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Opinions of Monday, 19 October 2009

Columnist: Audu, Samm

The Rise And Rise Of 'Africa's Brazilians' Ghana

The Black Star of Ghana is on the ascendancy, in politics, economy and lately football.
Nigerians would still remember that there was a time in the 70s when they played hosts to millions of Ghanaians, who fled their own country in search of a better life elsewhere.
The reverse is now the case as the former Gold Coast has become the destination of choice for many, including Nigerians.
Several major multi-national companies have relocated from Nigeria and the Ivory Coast to Ghana, which now offers a better environment to do business. Made in Ghana products are most sought after these days that recently Nigeria banned some of these products so as to save their own local industry from collapse.
Generally, Ghana has over the years worked hard at their shortcomings with great commitment that today the result is there for the rest of the world to see.
In a very politically excitable West Africa of coups and counter coups, Ghana has proved to be a stable democracy, which even their proud Nigerian counterparts now wish to emulate.
Less than a decade ago, football in Ghana was in tatters. Their main claim to fame was that they had won the Africa Cup of Nations five times, the last being in 1982.
The country jointly hosted the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria and barely managed to reach the quarter-finals. They would again reach the last eight of the Nations Cup in Mali only to be knocked out by perennial arch-rivals Nigeria.
So much was expected of the 'Golden Generation' to Mali - Sammy Adjei, John Paintsil, Michael Essien, John Mensah and Derek Boateng. They were players from the team who were beaten in the final of the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship by hosts Argentina.
These players will go on to play pivotal roles by the time the Black Stars qualified for their first-ever World Cup in 2006. The Black Stars were the only African team to reach the second round of the tournament in Germany.
Three years on, the stars have again qualified for the World Cup, and this they did in great style by booking their ticket to South Africa 2010 with two rounds of matches to spare.
And a month after this qualification, the country again had great cause to throw another victory party after the Black Satellites made history as the first African team to win a FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt.
The triumph in Egypt was most exciting because it brought to the fore several exciting prospects who now look headed for South Africa, along with their more famous and older colleagues.
Even when Ghana reached the second round of the last World Cup, the team lacked depth.
They did not have capable replacements for the top stars and so when the likes of Essien and Stephen Appiah were not available, the Black Stars struggled.
That would now not be the case going into the next World Cup as Ghana have over the past few months discovered some top quality players, who have already taken their place in the main squad.
In June, when the Black Stars had to do without the likes of Appiah and Sulley Muntari, the likes of Udinese's Kwadwo Asamoah and Agyeman Opoku stepped up to the party.
It is to the credit of Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, that he has given several of these youngsters to blossom at full international and they have taken their chances.
From the team to Egypt, skipper Dede Ayew, Samuel Inkoom, David Addy, Ransford Osei and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu have already been capped at full international level.
The tournament's top star Dominic Adiyiah is expected to soon join this list as he could well be the answer of the Black Stars in front of goal, while central defender Jonathan Mensah, Mohammed Rabiu and Abeiku Quansah will also get their chance to shine with the Black Stars, sooner rather later.
Ghana have long been dubbed 'Africa's Brazilians' in tribute to their ball skills and attractive passing game. And next year in South Africa, the Black Stars will be expected to add more credence to such a nickname, not just by the way they play, but by the results they achieve on the pitch.
If Ghana continue to take a chance on youth, they will be Africa's biggest hope at the 2010 World Cup.
Samm Audu,