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Soccer News of Friday, 28 March 2003

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Kuffuor Sets June Deadline for Return

Bayern Munich defender Samuel Osei Kuffuor has confirmed he will return to the Ghana national team for the African Nation's Cup qualifier against Uganda in June.

Kuffuor, who has not played for Ghana since January 2002, told the BBC in an exclusive interview that he would definitely play for Ghana in that game.

The former deputy captain of the Black Stars who was sacked from Ghana's squad at the 2002 Nations Cup on grounds of indiscipline, insists he was framed up in that incident but says he has forgotten about it and is prepared to aid Ghana's attempt to qualify for a first-ever appearance at the 2006 World Cup.

"I would love to take Ghana to the World Cup finals, here in Munich, and even play the host nation. If the Ghana Football Association (GFA) plans ahead and gives us all we need to prepare, we can make it," he said.

The Bayern star who has played for the German champions since 1993, also says he is prepared to quit the club when his current contract expires in two years and revealed he would love a move to English champions, Arsenal.

"Bayern has been good to me all these years that is why I have resisted the temptation to move. The only club I would love to play for after Bayern is Arsenal," he said in Munich.

There would be more than enough reasons for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to take a closer look at Kuffuor's interest. The defender is not only the most capped African player in the European Champions League but has also gathered a wealth of experience playing for the Bavarians and the Ghana national team.

But if Wenger were to make a bid for Kuffuor, he would also be aware he is buying a player with the knack for falling into trouble often. The player's exile from the Ghana national team was on grounds of indiscipline and he has often fallen into trouble at Bayern for some of this on the field and off the field actions.

Wenger, though, is unlikely to make a move. Arsenal has already tabled a bid for Chelsea's player John Terry. But in the same vein, there will be no shortage of offers for Kuffuor when the time is up for him to depart Bayern.

AC Milan in Italy and their city rivals Inter have been long time admirers. Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain are possible destinations too, and generally for a player whose wealth of experience in European club football is matched by few others, there would be many more suitors in cue.

For Ghanaians however, the most important piece of news from the BBC interview was Kuffuor's confirmation that he would return to the Black Stars in June.

It's been a long time since he wore those famous yellow shirts and he clearly has missed the pride that comes with players getting the invitation to play for their national teams.

A committed and passionate performer on any day, it was in the colours of Ghana at the juniour level that Kuffuor got his big breakthrough in football and earned a move to Europe that has changed his financial fortunes.

As he himself often says, "when you come from such a background, it becomes very difficult to ignore your national team."

Given his wealth of experience and the commitment he shows anytime he puts on the famous yellow shirts, it will be fair to say it wouldn't be him alone who would benefit from the re-union when it happens in June.

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