Monday, 28 January 2008

The Class Players

Ghana got through to the quarter finals. The crowd was happy. The football was good and I am back in Accra. At the Ohene Djan stadium, the mixed zone not only exists but also works.

The Ghanaian players came through and though some did not speak, a few did. The Moroccans who speak English, Abdeslam Ouaddou and Youssef Hadji, will always get my good wishes. I'm their new biggest fan. They stopped and spoke even though they'd lost. Class. Pure class. I'm starting to forget errant South Africans.

The Scrap

Regular readers will know that i'm not Mr Jet. But after having done five and a half hours on the Kumasi-Accra main road, even the usual horror of speeding along a cushion of clouds at 31,000 feet, becomes welcome.

The Antrak flight from Accra to Tamale is only 45 minutes or so and therefore not enough time for even someone like me to froth up to a frenzy.

While Philippe, my French colleague, was preparing for his match commentaries on Sunday morning, I got talking to Mark Bright, former ace footballer and now a BBC commentator.

I was looking at BBC World which was blaring out in the concourse lounge and it showed a feature on how some chap had filched billions from Société Générale.

Bright said the bank had closed in one country - he couldn't remember which - but he'd heard about it as one footballer had investments in it there.

Société Générale has my morcels in it and the accounts of my little sweeties back home.

I really couldn't get stirred up about it given my pre-flight disposition. I didn't think I'd be around to complain about the plundering.

Clearly I survived.

Though in retrospect oblivion would have been a more appealing place after the Tamale experience.

The matches themselves were excellent. Eight goals in total as Angola came back against Senegal to win 3-1 and Tunisia outclassed South Africa by the same score.

What happened afterwards in the mixed zone continues to baffle me. The zone is supposed to be a place where players can respond to quick questions from radio and TV reporters.

They're not obliged to stop and talk but as I understood it from my time at the World Cup in Germany in 2006, they are supposed to at least walk along the mixed zone channels to their team buses.

This was all implemented to avoid possible feeding frenzies around the dressing rooms or as the players headed for the buses.

The protocol has broken down in Ghana and reached its nadir when South Africa's players - the very same bunch who'll be hosting the World Cup in two years - avoided the zone altogether.

I tried to find the media liaison officer but he or she had left the stadium - probably with the fugitive South Africans.

A team no-show has happened now in Sekondi, Kumasi and Tamale.

Even I was looking forward to this morning's flight back to Accra.