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17.06.2005 Football News

Massive welcome for Stars as they breeze into Jo'burg


From: Daniel Kenu, GNA Special Correspondent in Johannesburg, South

Africa Courtesy Ministry of Education and Sports

Johannesburg, June 17, GNA - Work at the Johannesburg Airport came to a temporary halt on Thursday night when the Black Stars jetted in from Kenya ahead of their crunch Africa World Cup Group Two qualifier against Bafana Bafana scheduled for the FNB Stadium on Saturday. Workers at the airport and hundreds of Ghanaians who had defied the biting cold weather to welcome the boys struggled for space to either catch a glimpse of the players or to have a handshake with them. But the heavy security presence provided for by the South Africa Football Association prevented them from getting close.

The Ghanaian fans yelled and cheered the players in their national colours and warned them not to eat any food from the Hotel for fear of food poison.

The players including skipper Stephen Appiah and midfield supremo Michael Essien were whisked into a waiting bus to the Holiday Inn Garden Court Hotel, about five minutes drive from the airport. The team looked very hearty and optimistic promising the nation nothing but victory on Saturday. The South Africans on the other hand are cautiously optimistic as there are mixed feelings among the fans on the chances of the Bafana Bafana.

Their reaction stems from the fact that this is the first time the Stars have moved into camp in a high altitude country just to play South Africa and an 8,000-dollar winning bonus promised each player by the government of Ghana and new sponsors Goldfields Ghana Limited. Their coach Stuart Baxter is even more worried because two of his key strikers, Quinton Fortune and Shaun Bartlett, are likely to miss the match. Fortune, 27, is suffering from hamstring. He came in after just recovering from a surgery to remove a pin from his knee, an operation that caused him to miss their encounter against Cape Verde Island. And on Thursday, the Manchester player limped off at training creating a bit of anxiety to the coach. The coach is worried because between the two strikers, they have scored a total of 53 goals and their absence after lead striker Benni MCarhy had been banned from playing in Saturday's game for receiving two yellow cards, further worsens his plight.

In their absence, Siyabonga Nomvete is expected to lead the attack with support from Benedick Vilakazi and Aaron Makoena while Calvin Marlin is also expected to take the place of injured goalie Hans Vonk. The South African Football Association is providing 400 free buses to convey at least 5,000 school children just to ensure that the 80,000 seating capacity stadium is full.

The national newspapers particularly, the Sowetan sports newspaper, is urging Bafana Bafana to "Go get them guys". The paper is not only urging them to beat the Black Stars but also to display what they term "shoe shine and piano" one touch football. But Stars' coach Ratimor Dujkovic is not perturbed. He told GNA Sports that once he had the commitment and dedication of the players, 80 per cent of his job was done. He is, however, yet to choose between George Owoo and Sannie Mohammed saying he had to consult his other technical men for a final decision to be made but was sure Dan Edusei would start at the left back in the absence of Emmanuel Addoquaye Pappoe who has picked two yellow

cards. The coach's only worry is that he would miss the services of the Gyan brothers - Asamoah and Baffour - who failed to report for camping although Ghana has not received any official report on their injury situation from their foreign-based clubs. That withstanding, the coach said guys like sensational Joe Tex Frimpong, Godwin Attram and Mathew Amoah were all stars in their own right who can do battle for the nation. Kick-off is at 13:30 GMT (3:30 South African time).