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Sports News of Monday, 24 February 2020


Players of Ghanaian descent still eligible for Black Stars

Nketiah has featured for England's youth teams Nketiah has featured for England's youth teams

Have you ever thought of what the Black Stars would have looked like in the past or now with Marcel Desailly, Memphis Depay or the many players with Ghanaian heritage who have played for other countries?

The Black Stars in recent years have had their nests raided for young talent by the predators of the West. Memphis Depay, Jerome Boateng, Mario Balotelli and Danny Welbeck are some notable stars in a galaxy of others who have chosen to shine with the colours of a foreign nation instead of their own motherland Ghana. The poaching of our talent from the ‘big’ countries hasn’t stopped there either, with hot prospects such as Chelsea duo Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu choosing to play for England and Wales respectively, and AZ Alkmaar wonderkid Myron Boadu neglecting his roots and donning the traditional orange strip of the Netherlands. Are there any fish left in the sea? Can we make any of our prodigal sons come home?

The answer to these questions is an exciting yes! FIFA rules state that if a player has not been capped at senior international level in a competitive match, he or she is eligible to switch to a different nationality which he or she has ties to. It means that international friendlies do not count, which is why Diego Costa has been able to represent Spain for two World Cup tournaments after featuring in friendlies for Brazil.

Thankfully, Ghana coach C.K Akonnor is determined to tap into the vast pool of Ghanaian talent in Europe eligible for other countries too.

“I think we need to dig deep. In Europe we have a lot of players who have had the chance to play with the national teams. There are some too who have never had the chance to play. And so we have at least fifteen players’ names, some in the First Division, some in the Premier (League), and it is important that we go to them and talk to them and see their interest, and we need to slowly change the face of our game in terms of energy and speed. And so we look forward to (see) the players who have the energy (and are) young, dynamic…”

Players such as Iñaki Williams are therefore still eligible to feature for the Black Stars despite playing friendlies for a different nation, and he fits the bill of being a player with energy and speed to a tee. The Athletic Bilbao forward may have been hell-bent on playing for La Furia Roja of Spain for a while, but he is still eligible for the Black Stars and might yet come to the realization that it is very unlikely that he would be ever be called up to a major tournament for Spain. He would, however, be a key component of the Black Stars setup with his explosive pace and composed finishing should he opt to play for us.

Eddie Nketiah of Arsenal is another player blessed with immense pace. The Arsenal wonderkid scored a brace on his domestic debut for the North London club and was recently given a start ahead of Alexandre Lacazette against Newcastle. He did not disappoint, showing excellent tactical awareness and tireless work rate. He was unlucky not to score in that game, but will prove to be a handful for defences wherever he plays and a very useful weapon for Ghana to have in our arsenal. With Kane, Rashford, Abraham and Greenwood all ahead of him in the England pecking order and not going anywhere anytime soon, it won’t take too much convincing to bring him home.

Another player in England from Ghana who had got little to zero chance of ever getting picked for a major tournament is little Tariq Lamptey. Do not get me wrong: Lamptey is an amazing prospect with a very bright future, a future of which we saw a microcosm in his professional debut for Chelsea against Arsenal at the Emirates, where he came up against one of the deadliest forwards in the world in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at 1-0 down, and ended the game winning 2-1, having marshalled the Arsenal captain excellently and almost getting an assist by playing Tammy Abraham through on goal after a blistering run. In Trent Alexander-Arnold , Reece James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka however, he has got in front of him three generational talents who would compete for that right back spot for the next decade. His future would be much brighter with the Black Stars, and he could be one of the players to lead us back to our glory days.

Jeremy Doku of Anderlecht is another. The Anderlecht wizkid has dazzled with his displays for the Belgian club this season and has the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal already snooping around him at the tender age of 17. He currently plays for the Belgian youth teams at National level, but with the likes of Eden Michael Hazard and Dries Mertens on the wings for the Red Devils, an early move for his services should be enough to make him come home and help fire us back to the very top.

Giants of the African game such as Morocco, Algeria and Ivory Coast have championed the cause of bringing world class talent back to represent their national teams. Mercurial talent and new Chelsea signing Hakim Ziyech is one such superstar, who had originally opted for The Netherlands before reneging and playing for the country of his parents, Morocco, instead. Riyad Mahrez, Manchester City’s conjuror-in-chief and AFCON winning captain, could have been without a single international cap to his name had he chosen to play for France instead of his fatherland Algeria. And our very own neighbours Ivory Coast can boast of another exciting generation of talents after their golden generation, with this one spearheaded by former England youth international and tricky Crystal Palace winger Wilfred Zaha.

The reward of adding a talent with ties to your country to your national team is much greater than the risk of the player becoming a flop. And even if he does indeed become a flop in the worst case scenario, there are always other options to choose from. On the contrary, letting your stars shine for another country could come back to bite you, as Cameroon and Algeria found out when they respectively allowed Kylian Mbappé and Zinedine Zidane to represent France instead of their own nations. Both players went on to lift the World Cup in tournaments their African countries did not even qualify for. Our very own Marcel Desailly was the vice-captain of the France team containing Zidane which won it in 1998. We’ve already been bitten once. Let’s be shyer this time around.