mass exodus of African players to European clubs.

Milla said: "It is good to see that the standard of the tournament is a great one, we need to have more players in Europe for the good of the sport on the continent."

One thing that has caught the eye of many people are the goal celebrations by various players and teams .

The Black Stars have developed a new dance, likened to the movement of a kangaroo, that is inspired by the beat of top local singer Tic Tic's song, Kangaroo. Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien have been doing it in style.

While North Africans are known for reserved goal celebrations, Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika decided to do it with a political statement on the undershirt he was wearing, with a message reading: "Sympathise with Gaza".

But Aboutrika's message has earned him a stern warning from CAF, who made it clear that political and other messages, as per Fifa ruling, were banned in soccer.

Another Egyptian, Mohamed Zidan took off his right soccer boot, threw it to the ground, picked it up and threw it a number of times after scoring in their 4-2 win over Cameroon.

Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon has battered the 37-year-old all time goal-scoring record of 14 goals for the Afcon that was held by Laurent Pokou of Ivory Coast. He scored his 16th goal last Wednesday. He reached the figure with a brace when The Indomitable Lions walloped Sudan 3-0.

Another Cameroonian, captain Rigobert Song, is playing in his seventh Afcon finals, a record he shares with Egyptian skipper Ahmed Hassan. Song has also featured in a record 30 Afcon finals matches.

One of the the most memorable incidents was when Mbaye Ndoye, president of the Senegal Football Association, floored Tunisian television presenter Rachdi Haithem with a well educated left punch at training. Ndoye had refused to allow Haithem and his crew permission to interview El Hadji Diouf without proper accreditation.

Diouf is also reported to have sneaked out of the team hotel in Kumasi last Tuesday for drinks with other players, and they were all dropped for their final Group D game against Bafana Bafana, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

It would be unfair to talk about the success of this tournament to date without talking about the passion displayed by many supporters, especially those from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Benin, Egypt and Tunisia.

But for me, the Ghanaians were simply the best. Young and old dress in their national colours whenever the Black Stars are playing and people proudly hang the national flag in the streets without fear of them being stolen.

The other impressive thing is that you never come across a Ghanaian wearing a jersey of local big guns like Asante Kotoko or Hearts of Oak when the Black Stars are playing, something one hopes South Africans will learn.

The vuvuzela has finally made its way to west Africa in a big way, thanks to the two South African companies, Standard Bank and MTN, who are also sponsors of CAF.

Turning back to music, South African reggae star Lucky Dube may be dead, but his songs are still rocking in Ghana. The locals play his music in taxis, luxury buses, on bicycles, in private cars, nightclubs, restaurants, filling stations and under trees.

Only six days away from the final, many people in Ghana are convinced the standard will keep improving, with more spectacular goals and celebrations.

lRamatsiyi Moholoa is in Ghana courtesy of Standard Bank.