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Sports Features of Friday, 14 March 2008

Source: Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah

Leroy Plots Sadat Bukari Take Off?

Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah asks if the young and highly rated but reclusive striker could be just the medicine to ease the Black Stars striking burden on Agogo and Gyan.

Black Stars coach Claude Le Roy knows that his current Black Stars side is one of the strongest teams Ghana has assembled in a long while. He is also aware that FIFA thinks Ghana is the ''best'' team in Africa even though that must be a mistake if you ask the Egyptians and me for that matter. The team will improve and many expect the current crop of players to peak just in time for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. Yet the reality is stark that Junior Agogo and Asamoah Gyan aside, unless there are options and competition for striking roles we could play the most beautiful football but still fall short.

Sadat Bukari is a young man on a mission. He has attitude just like Agogo. But unlike Agogo whose mere physical presence sends defenders into panic, the deceptive frame of Bukari poses an altogerther different proposition. Le Roy's dilemna is whether or not Bukari can deliver NOW! The World Cup qualification campaign for Africa does NOT start in June as the fixtures state. Truth is, any coach worth his certificate or salt would tell you PREPARATIONS START NOW.

Bukari believes he can deliver but he wont say so....he wants to prove it. Having successfully recovered from a nasty groin injury and the surgery that followed, Bukari just wants to get on with playing football. Recently it was reported in the Tunisian press that the Ghanaian was on his way out of the club because he was unhappy. That may be difficult to believe because the striker has hit form on his return from a 3 month lay-off after the operation.

The Nations cup miss was a big blow but after starting for his club in all matches four weeks ago,he has scored 3 goals including the important strike against Al-Hilal in the African Champions League.

Admittedly, Bukari who is known to be on the ''very quiet side'' of being a footballer,made his position clear to his club president and seems to have overcome the storm in the tea-cup. He has tried but given up playing down his reported $1 Million transfer from Ghana to North Africa. His Ghanaian team Kpando Heart of Lions could not say no to Tunisian giants, Étoile du Sahel (ESS). But there are strong reasons to believe that his price tag might have been hiked up for the three-year contract. That is not a problem for the player, his is just to play.

Mexico should provide that platform for the promising striker who was born in Wa on April 12, 1989. On the pitch his stubborness means that he will not be worried about having to silence his critics and prove himself. If injury had not curtailed what would surely have been his major Black Stars bow during CAN 2008, who knows what the headlines might have been? But how many times have we said that about so many other players?

The Black Stars would provide the leap Sadat needs to answer his critics and perhaps more importantly, himself. After playing for his country in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru Ghanaians may at last be closer to getting to know the real Sadat Bukari.

Fingers crossed, on wednesday March 26 at Craven Cottage in London,the shadow of disapointments would be lifted off once and for all.

Meanwhile speaking to from his home in France, coach Leroy said there is still room for new players. ''I never stop looking but my philosophy is to have a strong basis'' (Full interview on monday)

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