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Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 19:22 UK

Muntari fights for favour of fans

By Michael oti Adjei
BBC Sport, Accra

Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari has spoken out against accusations that he deliberately missed the Black Stars' two World Cup qualifiers last month.

Sulley Muntari
Muntari in action for Ghana at the 2008 Nations Cup

Muntari returned home hoping to celebrate his league title with Inter Milan but ended up battling to rescue his image after some vitriolic player-bashing from fans.

He sat out the qualifiers against Mali and Sudan because of an injury, and backed it up with a medical report, but that was not the end of the story.

"I never wanted not to play for my country, it's my country who made me who I am. I was injured." Muntari told the BBC's African sports programme Fast Track.

Ghanaian fans are traditionally sceptical of big-name players, and as Muntari had played for Inter Milan in their final league game, critics simply refused to buy the injury argument, and laid into him for putting personal interest ahead of national interest.

Ghana went on to win those two games in Bamako and Khartoum without Muntari, strengthening the case of those who insist he has outlived his usefulness with the team.

And now the popular theory is that he will have a battle on his hands in a bid to regain his first team place in the Black Stars, given the way Udinese's Kwadwo Asamoah and Qatar-based Opoku Agyemang played.

"It doesn't matter whether I am on the bench or whether I start," Muntari said.

"There is no competition in the Black Stars. That is the strength of the current side. We fight for each other. The most important thing is taking Ghana forward."

But it is hard to believe Muntari will be relegated to the bench on the strength of his recent displays for the Black Stars.

He was one of Ghana's star performers at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and despite recent criticism has risen to the challenge in big games.

You know I do care a lot. Most of the people say I don't laugh, I am not friendly

Sulley Muntari

Some of Ghana's biggest names like John Mensah and Matthew Amoah have not lost an opportunity to remind the nation that Muntari is still an important player.

While he may well walk back into the Ghana team, he admits that admits he is not a fan favourite, and perceived as being uncaring.

"You know I do care a lot. Most of the people say I don't laugh, I am not friendly," Muntari said.

"Maybe it's because of what they have heard but I can't change people's mind. On the field I am a transformed person because that is my job, but off it I am relaxed and cool."

It is a side of him many Ghanaian football fans have yet to be exposed to, but they have seen him evolve over the years into one of the biggest names on the African football scene.

At Inter he was one of the first names on Jose Mourinho's team list as they bagged another Serie A title.

Muntari says much of his success at Inter last season was down to the fact he did not allow the club's big names to overawe him.

"I don't get afraid when I see top players. I have to show what I have got and train hard and let the coach decide. I show them respect but I work hard and I get lucky sometimes."

How he would wish to find similar luck in his bid to prove to Ghanaians that he is undeserving of the title of arrogant that many have bestowed on him lately.



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see also
Muntari blow for Black Stars
04 Jun 09 |  African
Muntari wraps up switch to Inter
28 Jul 08 |  Europe
2010 World Cup tables
07 Jun 09 |  African


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