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Mensah aching for gold with Black Stars

Mensah aching for gold with Black Stars
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The evidence of what could have been but also how far he has come in football, abounds in the Jonathan Mensah household in East Legon.

The living room, hallway and gym are lined with photos that tell his career story in great detail. There are photos of him shaking hands with Mesut Ozil after a World Cup game in 2010.

There is another of him in an intensely physical battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic while both played in France and a recent one from 2014 where he keeps an eye on Cristiano Ronaldo.

The photos are a reminder of the level he has played at, but on those same walls the major disappointments of his career so far are also evident.

And in some cases, the narrative is more powerful by simply analysing what is not there. The club photos are rare. They include one of when he signed for Anzhi Makachkala recently and a few from France.

It feeds into the narrative that at club level this 26-year-old, who has earned high praise from Ghanaian defensive stalwarts like Sammy Kuffour as perhaps the most talented of his generation, has not fulfilled his immense potential.

For instance in the last season, he started slowly and had a few moments on the bench. It is something he struggles not to moan about.

“The season was OK for me,” he mutters. “Due to injury I missed some of games but I played nine out of 15 games in the first half of the season, so it is not bad. I think if I was fit throughout I would have played all the games.”

The idea that he has struggled to fulfill his potential at club level brings a small frown to his face before he lays out why that is a wrong assessment.

“Am very thankful to God and because I have come a long way, but I also know there is so much more I can do.

“There have been difficult moments but I have made progress. All I can hope for is good health, to be able to stay in shape to do what I do best for my country, club and myself.”

The trinity of club, country and self will morph into one in Mensah’s ambition this January. When he speaks of progress and more room for improvement like they do in our appraisals and terminal reports, he is simply reflecting how a lot of people will grade his own international career.

And once again that hallway and photos in his home provide the evidence. The Ronaldo and Ozil pictures depict the highs that he has reached.

They have included two World Cups and four Nations Cups since 2010. He has also endured two final disappointments in the Nations Cup in 2010 and 2015.

There is another of him down on his knees together with other players in prayer mode as Mubarak Wakaso went up to take his kick.

He describes that moment in Malabo as one of the most painful in his career to date and how the walk to pick up the silver medal can feel like a walk of shame. So why does he remind himself every day of the pain in the form of photos?

“So that it drives me,” he says. “I keep the silver medals so that I can remind myself that it is not what I want again. The photos remind me every day how far I have come but it also motivates me to go one step better every time. My hope is that soon I can replace a lot of them with photos that speak to the ultimate triumph.”

That ultimate triumph is Nations Cup glory. The present generation of Black Stars players are obsessed with it.

They feel it will immortalise them and wipe away their sins in the eyes of the Ghanaian public. But there is the personal benefit too: better club deals by seizing a massive shop window that is the Nations Cup.

Mensah calls them the prodigal sons now. Some people will say more like the selfish ones. Others call them the greedy ones.

The descriptions, flowing from a disastrous World Cup campaign where money dominated and ruined in equal measure, hurts, Mensah says, but he wants the hatchet buried once and for all.

“Some of the comments really hurt, especially the ones about us being selfish and the suggestion that we don’t love this country.

“It has dragged on for a while but hopefully we can all move beyond it for the Nations Cup because we need the support of the country. We are pleading that people give us a chance again.”

If that happens and leads to Nations Cup glory, you can be sure it will reflect in the Mensah household again. And his hopes of a club career that many people are convinced of, is yet to take off.

credit:kwesesports.com

Aaron Kintoh

Aaron Kintoh

General Manager at Sports News-GH
A hard working and committed person who is also very passionate about sports. Love simple stuff and getting the work done!
Aaron Kintoh

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