The last time Ivory Coast and Ghana competed in the final match of the Africa Cup of Nations, Anthony Baffoe lined up for Ghana when the Elephants beat the Black Stars 11-10 in Dakar after the longest spot-kick climax in AFCON history.
Baffoe took the first Ghana penalty but on the second attempt after every player had converted theirs, could not score what turned out to be the last for his side as Ivory Coast won their first continental title.
In Sunday’s 30th edition of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations final match between Herve Renard’s Ivory Coast and Avram Grant’s Ghana at the Estadio de Bata, Baffoe will lead the two teams out and line-up facing both sets of players; only this time he will not be wearing the Ghana outfit but the CAF uniform of General Coordinator of AFCON2015.
The ex-Ghana international, founder and secretary general of the players union, expects a wonderful conclusion to the 2015 championship; an event he reckons will leave a lasting impression of African football’s greatness.
“I expect the final to be a very compact, very technical and very tactical match because we have two sets of great players on the pitch. We have two highly talented teams with a lot of quality players on either side,” Baffoe said adding: “The Ivory Coast on side has top class players in Yaya Toure, Bony, Traore, Doumbia and Ghana equally has top players led by Asamoah Gyan, Atsu, Dede, Wakaso and when you look at what we may have in that midfield tussle with Wakaso and Akwa and Yaya, we are left with a classic final, an excellent fixture for the biggest match in African football.”
The former Black Star conceded that the final would be an emotional moment for him.
“It will be very emotional for me. I’m from Ghana, am an African, am a former player, I’ve been in the final before and that was when the two teams played each other in 1992. I’m very grateful to CAF to be part of the CAF delegation and to serve as General Coordinator, a position which assumes lots of responsibility and at the same time shows that anything is possible with life after football,” said Baffoe, who through the players union, spearheads programmes to prepare footballers for life after football.
“In terms of the organisation of the match, the easiest thing on the day is to get the two teams to kick-off after a lot of hard work by all personnel. But instead of watching tactics and enjoying this spectacle, my focus is the organisation and coordination with colleagues in security, media, marketing and all aspects of management to ensure that we have a successful day.”
“I will not give you a prediction because that is not for me as General Coordinator but my prayer is that through the dedication and hard work of everyone on duty, all goes well and we have no incidents. We have prepared well and we are ready and our focus is to deliver a wonderful final match because the lasting impression of this AFCON is what will happen in the final match. I therefore wish both teams best of luck,” the 49-year old former FC Koln and Fortuna Dusseldorf star said.
Huge advancement of African football
Baffoe also hailed the advancements CAF and African football had made since his playing days.
“In our playing days for example, we had photographers walking besides us as we got onto the pitch and the organisational environment was clearly different, the pitches, the whole development we see today was not there. Today, CAF has developed and is very professional,” Baffoe said adding: “Generally, CAF has incredibly developed and progressed into multi ethnic organisation of many nationalities. We have in CAF today young operational guys involved in many areas of administration led by Hicham El Amrani and the experienced guys who are our stepping stones and are doing a great thing.”
Third biggest championship
“Today, we are the third biggest rated tournament after the FIFA World Cup and the Euros. That tells you how well and big the AFCON is. We are doing very well and I’m very proud and happy to be part of this CAF led by Al Hajj Issa Hayatou and the many wonderful members. We have to keep working hard and hard work for me is a key component that I learned from my early years in Germany and we have to keep learning, retain discipline and focus and continue to develop our African football.”
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