Thanos, Infinity War & a Paradigm Shift in Ghanaian Football
Between denial and delusion is a line that is, sometimes, very thin.
So thin, in fact, that even the mighty are prone to missing it.
In Marvel’s high-grossing superhero film Avengers: Endgame, the great Thanos fell victim to this.
“I am… inevitable,” he said, even when he knew his end was nigh.
Next, he snapped his fingers.
But nothing happened, and it was only then that Thanos realised he no longer possessed the one thing that made him omnipotent: the Infinity Stones.
Unbeknownst to Thanos, Tony Stark had used the nano-technology feature on the former’s armour to transfer the coveted gems to his (Stark’s) arm.
“And I… am… Iron Man,” came Stark’s breathy, ominous reply to Thanos, as he snapped his own fingers and watched the world’s most hated supervillain and his sinister army slowly fade into nothingness.
In many ways, the end of Thanos and his army — especially the manner in which they petered out — is synonymous with how Ghana’s senior national team is losing touch with Ghanaians.
A popular consensus, in fact, is that the Black Stars have already lost it — a thought that, not too long ago, would have been deemed almost heretic as, for many years, they were the toast of a nation that showered them with unconditional love.
Much of that love has, however, melted away since the disgraceful happenings at the 2014 Fifa World Cup, where the players acted like mercenaries rather than repay just a little of the goodwill generously afforded them by the public.
In the seven years since, it has become increasingly obvious that the Black Stars no longer command the affection and admiration of Ghanaians, necessitating the #BringBackTheLove campaign launched towards the end of 2019, at the beginning of Kurt Okraku’s tenure as president of the Ghana Football Association (GFA).
That ingenious campaign, as well-intended and multi-faceted as it is, primarily seeks to revive interest in the Black Stars. In that sense, then, it has been an unmitigated disaster, as the chasm of lovelessness separating the team from the Ghanaian people remains as wide as it has ever been.
Don’t get me wrong; the GFA’s sincere efforts have certainly generated some love, but much of that has been sent the way of the Ghana Premier League, not the Black Stars, and the events of the past week provided evidence of this rather seismic paradigm shift.
Last weekend, after the Black Meteors (Ghana’s U-23/U-24 team) were beaten, battered and bruised — 6-0 they lost — by their Japanese peers in faraway Fukuoka, it was to the domestic top-flight that the masses turned for comfort and succour.
Sunday’s ‘Ga Mashie’ Derby clash between Accra rivals Hearts of Oak and Great Olympics was the go-to feel-good game for most; but for the partial restriction of fan attendance, it would have been played before a full house at the Accra Sports Stadium.
The football on display echoed the electric atmosphere, with the quality all over the pitch banishing the uninspiring performance of the Black Meteors a day prior (and even the subsequent 4-0 defeat in a second engagement with the same opponents three days later) from the memory.
But, of course, it isn’t towards the Meteors (who, by the way, haven’t been to the Olympic Games in 17 years) that many Ghanaians feel the most intense animus, is it?
That is reserved for the Black Stars, whose fallen approval rating wouldn’t have been improved by their latest underwhelming show in Tuesday’s international friendly against Morocco, when they served up yet another insipid display.
If there were a Ghana Premier League game on TV at the same time that evening, I reckon quite a few would have tuned in to that instead. The league is, in fact, doing very well and has been the catalyst to reviving a fandom that has now lent its passion and attention to a facet of the Ghanaian game that — like today’s Black Stars — used to matter very little.
A more competitive championship, spiced up by the return of a good old title race between its dominant powers, Hearts and Asante Kotoko, appears to be all that the majority have a craving and an appetite for right now.
Like Thanos, the Black Stars appear to be in denial of their status as a fading, diminishing force. There was a time they looked inevitable, invoking a reverence that made them inextricable from the national consciousness.
Not anymore, though.
They’ve lost the fans — the power supply that sustained them through decades of underachievement — to the Ghana Premier League which, like Tony Stark (Iron Man), currently possesses all the Infinity Stones.