Seven years have passed but events of the Ghana-Uruguay match in Johannesburg, South Africa, are still fresh in the mind of ex-Black Stars Captain, Stephen ‘Tornado’ Appiah.
It is a memory that will hunt the Ghana skipper for life.
For a man who is passionate about his career and the success of his country, reminiscing it brings hard feelings, forcing Tornado to wish he never speaks about it.
“I just do not want to talk about that moment,” he said on the weekly motivational radio show, Springboard, Your Virtual University.
“For some of us, it will probably hunt us for the rest of our lives,” he said emotionally.
Beyond the sheer determination among the players to succeed, the Ghana-Uruguay match was a make or break for the Black Stars, who had edged their way past the group stages of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
As their second opportunity to participate in the global football party, the urge to succeed was and progress into the final stages were high and all was on course until Uruguay equalised through a Diego Forlan kick.
That turned the heat on the Stars, then led by Tornado.
In the twinkle of an eye, a header from Dominic Adiyiah, a member of the Stars, was deliberately hand-fowled by Uruguay international, Luiz Suarez, resulting in a penalty kick for the Ghanaians.
Asamoah Gyan, who stepped forward and took the kick, failed to convert it, prompting a hue and cry over why Gyan and not Tornado opted to take the kick.
In addition to forcing the Stars out of the competition, Gyan’s failure to convert the spot kick was rumoured to have cost Africa close to US$3 million.
Although a picture later emerged, showing Tornado and Asamoah Gyan in a tensed mood, the ex-captain said its interpretation by the public had been misconstrued.
“I remember there were lots of arguments that I was holding the ball and I wanted to kick the penalty and Gyan forcibly grabbed it,” he said, in reference to the interpretation given to the picture.
“It is not true that I wanted to take the kick,” he explained.”
“The assistant referee had signaled that it was a goal, so I picked the ball and was marching to the centre, but people misunderstood the scene,” Tornado said.
Tornado, who appeared on the show alongside Anthony Baffoe, were speaking on career development, using their lives in the football field as basis.
About his difficult moments, the ex-ghana skipper revealed that his difficult moment was prior to Ghana’s last game in 2006 World Cup qualifiers, where Ghana was to face Cape Verde.
“During my career, I have never been scared of a game before but our last qualifier with Cape Verde brought shivers down to my soul prior to the game. I think it is because that match was the decider for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany,” he explained.
He also observed that taking the 2006 penalty kick against the USA was one of the difficult moments in his career as a footballer playing for the national team at the international level.
“It was difficult because I was thinking about Ghana. I considered the millions of people behind their television sets and wanted to make them happy. Fortunately, I did,” he added.
Contribution of football
For his part, the former Black Stars defender, Baffoe, said the football was crucial to going global.
“If you look at Stephen Appiah and myself, we made our names through football.”
“If you remember recently, the political tension in Cote d’Ivoire was addressed through football. Therefore, football has a vital effect in shaping a country’s fortunes in diverse ways,” he said.
He said although acting and music also helped put Ghana on the world map, it was football that could do that in a bigger form.
Baffoe, who also deputised the Soccer Maestro, Abedi Ayew Pele, to the famous Senegal 1992, recalled a moment when the Voice of America (VoA) called him for an interview prior to the Ghana-USA game in the 2006 World Cup.
He said the radio station asked him to spell Ghana for them since they did not know how it was spelt.
“But subsequently, after Ghana beat USA in that game, they learnt to spell the name and had since never forgotten about it,” he said.
For most young people, being unable to overcome a difficult obstacle such as poor academic performance or poverty means an end to an otherwise bright future.
Unfortunately, such people often fail to explore their God-given talents to their advantage but rather choose to resign themselves to fate.
Baffoe and Tornado said such an attitude was bad.
The two, whose success as footballers started from the colts through club to national and international levels, urged children to endeavour to attend school, and added that they should never give up on their talents.
As a result, they advised the youth “to pursue football but not throw out education.
“There is no elevator to success, you need to take the staircase,” they said.
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