Morning After The Night Before: The Story Ebony Never Finished

She was talented, brazen, youthful, exuberant, and even refreshingly rebellious. She was an Ebony!

In life as in death, Priscilla Opoku Kwarteng and controversy fit well into many contexts.

In many ways, she was a mystery wrapped in a riddle hidden in an enigma.

She, known better by her stage name ‘Ebony’, was — and probably still is, to the few pitifully hopeful fans of hers who believe her reported confirmed demise is but a tasteless prank she’d soon snap out of — an enigma of a sort Ghanaian showbiz hasn’t seen since Daddy Lumba in his prime, a character who divided opinions so sharply you’d easily forget she sprang out of her teens  and into the realm of national consciousness not long ago.

Because of the sheer enormity of her body of work in the brief period she held us all spellbound, it is almost forgivable to lose sight of the fact that she was barely an adult who, in the face of a lengthy her rap sheet of alleged wrongdoing Ghanaians leveled at her, stood for what she believed in, lived and dared to be different.


Truth be told, it’s hard to cast Ebony into a particular mould — her vivacious, dynamic self just wouldn’t permit it. For a dancehall artiste, she did gospel too well (more on that later), and for a girl whose sense of fashion would make her a perfect fit at any club on a sweaty Friday night, Ebony’s voice would hardly have been out of place as part of a sombre Sunday service choir. Like I said, you just couldn’t tag her — unless you were the ‘mortuary man’ at the Bechem Government Hospital charged with that uneasy duty.

It’s easy to remember Ebony as one of the naughty ones — her own nickname, identifying her as a self-styled ‘90s BadGyal’, left little doubt about that. Her eye-poppingly suggestive choice of clothing for music videos, live performances and even TV interviews, along with a catalogue of risqué stagecraft, did plenty to validate the said moniker. She was brazen in that regard, presenting herself in a manner that Ghanaians hadn’t had stamped into their orbital regions since Mzbel’s star dimmed — and, really, Ebony in many ways was like Mzbel, only more talented and daring. Half of the society she sought to entertain — an exuberant, even rebellious, youthful army seeking a poster figure for an increasingly liberal outlook — egged her on, while the other half — unwavering in their resolve to stay conventional and desperate to preserve norms of morality apparently being dragged down the drain by Ebony and her likes — slammed her afresh after each show.

Oh, and about her music itself? Where do I even start?

Well, let’s just say only her appearance made her lyrics — loaded with double entendres that would make even the notoriously vulgar Lumba envious — seem mild. If you could read between lines she rarely ever left unblurred, you’d easily realize hits like ‘Kupe’, ‘Poison’, ‘Sponsor’ and the incredibly popular ‘Hustle’ were packaged and delivered to convey so much subtlety.


That, though, was just one of Ebony’s faces. Like the mythological god Janus, she had another which stared right in the opposite direction. For every ‘Dancefloor’ that begged to be wiggled to at the waist and would long remain a staple on the, er, dancefloor, (forgive the pun), there was a ‘Maame Hwe’ which tugged at even her harshest critic’s heart and has come to stay forever and a day as the anthem for the campaign against domestic violence in Ghana. And for every gospel-heavy ‘Aseda’(which, per revelations after her death, many now discern as an ultimately futile attempt to curb ‘prophecies’ about her premature death) that a mom-of-six trader at the Makola market would hum to herself as she assembles her wares each morning, there is a innuendo-laden ‘Hustle’ (the video of which actually has a market setting) that some Circle-based (a few ‘circles’ in Accra actually) ladies-of-the-night wouldn’t mind having as their unofficial soundtrack as they go about their nocturnal business.

