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Soccer News of Wednesday, 12 June 2002

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Ghana's absence from world cup despairs Razak Ibrahim

Black Stars midfielder Razak Ibrahim is enjoying the ongoing football World Cup as we are all doing but there are times when he wishes he was not watching. Great football skills, wonderful goals we’ve had them all at the World Cup.

And they’ve at times come from players he has played with and who, according to the dreadlock player, reminds him of how much Ghana is lagging behind on the international soccer scene.

When the USA stunned Portugal 3-2 last week, Landon Donovan and the frail looking Da Mascus Beasley were those who did the greatest damage to the world-acclaimed Portuguese. Landon Donovan and Da Mascus Beasley! Do you remember the names? Three years ago at the World U-17 tournament in New Zealand, the two were the mainstay of the USA team that stretched Ghana all the way before succumbing to the class of the Starlets in the third place decider.

Razak was a member of that team and like most Ghanaians, the appearance of players like Beasley and Donovan strikes a raw nerve.

“I told my friends while we were watching the Portugal game. What it meant to me to see those players on the World Cup stage. Given the talent at Ghana’s disposal, we should have been on the stage like that. It tells me we are lagging behind. “We’ve been let down by administration at times, inconsistency in team building a few times but it’s not all gloom. I am confident Ghana would be at the next World Cup. This country deserves to be on football’s biggest stage.”

The appearance of Donovan and Beasley does not always leave Razak gloomy. He believes, in fact that it goes a way in vindicating the FA’s controversial decision to send young players like himself and others to the last Nations Cup in Mali. “When we were called up for the Nations Cup, it caused a bit of an uproar but we’ve seen some very young players at the World Cup. You’ve got to give the young ones a chance at some time and I am glad like most of the guys who went to Mali that our own came then,” he said.

There are those who would always argue Razak didn’t deserve his chance but in his estimation he did enough to justify himself with his hard running energetic play in midfield. He knows however, that keeping his place is the hardest part of the job. It is why he is so keen on impressing new stars coach Milan Zivadinovic.

He was around when we played Slovenia and spoke to us. I am keen to impress him and I hope his term as coach would help take Ghana football forward.”

While hoping to keep his place in the squad, Razak feels the team needs an injection of experience and class that isn’t currently available. “We still need Stephen Appiah and Otto Addo. It’s also good that a player like Christian Gyan who has vast experience being drafted back in.”

Appiah and Otto’s presence will put Razak’s already unsecured place under greater threat, but he stresses that the presence of the players is for the good of the national team. “You need the best players available at every time for the national team. It makes the team stronger. What’s important is that no one plays on the basis of his name or what he’d previously done but on merit,” he said.

If merit were to be measured by performance at club level then Razak would have been gone long ago. He came back from Nations Cup and overstayed the period allowed. Meanwhile his Italian division two team, Empoli, were battling on for promotion to Serie A. On his return, he spent virtually all his time on the bench. Now he wants a move despite the fat that the glamorous stage of Serie A is beckoning Empoli.

“I was punished for over-staying during my holidays but it’s been very much like that in Italy. You don’t get to play because you are young. The demands for results in Italy is so great so young players hardly get their chance.”

In France and St Etienne FC to be precise, he believes he has found the country and club where being young is not hindrance to first team football. It is the only reason why Razak is keen on a move to the once mighty French club despite the fact that they are still in the French second division.

A one-year loan deal has been proposed and Razak says he can’t wait for it to be sealed. For now though, he will keep watching the greatest football event on earth, the World Cup, drawing inspiration and despair from the likes of Beasley and Donovan and hoping that at the next event, he will be there himself.

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