Ghana is indisputably a football nation. Sporting disciplines like boxing and athletics have given the nation a modicum of recognition globally but football tops all regarding disciplines that have REALLY brought honour to Ghana. Surprisingly, Ghana’s senior men’s team only qualified for the world cup six years ago. Before then, their junior counterparts viz Black Starlets, Black Satellites and Black Meteors have carved marked niches for themselves by winning global tournaments, and even in the case of the Black Meteors becoming the first African football side to win a medal at the Olympics.
Defunct women’s league
It is quite surprising to mention that women’s football is one that is poorly organized in this country. There has been hardly any proper league for the women footballers after the advent of leagues that saw the likes of Post Ladies, Ghatel Ladies and Mawuena Ladies thrill fans at various venues. With all these challenges, the senior women’s team, the Black Queens qualified to the world cup ahead of their male counterparts. The much-talked about second successive appearance of the Black Stars at the world cup was just a feat crawling to equal what the Black Queens had done years back.
Another feat in women’s football that is currently going quite unnoticed is the sterling performances of the junior national teams – the Black Maidens and the Black Princesses. In my opinion, their performance has not been given that attention because the Ghanaian football populace are more concerned about the erratic Black Stars, whose technical-cum-coaching department has been a subject of intense discussion, at least, for the past couple of months until the appointment of Akwasi Appiah. The Black Maidens during this period beat Cameroon and South Africa to qualify for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup to be staged in Azerbaijan. They beat Cameroon 5-0 on aggregate and then beat South Africa 5-1 on aggregate to pick one of the three tickets for the African continent for this year’s world cup.
The national U-20 female soccer team, the Black Princesses, on the other hand, put up sterling performances to beat Namibia and South Africa to get to the current stage of qualifiers for Japan’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. They beat Namibia 10-0 on aggregate and finished off South Africa on a 5-0 aggregate win. They stand a brighter chance of making it to the world cup as they play Tunisia this weekend after securing a 3-1 win in the first leg played close to two weeks ago.
Indeed, in the shadows of the Black Stars relatively poor performance at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Maidens and Princesses have showed them the light as they(Black Stars) go into qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup and 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. What is more, the women’s senior team, the Black Queens, should learn a great deal from their junior counterparts when they resume qualifiers for the African Women Championship.
Coach Didi Dramani
One cannot talk about the feats of the Black Maidens and the Black Princesses without mentioning the enormous work being done by their respective technical handlers. I was the first journalist to interview Coach Mas-Ud Didi Draman after he had appeared before the coaches’ vetting committee set up last year. He was brimming with confidence then and told me he would work beyond himself to bring glory to any national team put under his charge. Honestly, I had heard little about him and so, when he told me the national deaf team is the only national team he had coached, I was left with nothing than to take his earlier resolve with a pinch of salt. But Coach Dramani has really proved all doubters wrong and has warmed his way into the hearts of some of us, who have followed the U-17 since their gold-winning performance in Switzerland while they were Under-15. Even with the dearth of talents as a result of absence of a competitive women’s league, Coach Dramani and his technical team have managed to put a formidable team together. Thumbs up!
Coach Robert Sackey
One national team that has been very consistent is the current women’s U-20 team. From their U-17 days with Coach Allotey Abraham and U-20 spell with Kuuku Dadzie, they have shown glimpses of maturing to gallantly replace the rather worn-out Black Queens. They have managed that well especially after tossing African giants, Nigeria, off the 2011 All Africa Games place. Nonetheless, Coach Robert Sackey’s seemingly new tactical formula has rather added bite to the women’s performances. The smooth manner with which they win away matches beats understanding. They clinched a 3-0 win in Windhoek, 2-0 win in Johannesburg and a remarkable 3-1 win in Tunis. The icing, I am sure, will be put on the cake this weekend when they play the Tunisians in Accra.
What should be a major task for the two coaches as they head into world cups is to translate the steady performance of their respective teams into progression from the group stage in the tournament proper. The Black Maidens, for instance, have had 100% qualification for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup but have not made it out of the group stages. Even in the last edition when they giant-killed Brazil, the Maidens could not make it to the knock-out stage in Trinidad and Tobago. For this matter, it should be a determined goal of the coach to force his charges out of any group they find themselves in. Nothing less than that performance should also be the focus of the Black Princesses when they go to Japan. But till then kudos to both teams!