To think that Ebony crammed all of this between 2015 and now is even more startling than anything she’d actually accomplished. It’s why she has had her genius acknowledged and has been mourned by many whose professional affairs have little to do with a music studio, including international football stars as well as past and sitting Ghanaian presidents. Indeed, while 2017 may have only been her second full year in the limelight, it already qualified as something of an annus mirabilis; the ‘Bonyfied’ album she launched in December last year was only her maiden compilation, but we knew it would only be the first of many. Now, though, it’s certain that offering would eternally stand alone as a body of work to be prized as a collector’s item, an enduring memory of one who did more with three of her 20 years on earth to define Ghanaian music than any of her gender — yes, there have been an awful lot of those, I know — has in contemporary history. Ebony remains in contention to become the first female ever to be named the upcoming Ghana Music Awards’ Artiste of the Year (the icing on what is expected to be quite a haul), anyway — and not just because of some sympathetic swing.

Priscilla Opoku Kwarteng (Feb 16, 1997 – Feb 8, 2018)

But after all tears dry and the dust settles and the ‘pastors’ who have lined up to claim ‘credit’ for Ebony’s February 8 passing each enjoy their 15 minutes of fame (pending the next big tragedy, of course), and after the conspiracy theorists rest their cases about who predicted the misfortune [but shouldn’t have] and who could have averted it [but didn’t], the story would be told of a young lady who boldly bared her body and soul — literally — to Ghanaians all the way down till a saddening and sudden anticlimax.

To borrow the words of Roman politician and general Mark Anthony when he mourned another whose life was brutally truncated while at the peak of their powers. . .

Here was an Ebony!

When comes such another?




Shithole Countries: Trump’s latest remark have hung him out to dry

Mr. Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States has been an inspiration to far too many all over the world and the best part of it all is, true to character, he has absolutely no idea the effect he’s having. The conversations around dining tables, kitchens, family rides and or any other place families get together to share a moment all over the United States – and I dare say, all over the world – might have been centered on Donald ever since he was sworn in as the President of America. “If He [somebody like that] could make it up there, then you too [my little darling] can also make it.” You can imagine parents telling their young ones.

He’s not been one shy of controversy; always making silly headline-grabbing remarks on sensitive issues of international importance or engaged in a literal who’s-got-a-bigger-dick twitter back-and-forth with Kim Jong Un – the supreme leader of North Korea, or calling all media outlets who muster the courage to punch holes into his often incendiary [in]actions “Fake News” or … something childlike like those.

I must say, at times, its been a joy to watch Americans twitch and bury their heads in their palms whenever Mr. Trump picks his phone, opens the Twitter App and steps into character: yet another shocking, immature and frankly humiliating 280-character rant with the relish of a schoolmarm passing on facts of life to her brood. He’s been a national embarrassment Americans would rather the rest of the world never saw.

Sorry lads! You voted him into power… Haha!!! Deal with it.

For the first time in American history, it’s become commonplace to have somebody question a sitting President of America’s mental health and Trump keeps doing very little pull the plugs on his drivels and his ever-decreasing approval ratings. He has zanily called himself a genius on an odd number of occasions in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary which, were he not so klutzy, would have noticed by now.

Out of his carefully selected deliciously inventive panoply of insults, Mr. Donald Trump on Thursday (Jan. 11, 2018), in a meeting with senators and House members on immigration, asked this: “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?”

…and Yep! He said “Shithole Countries” – apparently in reference to countries in Africa and Haiti. And that was a new all-time low. Heck, even by Donald Trump’s unbelievably low standards.

I honestly feel the maddening part of someone like Trump calling Africa a ‘shithole’ isn’t necessarily the fact that he called African countries shitholes because really, these countries all have their peculiar and not so peculiar problems. That is instructive to note. I’m not really concerned about semantics and diplomatic talk especially in relation to Trump because let’s face it, he probably hasn’t cracked open a dictionary to find out what diplomacy means in his life. I would have been so bothered, were it not for him. That’s fine.

His shithole descriptor isn’t insulting absolutely but it is the fact that if Trump started where my parents started or where many first-generational African immigrants started, he could never have accomplished what most of them have accomplished in their personal lives never mind step into the oval office.

He has been educated above his intellect: for someone with the intellect of a remedial sixth grader, earning a college degree would have been unthinkable were he not so white and privileged. Everything he has has been given to him on a proverbial silver platter. He has been intoxicated by the numbing comforts of entitlements; emblematic of white privilege – the fact the world allows certain people to live with far lower standards than everyone else and then hold others to very high standards. How on earth would an African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American or any other demographic become a President of the United States of America with such poor written or spoken vocabulary and reasoning?


