Beginning tomorrow, Ghana will play host to 15 countries in this year’s edition of the West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations at the Cape Coast Stadium and the Nduom Stadium in Elmina, with all eyes on the Black Stars B to restore the country’s pride.
The hosting of the tournament has been criticised by many because of its timing, having displaced the Ghana Premier League when the competition had moved into the homestretch and generated a lot of excitement among fans.
But, whatever the criticism concerning its relevance and timing, the tournament provides a fine opportunity for the home- based national team to erase the disappointment among Ghanaians after the Black Stars missed out on next year’s African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Kenya.
As head of the WAFU Zone B, the GFA President, Kwesi Nyantakyi, has taken a personal interest in the tournament by ensuring that it is very successful. Indeed, he personally led the inspection of the match venues to ensure Ghana plays the perfect host.
The signing of a long-term contract between WAFU and the American TV giants, Fox Sports, and other partnerships with corporate Ghana are indicative of high expectations from the competition, which features sub-regional giants such as Nigeria and Senegal.
However, the success of the competition will be measured beyond the performance of the host team. While it is the expectation of Ghanaians, especially fans in and around Elmina and Cape Coast, that Maxwell Konadu’s team will win the tournament, attendance at match venues will be an important measuring rod for sponsors.
Given Ghana’s disappointing show this year — the Black Stars’ failure to win the AFCON in Gabon, their poor showing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and the Black Stars B’s failure to qualify for next year’s CHAN — the WAFU Cup presents a fine opportunity for Konadu and his charges to restore some pride in Ghana football and win back the supporters.
For Konadu, in particular, who has been in charge of the home-based team for nearly two years, this competition will be a litmus test for him to prove his credentials after aggrieved fans called for his dismissal following Ghana’s CHAN fiasco.
With the WAFU tournament just about the same size as the African Women’s Cup of Nations, it is important that the GFA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports use this month’s tournament as a dress rehearsal for next year’s African Women’s Cup of Nations, to be hosted in Ghana, by ensuring that logistical and organisational challenges are addressed to provide important lessons and experiences that will assist the Local Organising Committee (LOC) when it is formed by the ministry for the women’s tournament.