There is no gainsaying in the fact that the national Under 17 Women’s team, the Black Maidens, have done what Napoleon, and in this case their senior colleagues, could not do. In reaching the semi-finals of the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, the Black Maidens became the first African side to reach that stage in the history of the tournament. Prior to that, they had broken a long-standing Ghanaian jinx of failure of women’s teams to go beyond the group stage of world cups. These feats notwithstanding, for some of us who visited the team while they were camped at the Ghanaman Soccer Centre of Excellence, their performance came short of their dream. They continually dinned into our ears anytime we visited them that they will beat every team that came their way at the world cup – “Y3 b3 sh3 obiaa”(Twi). I even created and posted a one-minute video of one of my visits to my Youtube channel. Honestly, the Black Maidens deserve every accolade for not only their performance but also the peace they brought to the hearts of many die-hard Ghana fans.
Breaking Uruguay’s invincibility
Firstly, the team broke Uruguay’s seeming invincibility for Ghana. Much to the blind side of many, Uruguay is one of the nations that have proven a tough nut for Ghana to crack in football. Aside Brazil and Argentina that Ghana matches (they win and we also win), Uruguay is a South American nation that gives Ghana tough times in any clash. For example, during the Black Satellites run to conquer the world in 2009 in Egypt, Uruguay was the only side the Dede Ayews and the Ransford Osei’s failed to defeat. The South Americans were in the same group with Ghana together with England and Uzbekistan. Ghana only had to draw 2-2 with Uruguay in the final group match. A year later, at the senior world cup in South Africa, Uruguay not only broke the hearts of Ghana, but also broke the heart of the African continent. Because of this, the Black Stars and other national teams have waited impatiently for an opportunity to revenge Uruguay’s dominance over Ghana. It even got to the extent where Ghanaian players swore to revenge especially that 2010 World Cup defeat by playing it hard anytime they met a Uruguayan player especially Luis Suarez. Happily, the Black Maidens became the team to break the Uruguayan invincibility and they did it in grand style in Azerbaijan. A five-star performance from the players saw Ghana beating their sworn nemesis 5-0 in the second group game. Both Uruguay and Ghana had come into the match after losing their first matches so the seriousness the Ghanaians girls attached to the game was the same the Uruguayans did. As a result, that win was a sweet one to some of us and I guess football fans of Uruguay will feel the excruciating pain of that defeat to the Maidens.
GFA’s MOU with China
Secondly, the Maidens made nonsense the country’s football governing body’s trust in China as the source of good policies and programmes for women’s football. Two months earlier, the GFA had entered an agreement with China to help in the development of women’s football in Ghana while the GFA reciprocates by helping in the development of youth football in the Asian nation. Nevertheless, the Black Maidens not only thrashed China 2-0 in the final group game but also dashed the hopes of the Asians winning the tournament. By that performance, the Black Maidens proved that given the necessary motivation and backing, they can be a powerhouse in women’s football in the world. In my musings over this, apropos the GFA’s MOU with China, my spirits were pepped into excitement and my thoughts were justified when the coach of the Black Maidens, Didi Mas-Ud Dramani intimated that he drew up a six-year programme for the GFA regarding this particular team and that if the programme is religiously followed, Ghana will become conquerors of the world in due time. Coach Dramani even revealed that there are more girls he did not include in the 23-woman team he sent to Baku though he has them covered in his programme. In effect, it was a latent signal to the GFA that there are technical and brainy men who can develop women’s football if given the chance.
Back to the Maidens, they became one of the few countries with a 100% participation in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Not even have the Black Stars achieved this in the Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament they have won four times. Indeed, by qualifying to Azerbaijan to play in the tournament, the Maidens three-peated their 2008 and 2010 participations. No wonder one of the girls, Ellen Coleman, also marked her third participation in the tournament making history in that regard.
The greatest feat from the Black Maidens in my opinion is stopping Japan, a surging force in women’s football. Their senior team holds the FIFA Women’s World Cup and that gives confidence to any women’s team of that Asian country in any tournament. No wonder they were routing their opponents until they met the Maidens. The character and tenacity with which the Maidens held on to that lone goal proved that if the right measure are put in place for this team, they can hold on to become the greatest female team from the African continent.