Lessons From The Africa Cup Of Nations Final

It was a cagey and drab performance yesterday as Ivory Coast clinched the African Cup of Nations 2015 after edging out Ghana 9-8 on penalties, thus ending and breaking a 23 years spell that has seen many of the players in their golden generation grace and dominated Africa’s biggest football competition without clinching the coveted prize. The Elephants in the past have paraded great players like Didier Drogba, CHAMPIONS 2Arouna Kone, Didier Zakora, Boubacar Barry, Salomon Kalou and other big names, not forgetting the Toure brothers, Yaya and Kolo, but in spite of their bravery, all they got were two runners up medals after they lost two shootouts in the las

t two finals they were involved in. The last time Ivory Coast won the cup was in Senegal 1992.

The final again at the Bata stadium in Equatorial Guinea was looking as if the God of soccer wasn’t on the Ivorians side  as newly signed former Swansea man and Manchester City January recruit Wilfried Bony, hit the upright as he dispatched his side’s first spot kick. The next taker Tallo Gadji also made a meal of his kick and it seemed as if it was going to be doom as we’ve known it for the Elephants. When Ghana thought they had it wrapped up having had a two goal advantage from Mubarak and Ayew, their two next takers Acquah and Acheampong spurned the opportunity for glory and gave the momentum back to Ivory Coast whose players from that time never looked back until second choice goal kee

CHAMPIONS 3

per Boubacar Barry who had hitherto been dubbed the weak link of the golden generation saved the spot kick from Black Star’s keeper, Razak Braimah.

AYEW CONSOLEDCONSOLED 2

Andre Ayew wept inconsolably after the defeat at the AFCON 2015 Final in Equatorial Guinea.

At the end of the nerve-wracking penalty shootout, the Black Stars of Ghana were devastated as they lost another final and had not won the AFCON in 33 years. The irony of football—ecstasy of victory, and the agony of defeat, played out again as the players of Ivory Coast celebrated amidst tears of joy and shouts of victory. It was heart wrenching, however, to watch the Black Stars’ well-built and able bodied young men weep inconsolably, especially Andre Ayew, as they bemoan their fate on a day when they had prepared mentally and physically to be crowned champions. It must be tough for them to know that all the decals and T-shirts printed for celebration and the choreographed dancing steps (I missed Asamoah Gyan’s) was discarded at an instance and would now be saved for the next AFCON. With all that said, football will always deliver its lessons and here are a few I observed from yesterday’s showdown.

  1. Persistence pays: Ivory Coast would have almost been reduced to a laughing stock if they had lost that final; it would be very convenient to conclude that there is a jinx working against the Elephants, and that may resonate, never mind that it sounds preposterous. This win debunks the jinx myth and it shows that when you persist—don’t give up—(many players like Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, and those who were are a part of the golden generation should have resigned from the national team after series of loss and throw in the towel, but they still kept at it) you will likely smile at last.
  2. It is not over until it is over: At some point during the penalty shootout, Ghana thought they had nipped it. It was clear in their body language and Andre Ayew even beat his chest, mocking Boubacar Barry as he delicately squeezed his spot kick past the Ivorian shot stopper. But that wasn’t enough— they came, saw, but did not conquer…. Don’t rejoice too early when you’ve not seen things through. You want to make sure you concentrate to the end so that your victory doesn’t turn to a Pyrrhic victory!
  3. Be Humble; don’t flaunt your victory and do pay tribute to people who have helped you. Football bureaucracy has always preached that there should be modesty in celebrating victory. That was obeyed to the latter at the Bata Stadium. No sight was more touching and inspiring yesterday night than the sight of the victors consoling the losers. It was a beautiful moment for football—an opponent who ought to have dashed off in the stupor of conquest,  turns around and offers a genuine embrace of consolation. What a great sight to behold! The Ivorians, from their head coach Herve Renard, to the players, knew they were lucky on the day as shown during the postgame interviews and they paid respect to the Black Stars. What a show of humility. The current crop of Elephants also dedicated their success to the players before them who had tried to win for their nation without success. They acknowledged that the victory stemmed from the hard work over the years and it couldn’t have been possible without the input of the great heroes of the past. So never flaunt your success. Acknowledge that you are lucky to have achieved whatever you get and pay tribute to those who contributed to your success—your parents, teachers, school mates, angel investor, your spouse….
  4. Celebrate success! There’s nothing like success. It is the fruit of hard work—it is torturous to get at times, but do get it because it is worth the fuss! Indeed accomplishment is the ultimate proof of time and in all thy getting, get success! As the confetti poured down generously like torrent on the victorious players as they cackled their delight all over the arena, greeting fans, jumping around in exhilaration, you wouldn’t want to bet against the bliss of victory. Hmm. Success is love at first sight for many— and worth courting, or at least flirting around with.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

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