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Soccer News of Friday, 29 February 2008

Source: ghanasoccernet

Ghana football dealt severe blow

Ghana football has been dealt a severe blow after the Confederation of Africa Football (Caf) excluded the country from the newly introduced Africa Nations Championships.

The Black Stars was not part of the draw conducted by Caf for the new tournament which starts in Ivory Coast next year with the qualifiers beginning later this year.

The new tournament is a continental showcase like the Africa Cup of Nations, the difference being that only local-based players are eligible, providing local clubs and players the chance to showcase their talents to the world.

The only reason for Ghana's exclusion could be that the Ghana Football Association (GFA) failed to enter the country for the competition or some dues or fines owed to Caf have not been paid.

While GFA general secretary Kofi Nsiah is seeking an explanation for the Black Stars' exclusion saying Ghana was interested in playing in the tournament, it is highly unlikely that Caf would exclude a country that has registered for the tournament.

Recent incidents over the past two weeks where Hearts and Kotoko have accused the GFA of incompetence by failing to send their supplementary list of players to Caf for continental competitions have raised suspicion that the GFA failed to submit Ghana's registration for the tournament in time.

Caf was not available for comment as Ghanasoccernet efforts to reach Director of Communications Suleiman Habuba proved futile.

Ghana's absence is a huge blow to clubs and players in the country who were hoping to use the tournament to expose their players as the main Black Stars team has been dominated by foreign-based players.

Some players from the tournament could also be discovered to play for the main Black Stars.

The GFA will have a very hard time to explain to the government, clubs, players, fans and sponsors about the collapse if it failed to register the country for the tournament.

Thirty countries have been included in the preliminary round of the Nations Championships.

Eight teams including the hosts will play in the inaugural tournament next year.

Caf has divided the qualifiers into zones - North zone with teams from North Africa, West A and B Zone with teams from the west of the continent, Central Zone, Southern Zone and Central East, where Kenya was expected to play.

In the fixtures, Libya play Tunisia in the preliminary round of the North Zone with the winner meeting Egypt in the first round; Algeria will clash with Morocco.

In the West A zone, Senegal take on Mali, while Mauritania face Guinea. In the West B zone, Nigeria will take on Burkina Faso and Niger will play Benin.

In the Central zone, Central Africa clash with Gabon and Congo meet Chad, with the winners taking on Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo respectively in the first round.

Mauritius and South Africa face off in the preliminary of the Southern zone, with the winner playing Botswana in the first round, which will also see Namibia clashing with Angola.

In the Central East zone, which brings together teams from the Council of East and Central Africa (Cecafa) region, Rwanda play Burundi in the preliminaries in a match whose winner will take on Sudan in the first round.

Tanzania will face Uganda in the first round.

Dates of the qualifiers will be announced later.

The tournament is scheduled for January and February next year.