So the real insult is the fact that someone like that gets to dehumanize African immigrants in such a derogatory manner. Someone who’s not had to fight for a single thing he has and [has] no idea of what it is to struggle.

I don’t think the conversation should be centered on the ‘Africa is beautiful too’ narrative where we start to posture and take a few images of Trasacco valley, Airport Residential Area in Accra, Victoria and Banana Islands in Lagos by jumping on the ‘Africa the media doesn’t show you’ bandwagon. That simply is not accurate and it absolves most of the poor leaders of these countries of any blame.

The truth of the matter is, Africa is more of a shithole than it’s not. Those photogenic places you capture to swing the argument to the other side of the pendulum make less than 5%(conservative estimate) of the actual cities they are in and are hardly representative of the general state of the said countries. Also, those who lead the conversation from the west are mostly privileged Africans who lead relatively luxurious lives over their often-short vacations in festive seasons and are insulated from what the average African who lives in Africa experiences on a daily. Life for the majority of Africans in Africa isn’t what life really is supposed to be. It’s tough out there. These politicians can’t nitpick these convenient moments of outrage and pretend all is well in their countries. Fix up, Sirs!

That being said…

The real conversation should be the fact that African immigrants have a record of excelling in the US. African-Americans have been statistically proven to be the highest educated demographic in America. The average Nigerian-American over 25 years has two degrees and earns more than the average White-American. Africans emigrate to the States and excel in Engineering, Law, medicine, and commerce – their shithole descent notwithstanding.

Africans immigrants from shithole countries often do far better and are more capable of brilliance and making a positive contribution to the fabric of American life than Donald J Trump ever would.

America has a well-documented record of immigrants from ‘shithole countries’ doing well but unfortunately, they have President who isn’t only intellectually inept and morally bankrupt but is deeply ignorant and flawed in his thinking… and worse still, there are people who buy into his thinking.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Thomas Jefferson  

The United States of America has always been a nation of immigrants and in that, prides itself as the greatest nation on earth. It is a nation that derives its strength from its diversity. This was underscored in the declaration of independence: Land of the free, home of the brave. Donald Trump’s latest statement betrays the very core principles on which America was founded and maybe … just maybe, his words have finally hung him out to dry.

Own Goal: Messi’s Brilliance may have let Ronaldo back into the ‘Greatest Ever’ debate

Just in case you’ve been living in a bubble for the best part of the last decade, please be informed that the rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is a pretty serious affair, to the extent that it even has its own dedicated Wikipedia page — uh-huh, that serious.

Few are certain exactly when it all began, but the first whispers of a grudge must have been heard when the pair flanked Brazilian Kaka for the 2007 Fifa World Player of the Year prize. Back then, Messi was that kid with the hair that fell to his shoulders while Ronaldo was still some way off from being the impressive physical specimen he currently is, but almost everyone could tell the foreseeable future belonged to them. And it has.

Where it all began | Kaka, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo pose with their Golden, Silver and Bronze balls respectively in 2007

Since that night at the Zurich Opera House, official recognition for the planet’s finest footballer in whatever format — Ballon d’Or, Fifa Player of the Year, the version that resulted from a brief romance between those two awards, or the latter-day The Best Fifa Men’s Player — hasn’t gone to any other footballer but them. As has become the norm, if Ronaldo doesn’t depart with a satisfied grin at the end of an annual awards gala, Messi would. It’s been that simple: a straight two-man fight with no third parties involved.

It gathered momentum when, shortly after the pair clashed in the final of the 2009 Uefa Champions League, Ronaldo made a long-anticipated switch to Spanish giants Real Madrid. The move seemed perfect for the rivalry’s fast-growing following. Having both players in the same league, playing nearly the same opponents each season, and featuring either side of a fine line that would vividly highlight their many contrasts — the arrangement couldn’t have been more ideal.

