The qualification of the national soccer team, the Black Stars, to the 2022 FIFA World Cup last Tuesday was a remarkable feat that put Ghana football back on the path of renaissance after a decline in recent years.
The manner in which the Black Stars secured their fourth World Cup qualification at the expense of the dreaded Nigeria’s Super Eagles at their backyard, against all the odds, deserves our commendation, as the Stars displayed qualities not seen of them in recent years.
Coming on the back of an abysmal display at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun, where Ghana crashed out at the group stage in what was the nation's worst ever performance in the continental tournament, the victory felt special.
When Ghana was paired up against its fiercest football rival, Nigeria, many feared the worst for the team, as the star-studded Super Eagles looked battle ready and announced their squad weeks ahead of the match, while Ghana's caretaker technical team, led by Otto Addo, was still shopping for players to represent the country, with the authorities working around the clock to get the Baba Yara Stadium ready for the first leg due to the bad nature of the pitch at the Cape Coast Stadium.
Moving the match venue to Kumasi was after all not a bad decision. The stadium was filled to capacity and the Black Stars enjoyed massive support, while the players put up the performance of their lives and kept Ghanaians' belief in the team's capacity and potential to even dare to take on the Nigerians in a very charged and hostile atmosphere in Abuja.
Against all the odds, the players went to the lion's den, wore the national jersey with pride, played with passion like warriors and demonstrated a strong desire to qualify for the World Cup with a deserved 1-1 draw in Abuja to qualify on the away goal rule.
Only a few weeks ago, many Ghanaians had almost written off the Black Stars and appeared nonchalant out of disappointment, and yet in the face of despondency, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) took critical and tough decisions, including reconstituting the technical team, which turned the team’s fortunes around, thereby winning back the love of Ghanaians.
Last Tuesday's victory brought so much excitement to Ghanaians and lifted the spirit of the country, including providing a fitting birthday present for President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
It also raised Ghanaians' belief in the team and the high expectation of the gallant warriors because of their immense potential to carry out even greater exploits at the World Cup.
The Stars’ performance in the playoff with Nigeria provides useful lessons on the power of team effort anchored on hunger to succeed and the desire and determination to rise again after a fall.
It was very heart-warming that the collective effort of indigenous coaches was instrumental in the turnaround in the team's fortunes and the renewed hope by Ghanaians that the players have the potential to rise to the top once again, with the World Cup just eight months away.
Yesterday, when President Akufo-Addo received the team at the Jubilee House, he charged the GFA President, Kurt Okraku, to ensure that the technical team was maintained until after the World Cup in Qatar.
It was the clearest endorsement of the ability of highly qualified Ghanaian coaches to lead the young team to success in Qatar and beyond, as well as an assurance of the government's readiness to provide the necessary support to ensure the Black Stars shine like their illustrious predecessors.
Ghana's World Cup qualification will have positive spin offs for the sport in general, as there is renewed hope in the ability of the national team to compete favourably with the best sides in the world.
Qualifying for the World Cup is only the beginning of a lot of hard work for the FA, the management team and the players if the Black Stars are to return to the top again.
The Daily Graphic commends the technical team, the playing body and the FA for working tirelessly and selflessly for this well-deserved victory. We are particularly happy with Coach Otto Addo’s post-match address, during which he took the opportunity to thank his predecessors and all the stakeholders who contributed directly and indirectly to the victory.
In this same spirit of love and camaraderie emerging in the camp of the Black Stars, we urge the leadership of the FA to continue to engage all relevant stakeholders in the spirit of transparency and unity of purpose to ensure success in the team’s endeavours in Qatar.
Go, Black Stars, go!