Muntari seeking redemption

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MOGWASE, June 29 – Ghana 'bad boy' Sulley Muntari has vowed to give everything he has to make all of Africa proud of him as the Black Stars aim to make World Cup history against Uruguay.With Michael Essien missing the tournament through injury, the Inter Milan midfielder had been expected to be one of the west African country’s leaders in South Africa.

Instead, the 25-year-old has yet to start a match in the tournament and came close to being sent home after a dressing-room bust-up with Ghana’s Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac.

Now though, with Andre Ayew suspended, Muntari is in line to finally get on the starting sheet for Friday’s quarter-final against the Uruguayans at Johannesburg’s Soccer City.

Victory would make Ghana the first from the continent to reach a World Cup semi-final, surpassing previous quarter-finalists Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002).

Muntari, who has a history of clashes with the management of his national side, insists he is playing his part.

"We are on a fantastic adventure and we want to keep going to make all of Africa happy," Muntari said at Ghana’s training camp on the outskirts of Sun City in northwestern South Africa.

"On a personal level I want to leave all the negative stuff behind me."

Muntari claimed reports of his clash with Rajevac had been exaggerated and he insisted that he had never objected to being left on the sidelines as Rajevac opted to start with French-based star Ayew, the son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele.

"It depends on the coach," Muntari told AFP. "The coach has to decide who will play. For me, the most important thing is the group. I give it all my support and that’s it!"

Muntari, who was part of the Inter side that won this season’s Champions League, said a pre-tournament hamstring injury had affected his chances of starting Ghana’s opening matches, and played down his clash with Rajevac.

"I never got upset! Before the World Cup started I got injured. The manager spoke to me about it. He was concerned, he wanted me to heal well. He decides everything. He said I should be careful. I should take it easy."

Muntari’s clash with Rajevac came in the aftermath of Ghana’s group-stage draw with Australia and sources close to the squad said the country’s biggest star would have been sent home if he had not made a public apology to the coach and his team-mates.

The midfielder vowed to never play for his country again after being sent home from the 2004 Olympics for being a bad influence — he reportedly smuggled a girlfriend into the team hotel.

After patching things up over that incident, he clashed with Ghana’s football hierarchy again last November when he refused to play in a friendly against Angola.

That led to him being left out of the squad for the African Nations Cup two months later.

A depleted Ghana squad finished runners-up behind Egypt but Ayew took the chance that Muntari’s antics had afforded him and performed well enough in Angola to displace his better-known compatriot from Rajevac’s first-choice line-up.

"Sulley couldn’t imagine that life might be possible without him," is how one member of Ghana’s backroom staff described the attitude that has made Muntari, a Muslim in a squad dominated by devout Christians, something of an outsider in an otherwise tightly-knit group.

The sight of him snapping at a young team-mate who had the temerity to tap the mud off his studs next to him after a training session this week seemed to confirm that impression.

But all the diva behaviour will be quickly forgotten if Muntari can prove on Friday he is capable of being as big a star on the pitch as he seems to be in his own mind.

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