Initially, though, it was no fun, at least for one faction. The first few years of their stay together wasn’t much of a contest; if anything, it was a gross mismatch, one that swung heavily Messi’s way. Three consecutive Ballons d’Or/Player of the Year gongs (henceforth referred to in this article as ‘BPY’) were grabbed by Messi, with Ronaldo looking a little less pleased each time he stood next to his nemesis playing bridesmaid. And that isn’t mere assumption on this writer’s part.

“I’m not going to hide from you that I was sad and angry,” Ronaldo confessed to Ballon d’Or organizers France Football regarding that frustrating period, after winning the latest edition of the prize. “I went to the award ceremonies and I never won. At one point, I was even demotivated. I had no desire to go. To be there for the photo didn’t interest me.”

Lionel Messi and Cristiano have dominated World football’s most valuable individual awards for a decade now

The ‘best-of-our-time-or-just-maybe-best-ever’ debate seemed well and truly over even at that early stage, with the petite Argentine delivering the knockout to claim a seemingly unanimous decision. But just when all — especially the pro-Ronaldo fans — were off to bed, the tall Portuguese stepped up with one last card up his sleeves. Actually, it had been handed him by Messi — or, to use a phrase more apt in a poker setting, Messi showed his hand.He did so in the 2011/12 season, by some distance his most prolific as a footballer. Barcelona won neither La Liga nor Uefa Champions League that term, but Messi netted 73 times to win the BPY, going on to finish with an unprecedented 91 goals for the calendar year. So celebrated was that feat, it might just be the most outstanding of Messi’s many achievements. It was a statement, too, perhaps a golden signature to put the argument to rest once and for all. For Ronaldo, though, it was his cue — an inspiration to consider the battle, regardless of the 4-1 deficit incurred at the time, just started.

You see, between Ronaldo and Messi, one is generally considered the better footballer, while the other is deemed little more than a scoring machine — I’d leave you to decide who is tagged what. Or rather, to arrive at the crust of this article quicker, I’d just point Messi out as the former and Ronaldo the latter so we can move on. Goals had always mattered in this particular match-up, but Messi’s 2012 haul took them to all-new levels of importance. While admirably raising the bar, Messi had unwittingly reduced the feud to a matter of goalscoring, something Ronaldo had a reputation for doing slightly better. The watching world had taken note and, surely, Ronaldo couldn’t have failed to do same.

Over the years, he’d likely also learned that goals matter, not just in their numbers nor for their aesthetic value, but for sheer worth. Until that point, Messi’s had won Barça lots of titles, while Ronaldo’s had only propelled him through the scoring charts at the Santiago Bernabeu, with little reward for his employers. Since then, however, he’s roared his way back into the competition, bridging the gap and finally drawing level with Messi this year on five BPY crowns apiece. With four BPYs in five years (Messi got one back in 2015 to maintain some relevance), it’s quite fair to say Ronaldo has dominated the latter half of his rivalry with Messi in much the same stunning fashion the Rosario-born held sway earlier on.

It’s certainly helped that Ronaldo has outscored Messi in three seasons out of the ensuing five (hitherto, he’d never managed that feat even once in the duo’s stay together in Spain) but, more decisively, he’s turned up big in the most significant games. He’s been instrumental, the chief goal-getter, in each of Madrid’s last three European conquests. Last season was a classic example. Messi had been the more consistent scorer in the Champions League right up to the crucial quarter-final clash with Juventus, only to fizzle out in both legs as the Italians romped to a 3-0 aggregate triumph. Ronaldo, on the other hand, had been uncharacteristically blunt in the earlier rounds but sprung to life toward the end, hitting 10 goals in the last five games of that memorable run to glory, including two in the final’s drubbing of Juve. The trend has continued somewhat this season. While Messi’s chart-leading 13 goals in the league have Barça top and are nine better than Ronaldo’s surprisingly paltry tally thus far, the latter’s return in the far more esteemed Champions League is way higher (nine already, including strikes in each of the six group games contested) than Messi’s. Should Ronaldo keep scoring, doing so especially when the platform is biggest and the lights are brightest, Messi would struggle to keep up?

