Me­dia showed more team­work than Bafana in Ghana

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

I THOUGHT I was dy­ing. Of course, be­ing a Chris­tian and know­ing I’d go to be with my Lord and Fa­ther, death held no fears for me.

It was just the idea of breath­ing my last in a for­eign coun­try that wasn’t ap­peal­ing.

As it was, breath­ing was a mighty prob­lem – with the asth­matic I am strug­gling to cope in the hugely pol­luted air of Ac­cra, Ghana.

Bafana Bafana, once again, had fin­ished bot­tom of the group at the Africa Cup of Na­tions in 2008, win­less. And we were headed home, sched­uled for a sleep­over in the cap­i­tal city be­fore fly­ing out.

Within an hour of ar­riv­ing in Ac­cra I found my­self in des­per­ate use of my neb­u­liser and was for­tu­nate that col­league Gavin Barker from Back­a­pagePix had al­ready checked into his ho­tel. And so I used his room to con­nect my lit­tle life ma­chine and clear my clogged lungs.

That I’d sur­vived a lit­tle over 10 days with­out hav­ing at­tacks was be­cause Bafana were based in Ta­male. While it is called a city, the cap­i­tal of Ghana’s north­ern re­gion back then was re­ally a big town with none of the trap­pings that Ac­cra has. There was none of the in­dus­try and the cars that fill the air with filthy smoke.

The lin­ger­ing mem­ory of Ghana 2008 is the in­cred­i­ble broth­er­hood that ex­isted among the South African me­dia con­tin­gent.

Be­ing in a town where tech­nol­ogy was yet to catch on, send­ing copy home was a general prob­lem for most of us. But the ge­nius that is Ti­mothy Molobi of the City Press some­how found a way to get his mo­dem work­ing like a charm and sud­denly his room be­came the press cen­tre.

When the late Nthuthuko Ma­phu­mulo of the Sun­day World fell ill and strug­gled, just about every­one was will­ing to help him send copy to his of­fice.

It was team­work all the way, the fact that we were com­peti­tors tak­ing a back seat as we en­deav­oured to share Bafana’s Af­con story.

Of course it wasn’t the beau­ti­ful story we’d all ex­pected when Safa put World Cup win­ner Car­los Al­berto Par­reira in charge.

In Ta­male, Bafana scored goals three min­utes from time in both their matches as they held An­gola 1-1 and then lost 3-1 to Tu­nisia.

Done in Ta­male, we headed to Ku­masi to play the dead-rub­ber clash against dis­grace­ful Sene­gal whose star player El Hadji Diouf par­tied nights away and dished out dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mances.

The bus trip was pretty long, about six hours on pretty bad roads, but it was an ex­pe­ri­ence to cher­ish as we got to see the coun­try and spend time with col­leagues.

An in­sipid, goal­less draw be­tween the two coun­tries meant we were to go home early and a trip to Ac­cra fol­lowed.

Fun­nily, we got into Ghana via Ac­cra to sort out ac­cred­i­ta­tions and I ex­pe­ri­enced no breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. At the ac­cred­i­ta­tion cen­tre, col­league Ernst Land­heer had his wal­let nicked and to say the big Dutch­man was livid would be an un­der­state­ment.

In­cred­i­bly, the Ghana­ians, in a bit to max­imise prof­its dur­ing the tour­na­ment, had upped the value of their cur­rency (Cedis) so that it was the same as the dol­lar. It made for an ex­pen­sive two days in the cap­i­tal.

For me, though, the mem­ory of nearly breath­ing my last in Ac­cra lingers. And be­cause of that ex­pe­ri­ence, I pulled out of cov­er­ing the Olympics in Bei­jing later in the year, the Chi­nese city be­ing much more pol­luted than Ac­cra.

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