‘The Black Stars 10’ series will give the reader an idea of the greatest players to illuminate the Ghana national team in the past 20 years.
You might disagree with some of the picks, and most likely wouldn’t also agree with the order, but the aim is to ensure you enjoy the stories. You can read more about the introduction to the series here.
It was 6:45pm, just a few minutes away from the final whistle in the opener for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations between Ghana and Guinea.
The game was tied at 1-1, Ghana being the hosts, needed all three points considering they were yet to face North African giants Morocco.
Fans impatiently trooped out as it looked like Guinea had successfully held the Black Stars to a draw.
Michael Essien picked up the ball in midfield and quickly gave it to Muntari. The fans were awaiting an unlikely miracle.
Muntari took one touch and surprised everyone with a thunderbolt from 25 yards. The remaining fans in the stadium were left in awe. Ghana had all three points and later on clinched the bronze medal, thanks to crucial goals from the former Portsmouth man.
The Black Stars were blessed with a bison (Michael Essien), tornado (Stephen Appiah) and a rock (John Mensah). The team was also blessed with another star; a sniper.
His name is Sulley Muntari. The art of finding the net is a good thing. Finding it from distance is considered amazing. Muntari was simply the embodiment of amazing.
One can fondly recount his astonishing strike against Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final or that vicious free kick against Ivory Coast in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
His wicked left foot was his greatest weapon but that was not his only weapon. As Asamoah Gyan described in March this year, Muntari could create chances as well from his central midfield position.
“Sulley was a great player, he was a positive player. A player with vision, he knew how to create chances and assist. He provided most of the assist for my goals,” he told Pulse Ghana.
“He is somebody who does his talking on the field. He is not somebody who is open to the press, but he always does his thing on the field. He had a great left foot, amazing shot. He is a motivator. He is somebody who tries to do his things indoors.”
Muntari began his senior professional career with Liberty Professionals in 2000, a place that bred future Black Stars teammates like Michael Essien and others.
A year later, he featured for the Ghana U-20 team and won a silver medal in the FIFA Youth Championship in Argentina. His impressive performances earned him a shot at the Black Stars soon after and he became an important member of the side.
Muntari received a call-up into the national team for the 2004 Olympics team but was sent home shortly after due to his main blemish; indiscipline.
In 2006, he and the Black Stars played in their first World Cup tournament. Sulley made a great account of himself despite moving to the left side of midfield.
He scored a beauty against Czech Republic in the group stages. He formed a brilliant partnership with Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah in midfield. Unfortunately, the team could not make it past the round of 16.
Muntari really came alive in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. The former Inter Milan star scored important goals for the team whilst showing other excellent qualities in midfield. He was named as an All-Star player in that tournament. Then manager, Claude Le Roy, recognized his efforts.
“There’s no player like Sulley in the world,” Le Roy told AFP in 2008.
“I’m not saying he’s the best in the world, but that he’s got qualities that set him apart. He’s very strong technically, and likes always to battle.”
In 2010, he was unsurprisingly included in the squad but a controversial incident with Milovan Rajevac almost got him sent home.
Richard Kingson narrated the incident; “We drew 1-1 with Australia and Sulley Muntari was not happy about the score line. After the game we were in the dressing room, Sulley didn’t play that game, he was on the bench.”
“After the game, he was not happy about the result and was talking in the dressing room, he was talking in Twi and Italia. He didn’t understand why we should draw with an Australian team with one man down”, Kingson told Max TV.
“When we went back to the hotel, news came in that the Coach (Milovan Rajevac) said he wanted Sulley out of his camp because he insulted him. So, I decided to ask my teammates who spoke Italia, at the end of the day the Coach said he wanted Sulley out of the camp.”
Ultimately, Kingson convinced Rajevac to keep him in the side and he proved his worth in Ghana’s historic run to the quarter-finals.
Four years later, he was included by then head coach Kwesi Appiah in the 2014 World Cup squad but was expelled due to his main demon once again; indiscipline.
It was reported by the BBC that he assaulted Moses Armah, a member of Kwesi Appiah’s coaching staff. Since then, he has not featured for the national team.
His 13 year stint with the Black Stars ended on a sour note, however, Sulley still managed an impressive 84 appearances and found the net on 20 occasions. His 20 goals makes him the country’s ninth highest scorer of all-time.
In a time where the national team was blessed with a bison, tornado and a rock, we were also blessed with a long range sniper. The former Inter Milan man, regardless of the controversy that surrounded him, was an exceptional player for the side.
No 4 of ‘The Black Stars 10’ will be released on November 8 at 9am so keep an eye on the sports page.
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