Ghana’s Black Starlets leave Accra this evening for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to fine-tune their preparations for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India next month.
During a visit to the team’s camp at the Ghanaman Soccer School of Excellence at Prampram last Friday, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Isaac Kwame Asiamah, reiterated the long cherished wish of Ghanaians to see the Starlets back at the top of world juvenile football as they did over two decades ago.
He stated also that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had asked him to motivate the team to play above themselves and win the trophy in India for the first time since 1995.
Therefore, the promise by the Starlets coach, Paa Kwesi Fabin, that winning the World Championship was his top priority was very heart-warming. It showed a strong desire by the man in charge to work his hands dirty to ensure ultimate glory in India.
For a long time after Ghana had first won the world juvenile trophy in 1991, the Starlets provided hope and pride for Ghanaians, as the youngsters placed the country on the world football map at a time when their seniors were struggling to find their feet, even in continental football.
The Starlets became the building blocks for future Ghanaian success story in football, as some of its products went on to achieve more successes later in their careers, with celebrated players such as Samuel Osei Kuffour, Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, among others, being the leading lights of Ghana football who later helped Ghana to eventually qualify for the senior FIFA World Cup for the first time in 2006.
The Starlets last featured at the World Cup 10 years ago and so their return to a competition they once dominated is welcome news.
It is significant that after Ghana was banned by CAF two years ago for age-cheating after some players failed mandatory MRI tests ahead of the African Championship, Coach Fabin stayed on to correct the problems and helped the team to reach the final of the African Championship in Gabon and also qualify for next month’s FIFA Championship in India.
Although none of Coach Fabin’s charges had been born when Coach Sam Arday’s ‘Multi-System’ team won Ghana’s second U-17 World Cup in Ecuador, it is important that the team’s handlers psyche up the players to understand the significance of the competition for both their individual careers and the nation at large.
Every outstanding effort deserves reward and if the Starlets conquer the world in India, they will be duly rewarded by the state in various incentive packages.
But a focus by the players on immediate monetary rewards by the state will distract them from keeping their eyes on the bigger picture to be a part of history and hopefully change their destiny, as the outstanding players stand the chance of winning potentially lucrative contracts in Europe.
The Starlets have always occupied a special place in our hearts and definitely deserve our total support again.