Media showed more teamwork than Bafana in Ghana
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.