I’m proud to be Ghanaian -JAK
Says President Kufuor as he congratulates Stars, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire AFTER 45 years of tortuous journeying through the wilderness, Ghana has earned its place to join the elite soccer nations in the World Cup in Germany next year – a feat which was achieved on Saturday when the Black Stars thrashed Cape Verde 4-0 in their final qualifier in Praia.
The Black Stars already led 2-0 by half-time, with goals scored by Sulley Muntari in the 4th and 37th minutes. Even a draw would have seen Ghana through to the World Cup Finals in Germany, but two late goals, netted by Godwin Attram in the 84th minute and Laryea Kinston just before the final whistle, gave real cause for celebration as Ghana marked her historic entry into the global football tournament with a resounding victory.
It has been a long road to this final success, which secured Ghana its place at the world's greatest soccer fiesta, the World Cup. The strenuous and prolonged efforts of dedicated players, under the technical head of Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic, deserve commendation as the people of Ghana celebrate the success of their team.
The Stars faced an uphill task during the qualifiers but fought with the utmost determination to overcome the various obstacles they encountered, such as frequent changes in the technical team, as well as constant tinkering with the playing body. Now, Ghana's dream of participating in the World Cup has finally been realised.
Indeed, Ghana is proud to be part of the World Cup family with two of her neighbouring West African nations – Togo and Cote d'Voire – who also managed to top their groups, One and Three respectively. Tunisia is the fourth African nation that has qualified for Germany.
Reached for his comments, President John Agyekum Kufuor told The Statesman: “I am elated and proud to be Ghanaian. Our boys have made this great nation of ours very proud. It's so far the best Golden Jubilee anniversary gift to Ghana. But, I think I speak for the whole nation when I say that we now have a very skilled, experienced and effective team, and that Ghana can expect more wonderful presents from Stephen Appiah and the boys as we approach 2007.”
The President saw the victory as a collective effort from dedicated people both on and off the pitch. He said: “The loudest cheer must go for the coach and the boys who worked their socks off to put Ghana finally on the World Cup map. For our part, the Government will continue providing the Black Stars the necessary support and incentives to bring more joy and pride to this great nation of ours.”
He thanked the companies and individual Ghanaians who contributed in various ways to make this success possible. “I will urge them to continue and others to join them in these benevolent gestures of patriotism.” The joyful Head of State added his government is fully committed to “giving football its right of place” in the national scheme of things. “We have never underestimated its social and economic importance to the nation,” President Kufuor said.
The President also asked his fellow Ghanaians to join him in congratulating Ghana's immediate neighbours, Togo to the east and La Cote d'Ivoire to the west for joining Ghana in her historic first appearance on the World Cup stage. “This is very significant. It gives our various peoples the confidence and national pride which is always useful in the ongoing struggle for nation-building,” he said.
Back home, Ghana's victory in Praia threw the whole nation into a frenzied mood as vehicles tooted their horns whilst enthusiastic crowds of people danced and sang songs of praises in honour of the Black Stars, who are expected to arrive back home in a special charter aircraft on Sunday.
Deputy Education and Sports Minister Osei Bonsu Amoah, who was overwhelmed with the Black Stars qualification, told The Statesman that he was “the happiest and luckiest man to work with a team that has shown so much commitment and patriotism in ensuring this historic feat.” This, he said, also marks a new turn of events as success in African soccer shifts to the West Africa sub-region. “We must, therefore, make the best out of this golden opportunity,” he added.
Mr Amoah said that with the success of the Stars, “the whole nation is set at peace because soccer cast across the barriers that divide us”. He hopes that all hands will be on deck to help the team chalk more successes in Germany next year.
He said a special bonus package would be worked out for every player who participated in the qualifiers, on top of the usual winning bonus for the team that played in the Cape Verde match on Saturday.