Mr Speaker, the road to Ghana's participation in the 2015 Orange African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Tournament in Equatorial Guinea commenced immediately after the 2014 FIFA World Cup Tournament in Brazil, with Ghana placed in Group D of the qualifiers alongside Togo, Guinea and Uganda.
It is recalled that, in view of the aftermath of Ghana's participation in the FIFA World Cup Tournament, some of these qualifier matches were charac- terised by low patronage, low morale and indeed, poor support from the Ghanaian public.
However, the team defied the odds and topped its group and thus qualified to participate in the just ended AFCON tournament.
Mr Speaker, as a measure to strengthen the team, changes were made both in the management and the technical bench of the Black Stars a few weeks to the tournament; with the most significant being the appointment of Mr Avram Grant, an Israeli national, as the head coach of the team.
Having made these changes, the team, at the instance of the head coach, embarked on a pre-tournament training in Seville, Spain, where the Black Stars played a few friendly matches with some local clubs.
The team thereafter departed for Mongomo in Equatorial Guinea, the base of Group C, which is described as the “group of death”.
Mr Speaker, the Black Stars started the tournament at the group stages rather slowly, with a 1-2 defeat by the Teranga Lions of Senegal. This loss further dealt a disastrous blow to the team's support base, and lowered the morale of Ghanaians, most of whom came to the conclusion that the Black Stars would not go any further in the competition.
But alas! Mr Speaker, this is when the breakthrough came. Against all odds and with the spirit of the team rekindled, the Black Stars came back strong and won their next match 1-0 against the Desert Foxes of Algeria, one of the teams touted by pundits as the tournament's favourites, because of their impressive showing in the Brazil 2014 World Cup Tournament. This was followed by another spectacular 2-1 win against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. These performances placed the Black Stars on top of their Group thus qualifying them for the quarter-finals of the competition.
Mr Speaker, this is when people realised how transformed the team was and forced many pundits to revise their notes on the chances of the Black Stars in the tournament.
Indeed, the Black Stars demonstrated this by scoring six (6) unanswered goals; three (3) each against Guinea and the host nation, Equatorial Guinea at the quarter finals and semi-final stages of the tournament respectively.
Mr Speaker, you will recall the unpleasant and rather shameful incident that occurred both on and off the pitch as a result of this decisive defeat of the home team in the semi-finals.
Mr Speaker, the final tournament saw the Black Stars pitched their strength against our cross border neighbours, la Cote d'Ivoire.
At the finals played on Sunday, 8th February, 2015, the Black Stars put up a brilliant performance during the 120 minutes of regulation and extra time, as the team registered 54 per cent ball possession as against la Cote d'Ivoire's 46 per cent. Unfortunately, the team could not find the net despite several near misses, including gracing the opponent's goal post on a number of occasions.
Mr Speaker, at the end of it all, the winner was to be determined through a penalty shoot-out, and as if to stage a repeat of the Senegal 1992 finals, the Black Stars lost by nine (9) goals to eight
Mr Speaker, it will take the entire nation a long while to recover from yet another near miss of the AFCON trophy. I wish Ghanaians would take consolation in the fact that the Black Stars did not disgrace the nation at the tournament.
Let us take consolation in the fact that we now have a rejuvenated team, which is well knit with a bright future. Besides, except for the trophy itself, the Black Stars won all the awards at the tournament. Christian Atsu won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament and the best goal award of the tournament.
Also, Andre Dede Ayew, the deputy captain won the Golden Boot of the tournament while Kwesi Appiah, the new kid on the block won the Fair Play award.
Finally, Ghana scored more goals than any other team in this year 's tournament.
Mr Speaker, permit me to pay glowing tribute to the captain of the side, Asamoah Gyan , for h is excel len t leadership qualities which turned the team into one purposeful unit of players who were ready to die for mother Ghana.
To the entire team, let me say Ayekoo. They fought a good fight, rejuvenated the con- fidence of Ghanaians in the team and showed that Ghana is on the road to having the invincible and dream team that we have always craved for.
Most significantly, Mr Speaker, permit me to commend the management and technical team of the Black Stars, particularly the head coach, Mr Avram Grant for instilling discipline in the team and imbibing in the players a sense of unity and purpose.
I will not forget the Government and the people of Ghana for their support and prayers for the Black Stars, which got the team that far in the tournament.
Mr Speaker, Government approved a total amount of four million, seven hundred and seventy-four thousand, five hundred and nineteen United States dollars, nineteen cents (US$3,774,519.19) and three million, two hundred and forty-two thousand, five hundred and eighty Ghana cedis (GH¢3,242,580.00) for Ghana's preparation and participa- tion in the 2015 AFCON Tournament.
The major expenditure items are outlined below:
i. An amount of nine hundred and thir ty-two thousand, seven hundred and for ty United States dollars (US$932,740.00) and three million, two hundred and forty-two thousand, five hundred and eighty Ghana