by Michael Oti Adjei
Manguang/Blomfontein -They say in journalism circles that you can tell how significant an event is right from the airport in the city it is taking place and judging by those first impressions it is easy to see this Championship of African Nations does not mean much in this sports obsessed country.
There are a few banners at the airport greeting visitors, the odd chaperons waiting to make life easy for officials connected to the tournament and the help desk but one taxi driver who I bumped into from the Bram Fischer Airport to the Nelson Mandela Street in Bloemfontein had no clue.
For the Ghana players camped out at the Protea Hotel on Willow Street in the heart of the city that will not matter. They have come out to a tournament regarded by many of them as a last chance salon to impress Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah as we hit the home stretch before the world cup.
Appiah has arrived in South Africa to watch the local Black Stars attempt to first get out of a group with Congo, Libya and Ethiopia and then possibly go all the way in the tournament.
It seems for a tournament as low key as this, that motivation, plus the opportunity to catch the eye of talents scouts who will be here to observe the finest talent available on the local scene will be what many of these players will be playing for.
Maxwell Konadu, who has been assisting Appiah at the senior level http://https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox/14388da29a2b5242 is the man in charge here and reckons the desire to get noticed will be a major factor in spurring the team on. But beyond that he wants a team that plays for the moment ie to win games, qualify for the next stage and let what will happen happen.
In that sense Monday will mean a lot to Konadu who has gone for the safety first option of picking eight players from an Asante Kotoko side he knows fairly well.
No one will be complaining if those players get Ghana on the path to a first three points in the opening game.
Appiah is confident they can get off to a winning start. I am hoping we get to see some really good football, the Ghana boss told AllSports . But above all I am hoping that we win. For the players lucky to be here, this is a really important platform.
Appiah will know that of course. He was Milovan Rajevacs assistant in 2009 when the CHAN team reached the final of the tournament in Ivory Coast before losing to a Tresor Mputu inspired Congo DR. Despite that humiliating loss, the tournament played a key role in fast tracking the likes of Samuel Inkoom, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu and Rahim Ayew in particular seized the stage at the CHAN and built on that to make the world cup and nations cup squads the following year.
There are players in the present CHAN team who will fancy their chances too especially Yaya Mohammed. The offensive midfielder was tipped for a place in the Ghana squad for the 2012 Nations Cup and would fancy his chances in a team that desperately needs some lead characters.
“We can win it but it has to be one at a time, he says. We need to start very well and I think every player here is motivated to do exactly that. We know this tournament could open a lot of doors for us.”
Whatever happens Kondau expects to get out of the group and go as far as they can but the trick is to make sure it is a convincing opening game against Congo on Monday evening.