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22.10.2004 Football News

Oti Akenteng solicits for devine intervention

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(FROM: Daniel Kenu, GNA Special correspondent in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire)

Abidjan, Oct 22, GNA - Anger and revenge are boldly written on the faces of both players and officials of the national under-20 soccer team, the Black Satellites, as they attempt to overturn a 0-1 deficit at the hands of the Young Elephants to book a place for the Africa Youth Championship in Benin, next February.

But head Coach Francis Oti Akenteng reckons that for this difficult task to be achieved at the Houphouet-Boigny Stadium on Sunday in front of a partisan crowd, he needs divine intervention.

The coach told the GNA Sports in Abidjan that everything humanly possible has been done including working on the poor goal scoring problem and a leaking defence and that all that was needed was the "finger of God" to enable the team to book a place at next year's championship.

The Ivorians recorded a shock 1-0 victory over the Satellites at the Accra Sports Stadium barely three weeks ago despite the fact that the Ghanaians dominated a large percentage of the game.

Aside aiming to punish the Ivorians, the players also want to avenge the defeat of their predecessors who were thrashed 3-1 at the Africa Youth Championship by the Young Elephants two years ago.

Their optimism stems from the inclusion of four key players - top scorer in the premier league Sam Yeboah of Hearts of Lions, "pastor" Osei Kofi of Arsenals, Bobie Ansah of King Faisal and Daniel Asamoah - to revamp the team.

The team, will however, miss the services of dependable defender, Emmanuel Anafi whose expulsion in the last encounter created a gap at the rear of the Ghanaians, leading to the only goal that gave the hosts the advantage.

But in his absence, the technical handlers have got a good replacement in the person of Bawa Mumuni of King Faisal and his effort will be complimented by Idi Yahaya.

The philosophy of the coach is to build a solid defence and midfield that would serve as a launch pad for the attackers to deliver. The coach is expected to pair inform Prince Tagoe and Yeboah while Osei Kofi will come on later to add more bite to the attacking machinery.

At their first training session Thursday afternoon, skipper Michael Helegbe showed a great sign of recovery from his recent low form following a setback in a contract deal to feature for FC Helsingborg in Sweden.

His unblemished skills coupled with his ability to surge forward is what the coach said was necessary to push the boys forward. Helebge promised the nation a 2-1 victory to end the recent gloomy picture soccer is painting for the Ghana.

Coach Akenten sounded highly spiritual, quoting extensively from the Holy Bible; Exodus 14, verse 14 and the Book of Judges, chapter 7 as his sources of inspiration and belief that the game would be won. Aside the 1000 dollars which each player would receive if the match is won (which officials say could be beefed up before the game) the Circle 140 of Asante Kotoko football club in Abidjan, through its chairman, Isaac Wireko Brobbey has donated bottles of water and canned Coke valued at 40,000 CFA Francs to the players to motivate them.

The Ghana Embassy in collaboration with the Chapter is also planning to transport fans from the nooks and crannies of the city to the stadium to the cheer the team on to victory.

The Ivorian sports papers reported that the host team has also been revamped with the inclusion of more foreign-based players. The coach is reported to have said that the team played badly in Ghana and were just lucky to have run away with that shocking victory.

Meanwhile, the Stallites were given a wonderful reception at he airport where senior officials from the Ghana Embassy led by George Blankson and Peter Opata plus the Ivorian FA members including Kaba Kone drove the contingent to the plush Ibis Hotel, Plateau, at the city centre.

Kick off is at 1600 hours GMT (4 PM).

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