BRASILIA – A disturbing and cacophonous World Cup for Ghana found a fittingly bizarre end here on Thursday:
The team was booed by a journalist.
The scene took place in the mixed zone, where players proceed through a maze toward the team bus and reporters wait to interview them after a match. After losing 2-1 to Portugal and getting eliminated from the tournament, Ghana's players walked single-file without uttering a word to anyone. It was perhaps a sign of solidarity and protest after two of their teammates, Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng, were suspended by coach James Kwesi Appiah for wild misbehavior.
As it became clear the Ghana players would not stop for interviews, a French reporter lobbed a jeer at them, which echoed against the cement ceiling. A few of the players stopped walking and hurled invective at the reporter, who is representing Radio France International (RFI). Asamoah Gyan, the Ghana star who scored his team's only goal Thursday, gestured and yelled expletives. He had to be ushered along by a team official.
That situation followed another uncomfortable setting, as Appiah met the press appearing rattled and somewhat troubled. His team had lost an opening game it believes it should have won against the U.S., then rallied to tie Germany after a sluggish first half, and then fell to Portugal Thursday.
Appiah was the target of "vulgar verbal insults" by Boateng earlier in the week, according to a team statement, leading to the coach's decision to remove him from the roster. Muntari, who was out for Thursday's match because of two yellow cards in the game against Germany, was also kicked off the team because of "an unprovoked physical attack on an Executive Committee member of the [club]."
After the loss, Appiah faced difficult question after difficult question, including volleys about his job security and whether he "failed" his country. There were also tough questions about the players, with one reporter asking, "How embarrassed should they be?"
Appiah revealed that the flare-up on the team happened several days ago, as players were upset that they didn't get their payment for the World Cup matches before the games began.
"Usually there is an appearance fee before the matches," Appiah said carefully. "Ours did not happen that way. It resulted in a few issues."
The payment was eventually received by the players.
Appiah said he decided to eject Muntari and Boateng only yesterday, which led to more questions about why he waited until the eve of a crucial match.
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The coach said of the suspensions and the timing, "I don't think it had an impact on the game."
It certainly had an impact on the post-match tension, as a single-file line through the mixed zone, without comment, is very rare.
"You can not only speak when it's OK for you," said Olivier Pron, the reporter who booed.
He later said he regretted booing. That's appropriate as well: the entire Ghana World Cup experience leaves only regret.