Cristiano Ronaldo is now tied with Lionel Messi on 5 Balon D’or awards each

And it wouldn’t be anyone’s fault but his. Messi might still score the more reel-worthy goals, have a better comprehension of the team ethos, and even actually score more, but Ronaldo’s ‘selfish’ streak in the final third and greater ability to rise to the occasion would still tick the most boxes in the ‘goals’ column and grant him an advantage.

So if ever, after a Ronaldo BPY coronation (and one can’t help but feel there’s more of that on the way for the former Manchester United man, even at the ripe age of 32), a Messi fan insists the argument is really more about who the ‘greatest’ footballer is than about which forward has mastered the art of [effective] goalscoring better between the two, do remind him that their own little sweetheart changed the rules and lost the edge with that landmark scoring feat of his six years ago. He couldn’t help himself at the time as he was in the form of his life, of course, but, hindsight, he didn’t really help himself. Messi inadvertently aided Ronaldo instead and, after his freshly awarded fifth Ballon d’Or, the Sporting Lisbon graduate couldn’t be more grateful.


Now that the chips are down, Defiant Black Stars must earn their keep

No rally, no barrage, just a meek wilt, and surrender: The Black Stars have a lot of soul-searching to do going forward.


It’s not the worst tool in the box, but it could be when wielded wrongly.

Three years ago, Ghana’s senior national team misused it spectacularly, defying the powers-that-be — and logic itself — in holding the nation to ransom at the Fifa World Cup in Brazil, refusing to play a minute of football till huge appearance fees owed them were paid in full.

It was a show of defiance the boys would get condemned for by their countrymen; an ill-timed, ill-advised display of guts they’ll pay for till this hurt and scarred generation is replaced by the next. The Black Stars have tried all they could in quest of redemption: they’ve been contrite, resolute, even brilliant on occasion. Heck, they even attempted winning the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations — coming desperately close, in fact — just to reclaim some love!


What they hadn’t tried, though, was the one thing which got them entangled in this mess in the first place: defiance. They had a couple of chances building up to this failure to secure a World Cup berth in Russia next year to right their wrongs and perhaps warm their way into the hearts of Ghanaians again; the first – most probably the biggest – of which came against Rwanda in their final Afcon 2017 qualifier. It wasn’t an opportunity they were expecting, however, only one afforded them unwittingly by the Ministry of Youth and Sports’ reluctance to provide the usual luxuries on offer when international assignments were due.

Armed with the excuse that Ghana’s place at the following year’s Nations Cup in Gabon had already been booked, and that the result versus the visiting Amavubi would be no threat to the hosts’ position as Group H leaders/winners, the State arbitrarily decided to withhold funds allocated to be spent on the players’ ticket fares from their respective stations overseas (reasoning that such expenses could be spared if local players were called up instead, for the game) while slashing the usual winning bonus in half.

Were the already invited foreign-based professionals going to be coughing up their own travel costs? And were they even going to bother being at their best in a game which offered so ‘little’ in any actual gain (financial or otherwise)?

Well, to their credit, they did — and an expression of bloody-minded defiance was key, though for all the right reasons this time. The boys didn’t just show up against the Rwandans. They came with intent to win — even if Grant didn’t exactly put his strongest team out there, perhaps in assessing what alternatives he had with respect to squad depth ahead of an upcoming Russia 2018 qualifying game — and only a late equaliser from the east Africans robbed Ghana of a third straight home win in the Afcon 2017 qualifying series.

Not everyone was impressed, of course; an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians probably still considered the team a bunch of spoilt brats ever so willing to have their way. Still, they’d won some over, hadn’t they?

One venue the Black Stars felt they commanded a fair bit of goodwill was the Tamale Stadium which was going to be the ground the team was hoping get their World Cup Qualifying campaign off to a brilliant start. It wasn’t to be, as the doggedness of their first group opponents – the Cranes of Uganda – coupled with the harsh afternoon sun as one would expect at any venue in Northern Ghana – temperatures topping 37˚C as some points – meant the best Ghana could get from that game was a goalless soulless draw.

