The Ghana team are being antagonized by fans because they are reaping what they sowed, writes allsports.com.gh's Fiifi Anaman
In the end, after all the diplomatic pats and exchange of the cliche pleasantries with their Ugandan opponents, the Black Stars players looked around, up at the empty stands under the lit-up floodlights of the iconic Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
They had played at the same venue just under a year ago - in charged atmospheres against Zambia and Egypt - and they could see the stark difference. This was not good different different. This was bad different. This was depressing.
And they could feel it, too. That aura of rejection was as thick as the emptiness of being abandoned. The uncharacteristic soullessness of the very stadium considered to be the cathedral of Ghana football was telling. Against a tide of hostility from their own fans, the Stars battled in vain, out of luck and out of love.
And it took it's toll. They looked lost, stripped bare of their talismanic source of power, and were very lucky to come out of the game with that one-all draw.
In fact, put in the context of brutal honestly, the Stars did not deserve that draw. The second half penalty - converted by Andre Ayew to level the score - was a suspicious call, something nine out of ten people who witnessed the game would admit to.
After the game, the stadium emptied with the speed of lightning. None of the few fans that turned up were interested in staying behind, like had happened a year ago, when fans stayed over, singing and dancing beyond themselves even long after the players had disappeared into the tunnel.
A year ago, they cheered energetically. This time, they jeered, with equal passion, determined to make their points clear. They had been disrespected overtime and it had built up, hurting badly. People express hatred often because there is an underlying love that feels betrayed. The fans felt their unconditional support had been insensitively abused by the team's unpatriotic show at the World Cup in Brazil, and they wanted to make their feelings known. They wanted to get even, to make a dark statement.
In Brazil, the players stabbed the nation in cold blood with their selfish, mercenary-like attitude. In an appearance fee delay situation that would have eventually been resolved one way or the other, the Black Stars chose the obsession for money over patriotism, shameful impulsiveness over responsible patience, heartlessly turning their back on the nation.
For years, the stars had been treated like demi-gods, their sins often forgiven because the love for the team was always deeper than their recurrent short comings. But this time, the camel's back couldn't resist being broken. Their cups were full, overflowing with all their pompousness, spilling with the raging disgrace that they subjected the nation to in the full glare of the world. The unforgivable squabbles in camp, the disrespect shown by players towards the coaches, management and fans, the episode of physical assault, the unthinkable attempt to boycott trainings and even a game in the name of money delays, the headline-grabbing jet full of cash flown to them like spoilt children - they were all unbearable vexations even for the most tolerant of souls.
What happened in Brazil was the highest level of national disrespect. For a group of players to hold the whole nation to ransom was just plain criminal, and no attempt should ever be made to explain or even worse, justify it. No one is advocating for players to work for free, but any player who needs money as motivation to play at the World Cup - football's biggest stage - is fundamentally lost.
The fans felt they deserved better, and rightly so. Heaven knows they badly craved a heartfelt apology. There is often a thin line between love and hate when it comes to the Black Stars, and the fans just needed the tinniest show of emotional remorse from the side of the players to resume their unrelenting support. The fans waited, trying hard to withhold all the love deep down being suffocated by the inevitable bitterness.
But that didn't come. Captain Asamoah Gyan and his deputy, Andre Ayew, sat through a press conference that was supposed to quench the fire and ended up stoking it. They chose shameless justification over genuine apology, cheeky defiance over heartfelt remorse. They were supposed to just let go of their pride in a bid to reconnect with the love of the fans, but ended up cockily advertising that egotistical pride that ironically, the same fans have stirred in them with all the doting support.
Kumasi fans are legendary. They are undoubtedly the most loyal, vociferous fans of Ghana's national team. So much so that for them, turning up at the Baba Yara and not cheering is as nearly impossible as watching John Coffe's execution from "The Green Mile" without crying. That they managed to depart from this customary loyalty to harbour such resentment towards a team they have idolized for years was a deep symbol of how vast the current disconnect between the team and the fans are.
Never in Ghana's history has the team been so out of touch - and love - with it's followers.
The Black Stars are where they are today because they have lost sight of the essence of their positions as a representation of the nation's hopes and aspirations. They have mistaken service for servitude, wrongly subscribing to an idea that they are self made professionals doing the nation a favour.
It is a bit ironic when one considers it this way: the players misbehaved in Brazil, ostensibly because there was a growing feeling amongst them that the management were taking their efforts for granted. But in doing so, they forgot that they were in turn taking the fans for granted, rubbing their trust and belief in the mud. In the end, they - the players - got the respect and reward they craved, but, what about the fans?
If Black Stars took the whole nation for granted in Brazil, they must be prepared to be given the same treatment. If they feel the atmosphere of negativity is poisonous, they should know that they are the source of all the venom. If the Black Stars feel they have the right to prioritize money in order to carry out an act as sacrosanct as wearing and defending the national shirt - a process supposed to be an honour - then fans also have the right to withdraw the support that no one pays them to undertake.
For a team that has made failure a routine, spectacularly bottling every chance they ever get at winning a trophy, this team feels too highly of its self. It's been 32 trophyless years lined with mediocrity weirdly backed by huge sums of money, and, even worse, this has only made the team more comfortable in a sickening culture of entitlement.
In all fairness, the fans are to blame for the pride we see. The constant pampering has pumped their egos. We loved them too much, and it backfired. We created these powerful players whose demands bring the nation to a standstill; whose wishes are commands to the nation that they are supposed to be serving.
But thankfully, that realization has been reached. The era of fans conceptualizing these stars as innocent heroes who deserve to be protected and given the benefit of the doubt is over. And now, maybe it’s time to beat them at their own game. Maybe it's time to demand some accountability, some respect. Maybe they deserve to be left to wallow in the consuming loneliness atop their high horse of self importance.
Unless there is a change of attitude, the Black Stars will continue reaping what they sow. If they do not love the nation - and they shouldn't insult our intelligence by claiming that they do - then they certainly do not deserve to be loved by the nation.