01.06.2004 Sports News

Not This Time, Stars

By Samuel Ebo Kwaitoo
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All too soon, a fresh opportunity has availed itself for the Black Stars to make yet another attempt at fulfilling the dream of many a Ghanaian: that is to see them make a maiden appearance at the senior World Cup, come Germany 2006.

Needless to recount, the Stars have come so close to making that cherished dream a reality in recent times but were yet so far as they repeatedly broke the hearts of their countrymen when it mattered most.Talking of fiascos brings bitter memories of the ordeals the Stars went through in Monrovia (Liberia) and Tlemcen (Algeria) in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup qualifiers respectively.

Much as the Stars suffered naked robberies in both cases which ensured their exits, the same cannot be said of the team's inability to survive the 1998 and 2002 qualifiers as they missed out apparently through poor planning and inadequate preparation.

It is therefore a pity that we still seem not to have learnt our lessons. With just a few days to their crucial group opener against Burkina Faso, it is quite disturbing that the Stars have not had the kind of preparation which could inspire confidence in Ghanaians to expect something different this time round.

Sad to relate, the Stars enter Saturday's match in Ouagadougou ill-prepared, even though the 13-man Black Stars and Black Meteors Management Committee headed by Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe assured us that things would change this time.

So far, all the team which regrouped only last Friday can boast of in terms of preparation is a low-profile international friendly against Metz, a French division one side, which ended 1-1 last March. This is against the background that their opponents returned from a training tour of France some days back.

Only last Friday, Nigeria, without most of their high-prfile players, thrashed Ireland 3-0 in the first match of the round-robin Unity Cup tournament and were billed to play Jamaica yesterday, all in preparation for their World Cup opener against Gabon. Obviously they are taking no chances.

That is why the supposed training camp by the Stars in France last week, to be crowned with a friendly against Guinea, would also have served a good purpose had it come off. It is obvious that with the late camping, the perennial problem of cohesion is likely going to rear its ugly head in the Stars game again, though most of the players invited have played together at one time or the other.

As a result, the pressure will be on Coach Barreto to work overtime within these few days to get the team ready for the battle ahead though he might lose some key players as a result of injury.

But I must say that the management committee which has been mandated to ensure the team's qualification to their first World Cup in Germany has a huge responsibility to steer the flight to a safe landing.Interactions I have had with some members of the committee give me the impression that they are bent on staying clear from the mistakes of the past which brought us nothing but pain.

If only they can translate their words into action, then Ghanaians should expect a whole new positive attitude from officialdom which would go a long way to help in the realisation of the Mundial dream.

For once, most Ghanaians thought that the Stars had been presented with a fine opportunity to make a maiden berth at the World Cup after they were drawn against countries like South Africa, DR Congo, Uganda, Cape Verde and Burkina Faso.

And though it was South Africa who were seeded during the ballot, Ghana appears to be the group favourites, considering the quality of materials the nation currently boasts of.Under normal circumstances, South Africa could be described as the team to beat in the group as they have established themselves as our bogey side.

But it is no secret now that the Bafana Bafana of old is not the same side we know of today, though some argue that their recent 2010 World Cup bid victory could goad them on to put up a fierce fight.

For me, the Stars should face each opponent in the group with equal seriousness since we cannot afford to brood over yet another fiasco after October 7, 2005 when the long journey is expected to end.

It is common knowledge that a good finish depends largely on a good foundation in any given venture. And it is a fact that the Stars' two previous fiascos followed vital defeats to Gabon (1-0 away) and Liberia (1-3 in Accra).

That is why the Stars cannot afford to falter against Burkina Faso on Saturday, in order to set themselves up for the second outing against South Africa in Kumasi on June 18. This is your time, Stars, and the entire nation is behind you to make it.

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