Not the kind of result you’d expect from a team with any fighting chance of making a Mundial more so, when Egypt – also housed in the same group and have been absent that the world stage for nearly three decades – was breathing down their necks, hellbent on wrestling that sole ticket the group had to offer from Ghana. A subsequent, almost inevitable defeat to Egypt in Alexandria were all the signs the Nation needed to realise situation was dire and that the time had come for everybody to put their shoulder to the plough and rescue our ‘beloved’ Black Stars from the quicksand it was in however traitorous we feel the team had been in the past.


The nonchalance and a resolve not to forgive the players by a large section of the Ghanaian media and the general populace might have overstayed their welcome and probably left a tad bit too late when the final nail was all but driven into the Stars’ coffin after yet another damning draw at home to group minnows Congo Brazzaville. Now, with nothing to play for, a new-look Black Stars’ fight and defiance in Kampala in the penultimate group game won a few more admirers and left many feeling they could have done a bit more to help the team fight. Ghana has now finished the 2018 World Cup Qualifying series in third place – behind Egypt and Uganda – drawing four, winning one and losing the other.  Now the chips are down. Time to dress the wounds and pick the best balm to soothe and bring some relief going forward.

If the team’s rebelliousness in the past implied they didn’t give a damn about national interests, they’ve now oozed the same trait to show they do care after all.

With so many more battles to be fought — versus a fandom which remains largely skeptical of the Stars’ motives, a sports ministry growing increasingly hostile towards the team, and an FA caught in-between — in going forward, they’d have to ooze some more of that.



Time Out! – John Paintsil needed this latest sack.

It’s just what the doctor prescribed for John Paintsil: a fresh start.

Days after announcing his decision to retire from active football and stating his intention to go into coaching, the veteran Ghana full-back landed his first managerial gig — and, given his next-to-no experience in management, it could hardly have been bigger. The former Berekum Arsenal man was unveiled as one of the new faces who was to grace the technical bench of South African giants Kaizer Chiefs nearly a year ago, joining the Amakhosi as assistant to head Steve Komphela. That was really no more than the merits he could legitimately claim after all he’d been through in recent years.

Paintsil, a two-edition Fifa World Cup participant and 89-game member of the Black Stars over several years, received his last Ghana call-up in 2012. His club career — the heights of which saw him represent Fulham and West Ham United in the English Premier League — dragged along to a slow, painful death not long afterwards, eventually ending unceremoniously in the same country where he launched his coaching journey.


Disturbed thus in his public business, there’s been precious little solace from Paintsil’s private life where a troubled marital relationship has only gone downhill since Paintsil was nabbed by the police in 2013 for allegedly assaulting his wife physically. For a man who’s had so little to celebrate over the years (albeit having himself to blame for some of it) and who has suffered a sudden demotion from being the lovable flag-waving patriot whose victory laps decorated almost every major Ghana win in his time to a deeply-loathed, woman-abusing villain, Paintsil deserved that big break he would have been the first to admit he’d barely earned.

Being at continental heavyweights Chiefs in his fresh role wasn’t necessarily going to cast his demons out, of course. Nor was it going to make him husband-of-the-year. It surely wasn’t going to rid him of the personal demons that seemed embedded in his worryingly worsening attitude… And so, it proved. After twelve months with the South African club, these same news worthy activities, that have come to typify john Paintsil as we’ve come to know him for so long came back to haunt him. The vicious cycle of getting into the headlines and featuring on the frontpages of newspapers for all the wrong reasons wasn’t something those in the helm of the Amakhosi were going to be taking lightly. This latest episode came with a prize tag he could barely afford to pay (all puns intended).

Having been relieved of his duties now, this new phase in his life, instead, represents a clean slate Paintsil would be a fool not to fill with glory. Should he make good use of this me-time, Paintsil could prove even better at coaching than he was at playing; mess this golden opportunity to regroup and restrategise up, though, and his mission of self-ruin would be complete.

Over to you, Jeonju Man.


Higher, Higher! – Kwesi Nyantakyi goes Higher!

