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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 09:59 GMT
Nations Cup diary: Ghana mourns
Michael Essien

The BBC's David Amanor is keeping a diary of his travels around Ghana during the Africa Cup of Nations.

In his latest instalment, he mops up the tears of Ghanaian football fans.

FRIDAY 8 FEBRUARY

Fans watch the game with bated breath

Ghanaians are not moving with a spring in their step this morning - their dream of lifting the Nations Cup trophy remains just that.

For the 600 fans who crowded into a square in central Ho to watch the Black Stars take on Cameroon's Indomitable Lions on a big screen, an earlier cloud burst set the tone for the tears to follow.

"I am not happy about what they did," Stanley, a 12-year-old boy, exclaims passionately after the 1-0 defeat.

"They tried but - but they didn't try hard to score a goal."

We're going to pray and correct our mistakes for the next match so we can win third position
Courage

As the music blares out from giant speakers to try and ease the aching hearts, some are more philosophical.

"I still have hope - this is not the end of the world and there is nothing we can do," a young man called Joseph said.

Others still believe there is still something worth fighting for.

"We're going to pray and correct our mistakes for the next match so we can win third position, which will be played on Saturday," says a man aptly named Courage.

Jinx

Few expected Ghana to err against Cameroon and the arguments and debates continued in Tank Rank square for hours.

"We had problem with the defence and midfield too. We have to have more skilful scorers to be able to break and penetrate that wall. That is our problem," says Anthony, a worker at the Volta Region Hospital.

Both semi-final results are what Ghanaian football fans least wanted and this raises the question about whether attendance will be reduced for Sunday's final in the Accra stadium - Egypt v Cameroon - and at the big-screen arenas around the country.

As Ghana has been defeated I think the tournament will not be interesting any more
Ghanaian fan
"No, I won't watch, because I'm sad," a teenage girl says on the verge of tears.

She seems most upset that Laryea "Rasta Man" Kingston - the Ghanaian midfielder was not selected for the match.

"As Ghana has been defeated I think the tournament will not be interesting any more. Me personally I don't think I'll follow it anymore," another man says.

But Anthony, in a more sporting frame of minds, says: "Football is a game, either you win or you lose. So each and everyone should go to the stadium on Sunday."

On the eve of the match, police across the country warned fans to contain their enthusiasm and not to over celebrate following several fatalities after Black Stars' victories.

This morning they'll be hoping they didn't jinx the result.

WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY

Today police have warned Ghanaians to contain their enthusiasm during victory celebrations which they feel are getting out of hand.

"I want to tell all Ghanaian football fans that they should control their enjoyment during our winning periods or when we lose," Eastern Region police commander Felix Asare-Darko told me.

"I am sure that we're going to win to the cup so we should all stay alive to jubilate," he added.

His statement has been prompted by rising causalities.

Three people died in Tamale and one person in Accra after Sunday's celebrations when the national Black Stars beat Nigeria to win a place in the semi-finals.

Ghanaian fans celebrate in Takoradi
Ecstatic fans greeted the victory with jubilation

In Tamale, one young man died after being crushed under an articulated lorry which had been disengaged from its trailer.

The fan was standing on the wheel arch and slipped and died instantly.

In another incident an off-duty fire officer crashed his motorbike and there have been numerous incidents of buses and cars ploughing into crowds of fans.

But in Koforidua, where I am now, there have been no injuries so far.

Thousands are expected to throng Jackson Park where a big screen has been erect for tomorrow's clash with Cameroon's Indomitable Lions.

SUNDAY 3 FEBRUARY

While 40,000 spectators packed the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra to watch the Black Stars dramatic 2-1 victory over Nigeria's Super Eagles, hundreds of thousands across the country also gathered in open spaces to experience this dramatic event on large screens.

Real faces and bodies adorned in red gold and green, creating a surreal foreground to those being beamed by satellite from Accra.

11 against 10, we're supposed to win. I'm very disappointed
Nigerian fan Chinedu Ezema

Two hundred and eighty kilometres from the capital in Ghana's Western Region, there was near-mayhem in Takoradi after the final whistle blew.

It seemed as if the entire population had taken to the streets in a spontaneous and sometimes anarchic celebration.

The result in Accra was affecting the attendance at the other quarter-final match between Ivory Coast and Guinea: Traffic between Takoradi and its twin city Sekondi came to a standstill, delaying match goers attempting to reach the stadium for the kick off.

But, as elsewhere in Ghana, the celebrations did not come easy.

Tense match

The 5,000 watching the video link at Takoradi's Jubilee Park arena, came to see Ghana's national team "cook and eat Nigeria's super chickens" as one spectator put it.

Few expected Nigeria to take the upper hand, so when Yakubu put Nigeria ahead with a penalty in the 35th minute, there was an atmosphere of unease.

Ghanaians have invested much faith and hope in the Black Stars and the tension boiled over into a minor scuffle as two young Nigerian men taunted the thousands of Ghanaians while waving a green and white flag under their chins.

Ghanaian fans at half time in Takoradi
The victory party started at half time in Takoradi

Brave or foolish, or both?

Ghanaians have a long-standing reputation for being peaceful and hospitable, but when it comes to football they are fiercely nationalistic.

There was euphoria when Michael Essien headed an equaliser for the Black Stars seconds before half-time.

Not a single person, young or old remained in their chairs, and in any case those plastic chairs took on new significance as young men waved them in the air single-handedly against the setting sun.

"BBC," one fan screamed at me "I tell you we will score Nigeria again."

There's no shortage of optimism in Ghana at present, and the victory party started at half time.

Smiles galore as fans treat themselves to the range of goods on offer from a neat line of stalls encircling the arena: kebabs, plantain chips, cakes, soft drinks, beer and even t-shirts imprinted with photographs taken right there and then.

However Nigeria were no walk-over and this faith was surely tested when Ghana were reduced to 10 men.

"That referee should never be allowed to referee a match again," a local trader Grace cried when Black Stars captain John Mensah was sent off for an over-aggressive tackle.

High hopes

She was seriously vexed and seemed to be making a fair point - the Nigerians were playing a very physical game, but perhaps were smarter in evading the wrath of the ref.

Ghanaian fans celebrate in Takoradi
Celebrations continued into the night

When Junior Agogo did the near impossible, putting Ghana ahead with eight minutes to go, another fan nudged me: "You see, that cup has Ghana's name written on it."

Seconds before the final whistle, the tension was almost unbearable as the 10 Black Stars worked overtime to keep Nigeria's 11 Eagles in the shadow.

I spoke to Grace again after the match and asked her if she was now happy.

"I'm still angry with that referee, we would have scored more, but yes I'm happy because Black Stars have won and people will keep buying my t-shirts."

It is hard to describe the jubilation that accompanies each Ghana win, one can only wonder where it will lead if or when the Black Stars lift the cup.

As the celebrations continued into the night in Takoradi and other cities, few fans seem bothered by the result of the other match, but coach Claude LeRoy might cast a concerned eye at the 5-0 demolition of Guinea by Ivory Coast in Sekondi.


Map of Ghana



SEE ALSO
Shame in defeat for Nigeria
04 Feb 08 |  Africa
Ghana 2008: Nations Cup diary
01 Feb 08 |  Africa
Shooting for success in Ghana
18 Jan 08 |  Africa
Nations Cup Squad Selector
15 Jan 08 |  African

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