After the excitement of the Holidays, a festive New Year’s celebration, and all of the time off from work that much of the world enjoys over the last 5 or so weeks of the year, a New Year lull often follows for many of us. In America, we lament the fact that many of us won’t have another holiday until late May. That lull doesn’t exist in Ghana, however, because January means that it’s time for another Africa Cup of Nations.
Africa’s pre-eminent football (soccer for some of you) tournament is held every other January. Ghana’s Blackstars had a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2012, but they will have a chance to avenge that just one year later rather than the typical two, as the Confederation of African Football moved the tournament to odd numbered years, starting this year, to avoid taking place in the same year as the World Cup, as happened in 2010 (which ironically represented Ghana’s best ever finish in the global tournament).
The Africa Cup of Nations is indeed big news in this football-crazed nation, as there are few things that most Ghanaians consider more important than watching the Blackstars–including wives, girlfriends, business meetings, etc. Funnily enough, this is even evident in a majority of the nation’s political speeches. When late President John Atta Mills appointed ministers upon taking office in 2009, excluding some widely expected appointees, he was able to smooth his decisions over with the National Democratic Congress by using–you guessed it–football analogies. The official statement that came from the President’s office stated that Mills, as the coach of team Ghana, decides “which player plays at what time. And since this is the first half, they should give the President leeway to bring the set of players he wants to play this first half.” Later in the statement, it was noted that it was possible that the potential appointees who were excluded initially would still earn their expected posts later in his term, as “the game has just begun.”