It’s sometimes easy to forget Kwesi Nyantakyi is only 48 — too young to even have witnessed Ghana’s first two Afcon victories and the nation’s attainment of Republican status — considering all that he has achieved in his career as a football administrator.

The ambition Nyantakyi exudes is infectious, a bug impossible not to catch if you ever get to interact with him on a personal level — a privilege I had sometime in December 2014. Across a table at the plush Best Western Premier Hotel — one of the finest in the Ghanaian capital — and in the company of a mutual friend of ours, recently deceased New Patriotic Party activist Kwabena Boadu, I engaged Nyantakyi in a lengthy discussion that dragged into the late hours of the night.


That rare encounter came in the midst of perhaps the most challenging period of Nyantakyi’s tenure as head of the Ghana Football Association. It hadn’t been long since the Black Stars returned from a Fifa World Cup tournament where a series of incidents made the country an international laughing-stock. Instances of indiscipline by individual players — resulting in two of the team’s most high-profile members being dismissed before Ghana even played its final game at the event — and collective squad mutiny over unpaid fees shredded the nation’s image and left the team and its handlers hugely unpopular. The Stars’ coach at the Mundial, Kwesi Appiah, was fired after the competition — a decision that, though validated somewhat by a considerable measure of public opinion, didn’t go down well with everybody.

Nyantakyi had also [in]famously appeared before the Commission of Inquiry set up by government to investigate said mess at Brazil 2014, and some of his submissions on that platform convinced few of his integrity and the credibility of the organisation he runs. And, oh, need I include that, not long after this writer’s date with Nyantakyi, the Stars were due to participate at an edition of the Africa Cup of Nations that many feared could be the worst yet in the country’s proud footballing history?

Yet here Nyantakyi sat, talking about his personal ambitions after extensively addressing some of the controversies mentioned above. Though battling such an explosive cocktail of chaos, he didn’t possess the mien of a man overwhelmed by all that was going on around him. If anything, he looked like a leader calm and in firm control of what seemed a lost cause: picture the Titanic, half-sunk, but with its unruffled captain glued to a rare warm spot on the deck, with a glass of martini kissing his lips. Only that this ship, Nyantakyi’s, wasn’t going down — not on his watch. Much as Nyantakyi cares about Ghana football — and his passion about that subject is unrivalled, trust me — he knows he’d have a life to live long after he ceases to be the sports most powerful man this side of the Atlantic, and it’s a life he wishes to live while perched on much higher rungs of football’s political ladder.

It’s why, on this chilly December night, the one-time banker-lawyer shed light on his own goals, notably that of becoming president of the Confederation of African Football someday. Asked if he really had what it took to contest an office that had been one man’s since Nyantakyi himself was a teen, the boy from Wa simply shrugged, smiled, and said: “Why not?”


That expression of belief in his prospects and abilities may have been surprisingly crisp, but it oozed sheer confidence. Three years later, Issa Hayatou finally got dethroned as Caf boss, but not by Nyantakyi. Egg on the Ghanaian’s face?

Hardly. Nyantakyi may not have had his name plastered on the big door, but he had been heavily influential –perhaps the most influential figure aside Fifa chief Gianni Infantino — in plotting Hayatou’s fall and anointing the despot’s successor, Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad. And, really, isn’t a kingmaker much more powerful than the king himself?

Shortly after Ahmad’s coronation, Nyantakyi secured for himself a four-year term on the mighty Fifa Council, the elite body which calls the shots in the game. Still, Nyantakyi, Oliver Twist with a Ghanaian passport, wanted more — and more is what he has received after his confirmation on Monday as the occupant of the office next to Ahmad’s at the Caf Secretariat in Cairo: that of the establishment’s 1st Vice-President. It makes him, by some distance now, the most successful football administrator Ghana has ever produced, even overtaking the late Ohene Djan.

And all of this Nyantakyi has achieved without the solid backing Djan enjoyed from his own country’s government. Rather, Nyantakyi has really been up against it on his home turf, having to dribble his way through a maze of controversy, harsh critics and vendetta. His opponents have had various tools to their advantage in pushing their cause, but Nyantakyi has used the one weapon he wields to such devastating effect: raw determination.

