No national team, in recent memory, has disappointed Ghanaians as much as the Black
Stars Meteors have — if we’re being really honest.
It may not be the country’s flagship side — that distinction, and the perks which come with it, goes to the Black Stars — but it was Ghana’s U-23s, with bronze at the 1992 Olympic Games, that got the nation dreaming again after a long spell of underachievement on the international stage. The Black
Stars had won silver at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier that year Starlets had brought home a first triumph in nearly a decade from the Fifa World Cup a year prior, but that was just an accomplishment by a bunch of kids aged 17 or younger; nothing to be overly excited about.
The Meteors’ follow-up feat in Barcelona — featuring some of the more precocious lads from the Italy ’91 group, the likes of Samuel Osei Kuffour, Yaw Preko, and Nii Odartey Lamptey — was a truly big deal, on the other hand, achieved by a team only out-ranked by the Stars. More than any other, this, in many ways, was the platform from which Ghana’s might was first declared to the rest of the world; the West Africans had arrived.
By the time the next two editions of the Olympics played out, however, a pair of regional rivals had pulled up in grander style at the quadrennial sporting festival. Still, Ghana wasn’t quite a faded force — not yet, anyway. Yes, the Meteors weren’t present Down Under when Cameroon conquered the planet at the turn of the century, but they certainly were four years earlier when the Olympic charabanc paraded in Atlanta, USA; it was them Ronaldo’s Brazil beat to book a semi-final date with eventual champions Nigeria, remember?
In 2004, Ghana were back, holding Italy 2-2 in their group opener, beating Paraguay next, before a narrow loss to Japan saw Mariano Barreto’s team fail to make it into the knockout rounds on a tiebreaker. That expedition was no absolute failure, however, and if the world had paid any attention, it wouldn’t have been so blinded by Ghana’s dazzling debut at the Mundial two years later. The squad that represented Ghana in Athens included several who starred in the Stars’ quest to reach Germany 2006, and seven who made it to the finals itself.
Yet while the Stars carried on with their brilliance for a few more years — enjoying another two World Cup appearances and a hot, albeit uncrowned, streak at the Afcon — the Meteors quickly crashed and burned, failing to sustain the flame lit at the 1992 Olympics and which flickered briefly in 1996 and 2004. Gold at the 2011 African Games aside, Ghana has struggled to make a mark.
Three straight Olympic football events have been missed — also two editions of the continental championship at which tickets for the Olympics are handed out these days — and, only last week, a chance to appear at Tokyo 2020 slipped away, too, despite Ghana twice coming agonizingly close to snatching it at the just-ended Afcon in Egypt.
In four years, another opportunity should be here, by which time the Stars would already have been judged on how many of the next two Nations Cup tournaments they are able to win, and whether or not they’d reach Qatar 2022 — easy to see why their failures often appear magnified, eh?
In reality, though, the Meteors have been just as — if not more — distressing.
NY Frimpong — Daily Mail GH