What the Late Jerry John Rawlings told the 1982 AFCON team ahead of tournament

Mohammed Polo, a member of the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) winning squad has disclosed what erstwhile president of Ghana Jerry John Rawlings told them ahead of the AFCON.

As it is well known that Ghana’s journey to Libya 1982 was characterized by a strong sense of serendipity. The country’s hopes of winning the AFCON for the 4th time was nearly shattered by then President of the country, Dr. Hilla Limann due to diplomatic reasons.

Dr. Hilla Limann had amalgamated with another nations to boycott all relations with Libya and that included football due to some policies and political ideologies pushed by the Libyan president.

But then a young, ferocious and radical Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings staged a coup d’état, he dethroned Hilla Limann and became the President of Ghana.

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Right after dethroning Hilal Liman, Rawlings had a progressive discussion with Gadafi and in the end rescinded Liman’s earlier decision, Ghana were going to partake in the AFCON.

With little time to prepare, all players were recalled to camp, Rawlings appealed to them about the nation’s dire financial status but urged them to go and win the tournament for the country. 

Ghana who were not even expected to qualify from their group defied all odds and went on to win the tournament. They defeated host nation Libya 7-6 on penalties, the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time.

As Rawlings transitions to the ancestral world, GhanaWeb spoke with Mohammed Polo, a member of winning team about the discussions they had with the adventurous and fearless leader.

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Polo recounts that Rawlings was honest to them about the state of the country but motivated them with his story.

“Rawlings had a way of motivating us. When he wanted something, he will just tell you to go and get it. At the time, Gadafi was his friend so he told us ‘Gadafi is my friend, go and win it’. We went there and indeed won it. He is someone with conviction. 

“He had passion for doing something and that motivated us a lot. It was not about money motivation. He came to us a revolutionary and told us to go and get the cup. That is the motivation. Things were difficult in the country so he didn’t make us any promise. He just told us to win the cup”. 

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Mohammed Polo further disclosed that after the tournament, the team met Rawlings who promised to reward them but that never came.

He bemoaned the failure by successive government to honour the promise the state made to the players. 

Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings passed away on Thursday, November 12, 2020 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital after a brief illness. He was laid to rest on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

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