Love him or not, his comprehension of strategy is remarkable, and that brilliant ability to push his pieces into just the spaces now has him on top of his game. If politics were a game of chess as they say, call Nyantakyi a grandmaster and you wouldn’t be wide of the mark. Ghana, it seems, is a bit too small for him now. Nyantakyi has already announced he wouldn’t seek to extend his reign as FA boss after his 14th year in power ends in 2019 and, although there is already talk of him relinquishing his role even earlier after his latest international appointment, he wouldn’t mind bowing out anytime he’s required to; his record as the GFA’s longest-serving, most productive president is already etched in 24-carat gold.

On a continental/global level, though, he’s only just started, and it’s hard to predict when — and, indeed, where — he might stop.


EARNED IT!: Chrissy Atsu Deserves Newcastle United Stay

When English giants Chelsea, around the beginning of the current season, sent Christian Atsu on the Ghanaian’s fourth loan spell since his move to London from Oporto, few held any hopes for a young man who had increasingly drifted towards the periphery of the picture envisaged by the men who plotted his arrival at Stamford Bridge.

Only the first of the temporary transfers Atsu had been farmed out on — to Dutch outfit Vitesse Arnhem, where he was voted by fans as that club’s best player for the 2013/14 season — brought real success. The experiences that followed, at English Premier League sides Everton and Bournemouth, yielded very little due to a dire lack of opportunities and fitness issues respectively. The next adventure, at Spain’s Malaga, wasn’t so bad — but it wasn’t so good either for a man who is yet to start a competitive game for his parent club.

The stint at St James’ Park thus seemed, at worst, one loan move too many; at best, it represented Atsu’s entry into last chance saloon, with respect to his prospects as a future Chelsea star. Thankfully, it’s a chance he clutched with little hesitance.


Opportunities for Atsu were sparse at the beginning, but his undoubted brilliance filtered through, easing him gradually into the plans of Rafael Benitez, the Magpies’ manager, as well as the hearts of the club’s faithful. Before long — especially in the latter half of the season — Atsu started to earn more minutes and greater trust, contributing enough to merit all that has come his way of late. On Monday night, when his countrymen were reliving Lionel Messi’s Clasico moment of genius and Wayne Rooney’s return to goalscoring on Sports Station and/or Highlights on Ghanaian television, Atsu played perhaps his biggest role yet in a Newcastle shirt. Against Preston North End in Newcastle’s penultimate home game of the season, Benitez’s charges let slip an early lead, only for Atsu to restore it with a fine finish shortly before recess. It was an advantage the Toon Army never relinquished, not even after Atsu left the pitch to some applause with a third of an hour to go. By the time the winger had signed off, Newcastle had wrapped up a 4-1 victory, sealing a return to the English top-flight at the first time of asking, just days after Championship leaders Brighton & Hove Albion had secured their own ticket.

Atsu may yet have a part to play in what remains of Newcastle’s campaign, with rotation-obsessed Benitez likely to grant his fringe players — a category Atsu, despite his recent rise to considerable prominence, hasn’t entirely emerged from – game-time, and the 25-year-old would seek to add to his four-goal, three-assist haul before the climax. And then?


Well, and then Newcastle could exercise the option they have to make permanent Atsu’s stay – at least for the player’s sake. A return to Chelsea, given the well-oiled juggernaut Antonio Conte has constructed that’s humming along just fine, won’t be in Atsu’s best interests. Remaining at Newcastle would, though, and Chelsea should be willing to part with the lad they apparently don’t regard too highly anyway for a reasonably modest fee.

Atsu has proved himself enough in 30 appearances (nearly half of them starts) to stake a claim for extended life on Tyneside beyond the current season, even if Newcastle decide to bring in reinforcements to ensure a better experience in the Premier League than their last. He’s found a home with the Geordies, fans who adore him already, and a manager whose unwavering belief in meritocracy would give him a fair crack at matching the hype that brought him to England four years ago.