The Black Stars play a select local side at the Accra Sports Stadium today. The match has been billed as a ‘we are saying goodbye to the fans before we start our European camp and vice versa’ match. Judging by the numbers of fans at yesterday afternoon’s practice session, the organizers have read the mood right. The fervor with which these players are received before, during and after practice is something else. And the stadium wasn’t full.
Ahead of the practice, the Ghana Beads Society presented the team with gifts. Head coach Kwesi Appiah wasn’t left out as a giant painting of him in cloth was presented to him by three young men.
Beyond the show that goes with being the most loved and recognizable sporting export Ghana has, coach Kwesi Appiah’s paramount goal is for his players to come out of this phase of camping unscathed – no injuries, physical or emotional – even as they want to thrill their fans. This is an important match more for the fans than the players.
For the players, this week has probably been a week to decompress and connect with their families. There’s nothing like home cooking and being back in Ghana after grueling seasons will be good for the players’ spirits. Their relaxed demeanor at practice yesterday suggested they were happy to be home. Interacting with the fans will expose our expectations as the players experience their yearnings for the team to do well and make a country proud.
Having said that, what this match represents beyond farewells is an opportunity for Appiah to close this week’s chapter and kick camp into a higher gear.
The team leaves tomorrow for the Netherlands. There, the full squad will assemble ahead of the practice match against the Netherlands. Kevin Prince Boateng and Michael Essien will be important leaders in camp and the 26-man team will likely go into a more intense period of practices, analyses etc.
Today’s match will be more exhibition than competitive and sometimes that’s ok too.
Check out the slideshow below of pictures from the team’s last practice in Ghana before Brazil 2014.