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Soccer News of Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Source: Reggie Tagoe in Bassano, Vicenza-Italy

GFA dropped me like a piece of rag - Alima

Ghanaian footballer in Italy recounts her ordeal at the hands of Ghana F.A before Soccer World Cup

Alima Moro is a 27-year-old Ghanaian professional footballer who ply her trade in Serie ‘B’ of the Women Soccer League in Italy.

Her dream to play for Ghana’s national team, the Black Queens, at the recent Women Soccer World Cup in China disappeared into thin air as a result of treatment she claimed to have received from the higher authorities of Ghana Football Association.

Alima said the Ghana F.A invited her to Ghana prior to the World Cup, gave her some brief moments of football training session and dropped her like a piece of rag.

Her story gave an indication that before the Black Queens left for China to participate in the World Cup the authorities know which player is going and who is not.

Speaking in a 45 minutes interview with me at her residence nestled in Bassano, a province of the Italian northern city Vicenza, emotionally distraught Alima recounted her ordeal at the hands of the Ghana Football authorities.

She began, “I play regularly for the club LAGHI in the Italian Women’s Serie ‘B’ football league as the number one choice goalkeeper of the team. It has been my dream to play for Ghana and upon contact with the Ghana Embassy in Rome they made it possible for me to get in touch with the Ghana F.A. I was invited by them prior to the training session for the World Cup in China, they even paid for my trip to Ghana. On arrival I was taken from the F.A office in Accra to the team’s training camp at Prampram, outside Accra. Players in the team have just reported to camp on a Saturday and I was happy to join them.” Alima said the first two days of the training session was focused on endurance and fitness. “There were five goalkeepers in the team, three of them resident in Ghana, one from the US and myself. One among the three in Ghana was sent to join the under-20 team going for the All African Games in Algiers. I observed that the team’s two first choice goalkeepers whom the goalkeeper’s coach (a woman) focused on could not even endure the endurance and fitness training session as me and the other keeper,” she stated.

She held that the goalkeeper’s coach made life unbearable for her throughout the two weeks of the training session. “There was clear indication she didn’t like me, for whatever reasons I don’t know. She is most of the time focused on the other three goalkeepers - her favourites - and irrespective of my good performance at training I was her fourth and last choice.”

Alima also recounted what she heard on radio about herself, “I was in my room on the second day after arriving in camp, preparing for training when I heard on one of the FM Radio Stations in Accra having a discussing about me in a programme. They were saying ‘there’s one player in the team who has come from Italy and she’s not a good player and that they see no reason why the F.A should spend money to bring her down to join the team’. One of my team mates also told me she heard the same comments on the program”.

Alima said she felt very sad about the information being circulated on air about her but all the same left to the playing field for training.

“Upon arrival on the field I noticed that the rest of my team mates were all looking at me. I later gathered information that it was the goalkeeper’s coach of the team who has apparently called the Radio Station to give the information I heard on air”.

According to her, the keeper’s coach did everything to frustrate her giving her only brief moments to play at training sessions, “The team’s coach P.S.K. Paha was a good person, he is like a father to all of us in camp”, she reiterated, “he wanted us all to play and enjoy the game and each time I pull a good save at training he and his assistant, coach Dan, will be full of praise but the goalkeeper’s coach always play my performance down.” The team played two trial matches, one with 14-year-old boys and the other with Greater Accra selected side all of which she said she was the last choice among the four goalkeepers. It was when the team was about to travel to Sunyani, in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana, for an All African qualifier match against Congo that the news of her exclusion from the team was broken to her.

“I was in my room when I was summoned by the coach, Paha, he told me he has been asked by the authorities to drop me from the team. He said this in the presence of his assistant coach, Dan. I was shock and almost cried. I asked him the reasons for my exclusion, if I wasn’t doing well, but he told me it’s not about that, in fact he praised my performance on the field of play and said it was a decision difficult for him to take as the authorities has asked him to reduce the team by two players, myself and one other defender. Her team mates, she told me, were equally surprised about her exclusion but nobody told her anything.

“As I was preparing to leave Accra and come back to Italy” she continued, “I was met by one of the reporters of a Radio Station who frequented our camp at Prampram. He asked me if I am not in the team to Sunyani for the All African qualifier match against Congo. When I told him about my ordeal at hands of the authorities he was equally astonished and could not believe it, having seen my performance at training. He decided to take me to the Radio Station where I was interviewed and narrated my experience “.

Alima said the team’s coaches, Paha and Dan heard the interview on air and later phoned her questioning her against going on air to grant that interview. “They did not like it and not even my explanation that I was invited by a journalist of the Radio Station could convince them.”

She attributed her exclusion from the team to the goalkeeper’s coach who spread lies about her to the authorities and they also unfairly acted by removing her from the team without making enquiries about her performance from the team’s coach, Paha. Her ordeal was further worsened when the F.A delayed giving her a ticket to travel back to Italy for which she spent almost 4 months in Accra going back and forth on the corridors of the F.A office to get her ticket.

Her club in Italy have been anxiously waiting for her since the league has started and her absence is greatly affecting the team’s performance. Not surprising, there was a new contract on the table waiting for her signature as soon as she arrived.

“We normally take training tours to Brazil or the US before the league commences”, she told me, “but could not make it since I was in Ghana and the team had to leave without me when they were going on the training tour”.

I asked her about what she thinks can be done to improve women soccer in Ghana. “What we have in Ghana could not be described as a football league. It is organised by individuals or companies and the teams play one another occasionally.

The national team is selected based on recommendation by coaches of the respective teams and coaches of the F.A who goes out to scout for players. It’s almost the same players who have been playing for the national side for the past 10 years. I think they should unearth more talents from the regions, the under 20’s, and also involve those playing abroad,” she replied. Despite her sad experience, Alima expressed her thanks to the Ghana F.A for inviting her to Ghana and also paying for her trip: “They do not extend the same privilege to everyone and I’m grateful but I don’t want to be invited into the national team just for training, I want to prove to them I’m capable of playing for my country in any tournament”. She made me understand that she will again answer the call of the Ghana F.A when invited to join the Black Queens. “I want to realise my dream to play for Ghana”, she reiterated her point.

Giving briefs on her profile, Alima took her story down the lane back to the years when she was a little girl at school. “My enthusiasm for football began in the primary school at Bolgatanga, a town in the Upper East of Ghana. My interest rose through sports in the Secondary School both in football and athletics. In the two sports, my talents in football as a goalkeeper drew the attention of sports experts in Ghana’s capital, Accra,” she said.

During her years at Secondary School, she claimed to have broken the school record in discus and was awarded silver medal for participating in all Inter Regional Sports events of the nation. “I was the second best in the field of javelin in 1992”, she added.

Alima mentioned during the interview she played in defence as a goalkeeper for Real Tamale United Ladies Football club in the north of Ghana. “My career in football took off after completing secondary school as I featured for ‘MAWENA LADIES’ in Accra, then ‘FABULOUS LADIES’, a team in Kumasi - in the Ashanti Region.

Alima together with her children joined her husband in Italy in 2002 and says, “I received help from many well wishers after they saw my performance in the game of football when I arrived in Italy. My first team was a Division ‘C’ club, Marostica, in Vicenza where I played for a year”. With relentless effort and hard work another team came beckoning and she was signed on, this time in the Serie ‘B’ Division with A.S.D. LAGHI where she has been playing regularly since.