Two years after my exciting debut tournament coverage in Cameroon, where Nigeria won a record eighth title, I made the trip to Ghana for the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations.
There had been doubts about whether Ghana would host the Awcon following the failure to complete the Accra Sports Stadium, which was later resolved two-to-three months before commencement.
Amidst the tournament’s muddled preparations, I took time out to monitor the Super Falcons at their serene camp base in Epe, Lagos before a foreign trip to Abidjan.
For the journey to Ghana, my targets were to have a great feel of the country and reconnect with some core women's football stakeholders plus players and officials of teams I hadn’t previously met.
I decided to make a one-hour flight entry to Ghana to avoid a 14-hour bus journey, and landed at the Kotoka International Airport at about 3pm local time.
Arriving on Friday, November 16, the eve of the tournament, I quickly had to dash down to the Blue Mall, where journalists were been accredited.
However, I was informed that those for the Nigerian press had been taken to Cape Coast, where the holders would play their group-stage matches…150 kilometres from the capital.
Having learned this, I hit the road for a four-hour long trip to Cape Coast, which had no airstrip let alone an airport, and arrived at midnight.
The excitement of getting started was marred by misinformation from Caf regarding the schedule for Saturday’s training for Saturday, the eve of Nigeria’s opener against South Africa.
The contradicting notifications cost me coverage of Nigeria's first official training at the Robert Mensah Stadium.
This happened hours after efforts to simply retrieve my media pass failed as I was eventually made to understand that it has not been produced yet following back-and-forth chats.
Although I managed to attend the opening pre-match press conference in Cape Coast, this too was problematic due to continued internet challenges, as local organisers were still struggling to sort out wifi issues as well as air conditioning.
Those issues were later resolved with an improved reception, including entertainment, drinks and snacks at the stadium during matchdays.
Outside of the improved stadium reception, the issue of transportation was troubling.
As local taxi drivers tend to hike prices upon learning we are foreigners, we were duly charged 70 cedis — roughly $15 — for a 10-minute drive to Elmina, the base for the four teams in Group B.
This was the first incident of five days’ worth of petty taxi drivers, before resorting to other options.
Five days after my arrival, I was hit by malaria due to the poor quality of food I was eating.
This persisted for two days, although ironically, it was Ghanaian food that ultimately pulled me through.
I was introduced to 'Banku' - a Ghanaian dish of fermented corn and cassava, with a watery soup, sometimes with fish, while I also ate Ghanaian jollof alongside fruits to boost my energy and recover from my illness.
I’m still taking the medications that also helped see me through!
Credit must go to the communities I met in Elmina—my base—and Cape Coast.
There were no challenges in communication like I had experienced in Cameroon, where I experienced a high degree of hostility, especially in the Francophone region.
Perhaps this was due to my inability to communicate in French, and perhaps jealousy about Nigeria’s pedigree in the competition compared to that of the hosts.
With the rich cultural heritage and historic endowments of Cape Coast and Elmina, it baffled me that there is no airport or airstrip in the area.
For a region that houses many tourist attractions, such as the Elmina Castle, Anomabu, and beach resorts among others, it appeared surprisingly under-serviced.
They have demonstrated they have the capacity to host a good tournament with the successful hosting the 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations, but infrastructure is still lacking.
Apart from initial issues of press-tag printing for traveling journalists, wifi and air conditioning, the Cape Coast stadium and officials were well organised and fans were managed well.
Overall, it was an enjoyable 10-day stay during the group-stage campaign in Cape Coast, particularly with Nigeria progressing despite their opening defeat!