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23.10.2008 Football News

GHANA'S ROUTE TO WORLD CUP

By newtimesonline.com

When the Black Stars went to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and thrilled the world with some of the sweetest games sold on the world stage, the performance promoted the image of Ghana in the comity of nations more than any other event in history.

Suddenly, people from other communities, who could not tell Ghana from Guyana, were in love with this nation of ours, sitting right at the centre of the world.

Yesterday, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) conducted the draw for the final pairings of the African Zone World Cup preliminaries and named Mali, Benin and Sudan as opponents of Ghana.

What this means is that Ghana will qualify for the World Cup in South Africa provided the Black Stars, the national soccer team, could overcome these three nations in the second phase of the preliminaries scheduled to begin in March next year.

Ghanaians expect, and the rest of the world would appreciate, the presence of the Black Stars in the World Cup, which comes to the soil of Africa for the first time in South Africa 2010.

Football is not only a game: it is fast becoming the symbol of supremacy in a world where wars of conquests have long seized to be an attractive option for determining supremacy. That is why nations go to very great extent to prepare their national teams for the World Cup.

Having tasted the relative success that the Black Stars chalked in Germany, Ghanaians are asking for more.

That is why the Times is appealing to authorities to ease the path of the national team by making logistics available, and very early, to enable the Black Stars to prepare adequately for the final push.

In the past, Ghana had shot itself in the foot by waiting until  very late in the day before beginning effective preparation. We were also guilty of under-estimating opponents considered minnows of the African game.

But we need to remind ourselves that we had lost the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best the world could offer because the Black Stars had lost to the likes of Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It is the hope of the Times that officials, players and the technical bench would approach all matches with the seriousness they deserve. In the modern game, no nation could be considered minnows anymore.

Our performance in the first stage of the preliminaries, during which the Black Stars lost to Gabon and Libya and only managed to qualify by the skin of the teeth, should inform everybody to take the second phase of the assignment seriously.

We would like to caution the sporting media not to distract attention from the seriousness of the assignment by engaging officials' attention on trivialities like the debate on foreign and local coaches.

For whatever its worth, the Ghana Football Association has settled on Serbian Milovan Rajevac as the coach of the Black Stars.

We have to live with it and concentrate on how to encourage the boys to motivate themselves to give of their best.

This is not the time too engage in unnecessary comparisons between the performances of the current team and their predecessors. Such comparisons tend to discourage rather than encourage the players.

We have to play in the World Cup.

We can only do so by defeating Mali, Benin and Sudan. There is no other way.

“In football,” to quote Bill Shankly, one-time manager of Liverpool Football Club, “winning is not everything. It is the only thing.”

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