The foreign-based players of the senior national football team, the Black Stars, have started arriving in the country for the four-nation international tournament to be staged at the Ohene Djan Stadium from November 17 to November 21.
Ace Chelsea midfielder, Michael Essien, Nottingham Forest striker, Junior Agogo, as well as the Kingson brothers — goalkeeper Richard of Birmingham City and Laryea, who plays for Scottish side Hearts — arrived last Monday.
Skipper Stephen Appiah and the rest of the invited players were expected last night. Also in town are a 40-man team from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who arrived yesterday, while Togo and Benin who make up the rest of the quartet, are expected to arrive by tomorrow.
The competition is being used to prepare the Stars for the 2008 MTN Africa Cup of Nations which will be staged in Ghana between January 20 and February 10.
Fred Pappoe, Vice President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and Chairman of the Black Stars management committee who disclosed this to the Daily Graphic yesterday, also revealed that all the players were expected to arrive by this morning for their first serious training schedule today.
At a media briefing in preparation for the competition yesterday, Mr Pappoe said all the participating teams were expected to present their top stars as indicated in the tournament contract which all four nations have signed.
Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi, the President of the GFA, revealed that the competition had been named the Zenith Bank Four-Nation International tournamant following the bank's sponsorship package which won it the right to be the title sponsors.
Mr Nyantakyi also said the organisers had been able to secure sponsorship deals with sponsors of the Stars, Gold Fields, Communications sponsors, MTN, AfriSat Limited, as well as Tex Styles Ghana Limited, producers of GTP wax prints, to help take care of the $1million to be spent on putting the competition together.
Out of that amount, the air fares of the teams, their accommodation and feeding, as well as the prize monies will be taken care of.
The winner will receive a cash prize of $70,000 in addition to a trophy, the runners-up will have $50,000 while the third and fourth-placed teams receive $40,000 and $30,000 respectively.
A Deputy Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Local Organising Committee for Ghana 2008, Captain (rtd) Andy Sam, said the competition was also going to be used to test the LOC's preparedness for the competition.
He briefed the media particularly about the changes at the Ohene Djan Stadium with regards to seating, ticketing and security and urged spectators to use the competition to familiarise themselves with those changes.
He revealed that the stadium had now been demarcated into colour zones, and tickets bought with particular colour codes restricted spectators to a particular side of the stadium.
The former Independence Stand is now the Blue Zone, the International Conference Centre stand is now the Orange Zone while the Osu Stand is now the Green Stand, and the oval-shaped stadium is completed with the VIP Stand.
He said the LOC had wanted to use the competition to test the efficiency of its advance ticket sales but the change in the particpating teams had affected the early printing of the tickets which may now go on sale on Friday.
He said apart from the sales of the advance tickets, all other arrangements will be on test during the competition.
Story by Rosalind Amoh & Peter Sarbah