The weather was rather chilly for an August morning, but the temperature was the last thing on his mind. In there, Stephen Appiah had played this scene many times over. As he sat on the edge of a rather high inner perimeter separating the field from the stands, he took another look around.
It was the perfect scenario; he was going to do this when nobody was watching. It was a mixed feeling, he had decided to retire from the Ghanaâ€™s senior national football team, the Black Stars and he believed in his heart, it was the best decision.
What he had not envisaged was this strange emotional battle. Could it be cold feet! A small voice in his head told him to rethink his decision.
In an instant he found himself debating the mystery voice. â€˜Appiah donâ€™t!â€™ the voice cautioned. â€˜Why not? Give me a good reason not toâ€™ Appiah responded.
The voice continued â€˜You know you canâ€™t please everybody, there are still many Ghanaian fans who want to see you play for the Black Stars, come to think of it, you have held on for the past two years.
Stephen, do you realize the admirable tenacity you have displayed since those doctors of your former team in Turkey, Fenerbahce, misdiagnosed a knee injury in 2007.
The almost tragic injury kept you away from the field for almost a year. Naturally, when you returned late 2008, you were not the old Stephen Appiah we all knew.
I know you felt bad that as captain of Ghanaâ€™s Black Stars, you had to go on Â trials with English side Tottenham Hotspurs and Russian side, FC Rubin Kazan both to no avail. However, the search ended in November 2009 when Bologna signed you on a free transfer.
So you played a total of 2 games last season, big deal! What was important was that you were back on the field playing football again. I mean how many people can survive the trauma you went through.
Being clubless for 2 years, watching the 2008 African Cup of Nations on home soil as a non-playing member must have been very painful huh!
It was a refreshing sight when in September 2008, you featured again for the national team in the World Cup qualifier against Libya.
Indeed, the national team became a sanctuary, offering you playing time. You ended up playing 6 of those qualifiers.
The Ghanaian FA and coach Rajevac stood by you despite public backlash.
ONE CRITICISM TOO MANY
How many people can live with all the aspersions, innuendos and insults fans threw at you for answering national team call ups.
Old horse! Clubless! Unfit! Age cheat! Selfish! Was how the fans described you. I am sure you felt pained, after all, you were called up by coach Milovan Rajevac and you dutifully answered the calls.
What did they expect you to do, turn down those invitations? Please! So you struggled a bit in the matches you played, but that was to be expected right, you didnâ€™t not have requisite match fitness.
Bottom-line, you answered a call to duty and if anything, the fans should have saved all the criticism for the technical team who did the calling.
However, I concede that coach Rajevac should not have given you starting roles in the qualifiers prior to the world cup.
The attacks continued unabated even up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I am sure it is this weight that has become too much for your shoulders to bear thus your decision to throw in the towel.â€™
Appiahâ€™s facial muscles tightened and he responded disapprovingly.
â€˜I think you got it all wrong,Â I have served Ghana passionately the past 15 years and though I am only 29, I feel it is time to give others a chance while I concentrate on reviving my club career with my new club, Cesena, Â in Italy.'
DUES PAID IN FULL
â€˜Cast your mind back to 1995 in Ecuador, I was a member of the Starlets team that won the World U-17 championship.
â€˜I remember my days with two Satellites (U-20) teams in Malaysia 1997 and Nigeria 1999 and with the Meteors (U-23) in Athens 2004. I remember fondly playing for Hearts of Oak in the local league in 1995 and just a year later, I made my Black Stars debut at age 16.
â€˜Six years later in 2002, fate would ensure that I took over from a Ghana great, C.K Akunnor, as substantive captain for the Black Stars. It was a tough baptism indeed.
â€˜Barely a year into my reign, Rwanda then coached by Ratomir Dujkovic ensured that a 1-0 defeat in Kigali would eliminate Ghana from the 2004 Nations Cup in Tunisia. Hmmm! You know, I am not that philosophical but I believe more than ever in the saying that the darkest hour is before dawn.
â€˜In 2004 we began the 2006 world cup qualifiers with another 1-0 defeat in Burkina Faso. Thereafter, I rallied a young team to beat South Africa 3-0 at home to set the tone for Ghanaâ€™s first world cup qualification in Germany 2006. That day I scored two fantastic goals.â€™â€™
Just then the mystery voice rudely interrupts, â€˜oh capitanoâ€™, you have me filled with nostalgia, let me help you.
I remember your role in leading the Black Stars in Germany to a second round appearance. Your era witnessed unparalleled unity and camaraderie amongst a team with a history of bickering and divisions.
You succeeded where far superior talented generations failed, notably the Abedi Peleâ€“Anthony Yeboah generation or is it division.
Your era saw massive interest in the Black Stars, the sponsors showed up, ladies joined the cheers and all of a sudden the Black stars had become an attractive brand.
Then your injury crises set in, ensuring a whole year absence. Even then, you stayed close to the team as a non-playing member.
You inspired the team to a bronze medal finish at 2008 Nations Cup on home soil.
You rightly skipped the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola where Ghana placed second and returned in the nick of time for the World Cup in June.
Here again your influence was visible.
You have been credited with mediating the Sulley Muntari bust-up in camp and ensured that team unity was not disrupted in South Africa.
In substitute appearances in the matches against Serbia and USA your influence was appreciable.
Asamoah Gyan permitting, I bet you would have scored that 120th minute penalty in the Uruguay game and sealed you legendary status in Ghanaian history books.
As fate would have it, that quarterfinal loss on penalties to Uruguay would mark the last competitive match you would play for the nation.
Before the mystery voice realized, Appiah was in the stands, now a Black Stars fan like you and me.
After 68 games and 17 goals, Appiahâ€™s career with the Black stars was officially over as of August 21, 2010 but how he quickly switched to the other side of the field, confounded him.
He thought he jumped, but then it felt like he was pushed. The answer lay with the old grounds man who had been watching all along. What did he say? Your guess is as good as â€¦â€¦â€¦.. ?
Nii Ayitey Tetteh