No roll call of heavyweights of football nations will be complete or justified without mentioning Ghana, the sixth country on the Confederation of Africa Football’s (CAF) latest rankings for the game.
Ghana's senior national team, the Black Stars,can boost of four African Cup of Nations trophies having won the prestigious tournament in 1964, 1966, 1978 and 1982. Since then the national team has not been able to win any competitive trophy.
The junior teams, the Black Meteors, Black Satellites, Black Starlets as well as the women’s wings – Black Queens, Black Maidens and Black Princess, have in the past, equally excelled in their various participation of the game at various tournaments at the global level. It is instructive to state that these national teams continue with their sacrifices and efforts to win trophies for the nation.
The Black Meteors which represents the country during Olympic Games, All African Games and CAF under 23 championships, are also respected on the African Continent.
They became the first African team to win football medals (bronze) at the Olympics Games held in Barcelona in 1992. Although they failed to qualify to Beijing 2008 Olympics, they won the 2011 All African Games in Mozambique with former Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah in-charge.
The Black Satellites (Under-20 national team) is one of the biggest Juvenile teams on the continent. They made history by being the only African side to win the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, under the captaincy of Dede Ayew, now the captain of the senior national team.
A member of the victorious team, Dominic Adiyiah also made history, emerging top scorer of the tournament. Ransford Osei, Rabui Mohammed and others had carried the flag of Ghana high in that same year by winning the CAF Under-20 African tournament.
They are three times African champions in 1993,1999, and 2009, and have participated in six of the past nineteen FIFA Under-20 World Cup events, starting with Australia 1993 where they lost 1-2 in the finals against Brazil in Sydney. Some notable players who were exceptional in the tournaments include, Nii Odartey Lamptey, Samuel Kuffour, Charles Akonnor, current coach of the Black Star (all in 1993), with Awudu Issaka and Micheal Essien in 1997 and 2001 respectively.
The country’s youngest male team, the Black Starlets (Under-17), have also made history at the global level; they are two times FIFA Under-17 World Cup champions, having lifted the trophy in 1991 and 1995, as well as runners up in 1993 and 1997.
Although their last participation in the World Cup was in 2007, they hold the record as the first African country to have won the World Cup in 1991, with the likes of Nii Odartey Lamptey, Yaw Preko, Mohammed Gargo , among others.
In the case of the Black Stars, efforts to recapture Ghana’s enviable position in the comity of continental football nations have since 1982 been disappointingly thwarted by series of near misses in penalty shootouts at the final encounters.
Indeed the Black Stars have come close to winning the CAF competition on several occasions: - twice to Cote d’ Ivoire in 1992 (Dakar), in 2015 (Equatorial Guinea) as well as in 1968, 1970, and 2010.
It is significant to note that during the 1992 competition, glory eluded the nation at a time the country could boast of in-form stars like Abedi Ayew Pele, Tony Yeboah, Kwesi Appiah, Emmanuel Armah, Nii Odartey Lamptey, Edawrd Ansah, to mention but these few, most of whom had gained international recognition.
The junior national teams are equally struggling to win trophies to make the nation proud.
Nonetheless, the history of Ghana’s successes in football will not be complete without recounting the efforts of the female national teams. They have a great reputation at the African and world levels, although female football started to develop not long ago in Ghana.
Black Queens, the senior national team are part of the few female African teams who have participated in the women’s World Cup, although they have never made it out of the group stage of the tournament. However, household names like Elizabeth Addo, Adjoa Bayor, Alberta Sackey are among the debutants who made Ghana proud at the global statge.
The female Under-20 team, Black Princesses are priceless on the African continent. They have been to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup a couple of times, with their debut in 2010 in Germany and have also made it to the African Women Under-20 championship five times in which they have won it three times in a row from 2010 to 2014.
Similarly, Black Maidens (Under-17) is regarded the most successful youth team in Africa, as the only female team in Africa to qualify to all FIFA Under-17 World cup so far. However, they have never made it to the finals. Their best have been reaching the semi-finals of the competition in 2012 in Azerbaijan where they managed to a 3rd place medal. They have also won the African championship five times.
The club level participation in Africa, however, had witnessed some successes with Accra Hearts of Oak and their arch-rivals, Kumasi Asante Kotoko chalking some tremendous successes at the CAF Champions League and African Club championship
Although Ghanaian clubs who emerge winners of the Premier League and the FA Cup respectively always automatically qualify to participate in the CAF club competitions, that is, the Champions league and the Confederation Cup respectively, they find it difficult to make it to the money zone of the competitions.
Two of Ghana’s biggest club, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak have won the CAF Champions league which started in 1964 has been won three times. Kumasi Asante Kotoko picked it in 1970 and 1983, and Accra Hearts of Oak in 2000 and has since won Hearts of Oak the name ‘Continental Club Champions’.
