BACK TO BLACK? Time to Restore a Colour Unfairly Banished by Superstition & Prejudice
In the realm of national teams that bear ‘coloured nicknames’, Ghana is an oddity.
France’s Les Bleus, Holland’s Oranje and Italy’s Azzurri, for instance, typically look exactly as their names suggest they should; throw in the Red Devils of Belgium, too, as one more case in point.
Not the Black Stars of Ghana, though, with the team turning out in white or red or yellow – or some combination of those – throughout its history. The notable exception, that one time when Ghana actually dressed up to their name, was 16 years ago, at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
But that was a notoriously brief experiment, truncated by the tragic memory of the singular occasion black kits were worn. That came in Ghana’s third group game against lowly Zimbabwe, one they had no business losing if they wanted to make it through to the competition’s next round.
Yet Ratomir Dujkovic’s team fell, to a shocking 2-1 defeat, as the Zimbabweans dragged the Stars down with them on their way out of the tournament. The day would come to be known, rather infamously, as the so-called Black Wednesday, with the colour reference owing as much to the symbolic darkness cast over the entire country by the result as to the jerseys Ghana wore on the day.
Ghanaian readers would know that black, in the cultures of most ethnic groups here, is generally associated with loss, misfortune, sorrow, and mourning; anyone who has ever attended a Ghanaian funeral would appreciate this.
It isn’t entirely coincidental, then, that black shirts — considered a must-have elsewhere in the world, with Arsenal’s latest offering reportedly breaking sales records – are a rarity in these parts. In fact, no Ghana Premier League club in the just-ended season had predominantly black colours featuring in its matchday closet.
The last top-flight side to express a particularly pronounced preference for black?
Swedru All Blacks (the clue is in the name, isn’t it?) – relegated years ago and still not back up.
And that apparent distaste for black – rooted deep in superstition, largely – has, as implied earlier, been reflected very much at the national level. That explains, at least in part, the prompt banishment of the black shirt – a collectors’ item now – following the AFCON 2006 fiasco. It hasn’t returned since, but PUMA must have the template still lying around somewhere – and maybe it’s time to get it off the shelves and dust it off.
The black shirt, don’t forget, was the original alternative wear produced by the German manufacturers when it signed Ghana up as clients after a ticket to a maiden World Cup appearance, in 2005, was booked; it was, in fact, supposed to have made its World Cup debut when Ghana took on the United States at Germany 2006, only to be denied by that twist of fate in Ismailia just months prior.
And while Qatar 2022 is surely too soon for the black shirt to claim its rightful place on the biggest stage, with PUMA having already dropped the new primary jersey (white, rather unsurprisingly yet very annoyingly) and lined up the secondary option (yellow, if not red), a comeback is never too late.
Black – the colour of the star that takes a central position in Ghana’s flag, that long-standing symbol of African emancipation that embodies Ghana’s claim of being the standard-bearer for the continent’s emergence from colonial rule all those years ago – is more representative of the national team than yellow or red or (sigh!) white that the lads are admittedly far more accustomed to wearing.
True, a black-coloured star has featured, in some form, on Ghana kits down the years, but it really is the entire shirt itself – not just some small part of it – that should be coloured same as the team’s nickname. Beyond the next Mundial, then, the conversation ought to be had about bringing back the black in its fullest sense.
One terrible result was all it took to confine the colour to the basement of our collective consciousness (and even that is a subject for legitimate debate); one terrific result (or two) is all it might take to erase such unfounded prejudice and remind the masses that black, after all, is who we really are.