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15.12.2005 Sports News

Adu chase won’t work for Doya and Ghana’s pride

By Michael Oti Adjei
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I AM still answering questions about Ghana's World Cup draw and whether the Black Stars group for the 2006 world soccer fiesta in Germany is something to gloat or moan about.

In traffic, on the streets, in bars, World Cup talk is dominating Accra and unsurprisingly there is already a sense that is getting out of the group that will in itself constitute a World Cup success for Ghana.

We wait to see but I am excited about the draw for some reason. For all the talk about how strong Italy is, we've proved at least on the evidence of the Athens Olympics that we are capable of battling the Azzuri. Also intriguing will be the many individual battles that some of our players will wage. Stephen Appiah, Samuel Osei Kufuour, Asamoah Gyan and John Mensah have all played or still play there. And understandably, that game will fill them with enormous pride as it will fill the rest of us.

So pen down June 12, 2006! The traffic prone streets of Accra and indeed the entire country, I imagine, will be dead silent that day when Stephen Appiah will lead the Stars out for their debut World Cup game.

Football is without a doubt one of the finest promoters of patriotism and a field for dreamers. It was the most evident fact after Friday's draw when viewers got TV3's phone lines buzzing with callers insisting that this is a group Ghana will get out of.

A lot of the optimism including what has gripped me is informed more by our nationalities than anything. Italy and Czech Republic will be tough opponents as will the USA but why should we live in fear of the challenge? It is a weaker option to being optimistic.

The draw has made one fact clear. We will need to dig really deep to get out of the group with the best materials available to us. It wouldn't change much from the current set up likely to go to the Cup of Nations.

But if Coach Ratomir Dujkovic gets his way, then we will come a highly unlikely name in the Ghana squad for both the Cup of Nations and the World Cup.

“We have decided to contact Adu to ask him to decide whether he would like to play for Ghana or the United States,” Black Stars coach Ratomir Dujkovic told BBC Sport, adding “In the coming days, he will be contacted by the football association”.

“I believe that if he has sentiment for Ghana, he will play for the Black Stars. And playing at the World Cup would be a big opportunity for him to show the rest of the world, not just America, that he is a great footballer.” That bit of news has drawn strong reaction from Ghana and outside. Adu, America's great football hope is hugely popular here, thanks largely to the amazing media hype surrounding his sudden and rise to football prominence. And while it is an undeniable fact that the MLS's best player is a massive potential at 16, it also remains a fact that there are many like him around here.

That Adu has become one of the most talked about teenagers in world football is even a testament to Ghana's abundance of football talent. For the modern day Adu, read the Daniel Addos and Nii Lampteys of the years gone by.

And while he is good, he seems to be more of a hype than anything else. Somehow, Dujkovic is falling for the hype in the belief that Ghana has lost a football gem, one made in America who we are told could become football's greatest things.

There are many in Ghana who laugh at that not in ridicule of Adu but in amazement at how you find yourself defining your status in world football. Essien at 16 was that good, Derek Boateng blazed us but they couldn't find the hype to match the talent.

I have been wondering why we need to convince him to play for Ghana. And I am even more intrigued because it is Dujkovic proposing that. Ever since he took charge of Ghana, the Serbian has instilled a sense of pride in the Black Stars that touches the heart.

He has not lost a moment to declare to his players through the media that they are the best around. He has insisted every time that the Black Stars will only be open to those who have the cause of the nation at heart, that you must be wholeheartedly interested in playing for the Black Stars.

So when he comes to the conclusion that players have toyed with national team invitations in the past, he has clamped down hard on them. Baffour Gyan might not go to Egypt and Germany because he is accused of dragging his feet on national team invitations by Doya. After playing in more than half the qualifiers, Doya said he was beginning to choose which games he will play. Derek Boateng despite putting in a series of fine displays in Sweden is still on the fringes whiles Isaac Boakye has been frozen in the cold after putting in a poor performance in the last qualifier against Uganda.

The best example of Doya's tough stance though has to be the manner he held firm over the Samuel Osei Kuffour controversy. There was a running theme in every interview he did at that time. No player, our Serbian friend insisted, should be begged to play for the Black Stars. It should be a matter of honour for them, a right they should fight for.

Deciding to play for the Black Stars is not something that Adu is willing to do. He is too comfortable in America to quit. He has become one of them and has lost no opportunity to remind the whole world that the US is where he wants to build up his football career and represent.

Days after Ghana qualified for the World Cup, Adu told the Washington Post that even though he is happy for the Black Stars, he would say no if Ghana approached him with World Cup bait.

“If they asked me, I would have to say no. I made up my mind to play for the United States some day and I'm sticking to it. I'm very happy. It makes me feel great that Ghana made it. But this is where I play now. It's definitely tempting because I want to be at this World Cup so bad,” Adu said. “But I am going to stay with the United States”.

He knows what he will lose; he knows that once he hasn't yet made the transition from a teenage icon to the real thing he needs, the hype that being American guarantees to rise.

Given his self declared unwillingness to represent us, I wonder why Dujkovic and indeed the GFA, will plan as the BBC put it the audacious bid to get Adu. Are we so desperate we will drop our mark of national pride and honour for a 16 year old, half potential, half media creation who wants to wear the colours of his adopted country rather than that of his birth? One fan contributing to the debate put forward this interesting thought on the BBC African football site. “This suggestion clearly illusrates how low Ghana's confidence in football has fallen over the years. Notwithstanding the underachievement of the national team over the years, as a result of poor management, it's a settled fact that Ghana is saturated with enough talents to worry about a media-created star like Freddy Adu. He might be the 'one' to football-starved Americans but haven't we seen better promising stars by the U-17 teams of few years ago. I really haven't seen anything extraordinary, compared to talents that abound in Ghana, to warrant this discussion. Except this is a PR move to promote Ghana's image during the mundial”. Chilly Fidelis, Nigerian in New York .

And in football terms, let's face it someone needs to convince us a lot more what the DC United bench warmer will do for a Ghana team with players consistent in some of Europe's toughest leagues.

There are too many examples of players trying to turn up for other countries and then realising there is home when there is a big occasion around. Adu to his credit has said he wouldn't do that. There is no reason, be it football or otherwise to try to convince him.

The bar that is used to judge the commitment of our players in Europe and home, we are quick to call names because they couldn't play one game or the other, must be used to judge Freddy. He will fail the test poorly which is why we should let him be and concentrate on shocking the world in June 2006.

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