Since then, the best performance of any Ghanaian club in the past 12 years is at the group stage both for the CAF Champions’ League and the Confederation Cup by Kumasi Asante Kotoko in the 2018 season.
Kotoko avenged a defeat in 1970 by TP Englebert of DR Congo after the Congolese side beat them in 1969 to eliminate them. They beat the Congolese club 2-1 to lift their first CAF inter club competition trophy. Fast forward to 1983, Kotoko beat Al Ahly to lift their second CAF trophy.
This victory made them earn the bragging right over the premier clubs in Ghana and also making them African club of the 20th century because of their good performance on the African continent.
Accra Hearts of Oak saw their most successful era in the club’s football history from 1996 to 2005 although they have played in the finals of many CAF competition in the earlier decades with the likes of Anas Mohammed, Mama Acquah, Robert Hammond, Mohammed Polo etc.
In 2005, Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko made history by being the first clubs from the same country to play in the CAF Confederation Cup final in Ghana, which we all saw Hearts of Oak being crowned champions in the competition after both leagues.
Obuasi Goldfields now Ashgold also fared well in Africa competitions. They became the first club in Ghana aside Kotoko and Hearts to play in the final of the Champions league in 1997. Can we say that about Ghanaian clubs nowadays?
Performances of Ghanaian clubs especially in CAF competition have been very awful these days. Accra Hearts of Oak have not been in the CAF champions league since 2006, which does not speak well of the oldest club in a well-known football country as Ghana.
Ghana football as a whole seems to have lost shine in African football; the glory seemed to have fizzled into thin air for several reasons, notably the mass exodus of players to Europe and the disinterest in the nation’s local league. The local league is yet to regain its past glory.
The 21st century looked more promising for Ghana football on the international arena following the Black Stars appearances at the World Cup. In fact their participations did not only rekindle the love and enthusiasm for Ghana football but also placed Ghana on the global map.
Ghana is yet to recapture her lost glory despite successes at the World Cup, at the CAF level we have come close to lifting the cup on two occasions in recent times – against Egypt in 2010 and against Cote d’Ivoire in 2015.
It is quiet disheartening to note again that we failed to win laurels at a time where the nation could boast of world class footballers like, Michael Essien, Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng and host of others, despite the quality of technical men in-charge of the teams. What has gone wrong?
Several reasons have been ascribed to the sad situation in which Ghana football finds itself ‑ among them are disunity, petty squabbles, leadership struggles, lack of patriotism, poor allowances and bonuses for players. Some players have also expressed dissatisfaction with the Ghanaian FA management alleging poor preparations and favouritism in the selection of players for tournaments.
There had been occasions where management has equally blame indiscipline, lack of commitment and dedication on the part of players. The entire nation is compelled to join in the blame game because each defeat potentially, ‘break our hearts’ because football is the passion of the nation and every defeat results in heartbreaks.
Football pundits believe many factors account for Ghana’s dwindling fortunes in terms of football at both local and international levels. They attribute lack of attention to the local league as one of the core reasons in that the local league which forms the ‘resource base’ for the supply of players has been neglected as a result of poor management.
Poor marketing of the local league has resulted in lack of adequate sponsorship and poor patronage. Players are poorly paid and hence prefer to play abroad to earn descent income to secure a better future. I consider the local players as average players compared to their counterparts in other African clubs such as TP Mazembe , Zamalek ,Al Ahly , Sundowns etc.
Whereas these clubs are able to cough out millions of dollars to sign just a single player their Ghanaian counterparts’ focus is mainly to sell players to outside clubs. Besides the value of most Ghanaian players are less expensive as compared to some of the reigning clubs on the Africa continent.
Team owners and scouts in Ghana often sell the few top talents in the league to less-fancied European teams. This deprives the premier league of the needed quality in terms of players and subsequently the needed spectators to the stadia.
Moreover, some pundits posit that Ghana seems to have lost her identity in football tactics and formation in recent years. Every serious football country has a style of play, right from the juvenile side to the senior team side. An example is when the Spanish football Association adopted the Tiki–taka style of play, invented by Johan Cruyff.
This style of play was exhibited during 2010 FIFA World Cup, and could be attributed to their victory in both the World Cup and the European Cup two times on a row.
Modern football cannot be run with old fashioned policies whereas and policies are set by the leaders or the administrators of the game. If we want to bring back the love of football to Ghanaians and restore the football glory days, the leadership of the football association must be accountable to the people.
Due to archaic leadership style Ghana football is falling apart suddenly. Currently the Ghana league is without sponsors from the corporate world. We must hold the football association accountable in order to change the perception that there is corruption in Ghana football.
Today the developed world have developed the game with modern facility that makes watching their game even more interesting and appealing. That is in sharp contrast to ours where poor and substandard facilities are what we use here. Even some of our stadia do not have washrooms or even comfortable place to sit which makes it difficult for people to patronize the local game.
Ghana football does not require any magician a white man to restore its glory but rather requires critical thinking and radical planning to get our game back to its glory days.