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THE ban of Ghana from participating in next year’s Africa U-17 final in Niger by the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) could be likened to a wake-up call of some sort.

The reason for the ban is of course the supposed use of over-aged players by Ghana’s U-17 team the Black Starlets which the GFA has appealed against.

The ban, if enforced virtually indicts Ghana football at the junior level.

It immediately raises a lot of questions of the Starlets’ campaigns in 1991 – Motherwell, Scotland,’93-Japan; 95 – Ecuador and ’97 in Egypt.

Did we use overaged players in those competitions when the Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI) was not in vogue?

Of course very few will, among the successive management committees, have the courage to answer in the affirmative.

That notwithstanding, the ban if upheld by CAF, would indict Ghana football from the U-17 to U-23 both male and female.

Even if the GFA’s wins its appeal, the issue of MRI testing would still remain a contentious since it is still not full-proof.

The point is, would one test suffice for a player to be adjudged to have qualified for a particular age group?

Or do we need more than one test and within what duration should such tests be conducted?

Should a CAF observer, who should be a specialist of some sort in MRI or radiologist be present at such tests and at whose expense?

The bottom-line is MRI tests now will not be taken for granted by countries.

It means member countries of CAF must now agree on an acceptable formula that would determine the use of the MRI.

That aside, the comments of coach J. E. Sarpong about age-cheating is also an eye-opener and somehow indicts stakeholders of complicity to the practice.

Among his comments was, “the truth of the matter is that we don’t have a true 17-year-old in Ghana football so I’m not surprised by the recent development.”

Add this to the row between Medeamas Asiedu Attobrah and a lady on a local sports website over comments the latter was supposed to have made about his age vis-à-vis his participation in one of the junior national teams and you will appreciate the magnitude of the implication of CAF’s ban of Ghana.

Perhaps as a measure to forestall such an embarrassment again, the GFA should consider reconstituting the management committees of all the junior national football teams to start off on a clean slate.

That notwithstanding, CAF’s ban of Ghana over age-cheating is a dent too deep for Ghana’s football image.

TO THE POINT
with Christian Abbew

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ON Sunday March 11, 2001, Cecil Jones Atuquayefio – then coach of freshly crowned African champions Accra Hearts of Oak – led a locally assembled Black Stars team in a crucial 2002 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Nigeria in the Ghanaian capital.

Ghana, at the time, had no substantive handler, while the erstwhile regulars (mostly foreign-based professionals) had not lived up to the expectations of Ghanaians due to a painful lack of commitment in their collective performances leading up to the latest Ghana-Nigeria clash.

On the day, Ghana lined up with the brilliant Sammy Adjei in goal, with Amankwa Mireku, Jacob Nettey, Agyemang Duah and Stephen Tetteh marshalling defence. The quintet of Lawrence Adjah-Tetteh, Joe Ansah, Charles Allotey, Emmanuel Osei Kuffour and Chales Taylor were entrusted with keeping things ticking further upfield, while the incredibly mercurial Ishmael Addo starred in attack.

Quite noticeably, every one of those players were, at the time, on the books of the Hearts outfit under Attuquayefio’s watch.

Against a star-studded Super Eagles XI [represented by Ike Shorunmu; Isaac Okwonkwo, Celestine Babayaro, Taribo West, Ifeanyi Udeze; Sunday Oliseh, Tijani Babangida, Austin Okocha, Julius Agahowa, Finidi George; Nwankwo Kanu], the Ghanaians seemed huge underdogs. Still, they possessed something their high-profile opponents lacked.

It was a debut outing for many of Ghana’s starters on that occasion, but that was not to deter them from being explosive in attempting to match the other team stride-for-stride.

In the end, the scoreless result achieved only extended an unbeaten 18-year run against their west African rivals.

The ensuing draw notwithstanding, that batch of home-bred Black Stars showed that, irrespective of the the opposition at hand in any given game of football, only the quality of preparation and heart mattered.

Again, as indicated earlier, that Stars unit was wholly composed of a core of players that had been maintained and gelled at Hearts for some three seasons prior.

And they had excelled at club level, too. This group of footballers were revered on the African continent for their exploits in the 1999/2000 season of the Caf Champions League, which they won in some style.

With this precedent in mind, the case can be made, then, that with deliberate, well implemented practices and policies, Ghana could become one of the most attractive sites for football in Africa.

We just cannot ease on the pedal and only lambast the Ghana Football Association for failing to develop the nation’s football from bottom up.

Instead, it would take collective effort from club owners to desist from the wanton sale of their sides’ best players to obscure and less competitive leagues around the world, all for ‘bumper’ transfer fees at the expense of the players themselves as well as national interest.

The exodus of Ghanaian players to destinations like South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and, quite lately, Congo blatantly betrays the failings in our administrative procedures as a country. Contrary to what many might opt to think, Kwasi Nyantakyi’s 10-year reign as GFA President is not to be blamed for this downward trend

Should these frequently travelling players be groomed with top-notch coaching and training facilities of world-class standards, Ghana’s premiership shall not only become more appealling, but would also help in refining raw talent locally available to meet the criteria which would have some of the globe’s biggest clubs chase after their signatures.Goal.com

TO THE POINT
with Christian Abbew

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