The African Nations Championship starts today with an opening ceremony and match between the host nation Sudan and Gabon. CAF president Issa Hayatou is pleased with Sudan’s preparedness for the tournament but a Ghanaian official is not too impressed. Ghana’s 23-man squad have been in Sudan since their two-week training camp in Kenya. While there, they played three matches posting a 1-1-1 won, loss, draw record. In spite of the mixed results, the boys are ready according to their coach Herbert Addo.
Their first match is tomorrow against South Africa who are sending a decidedly weak team made up of second division players. The South Africans decided it was not worth it interrupting their league by participating. And I can dig that.
I support Ghana’s participation in the CHAN wholeheartedly but wish there were some clear criteria in choosing the players. One of the questions I have is to what end are we working? CHAN seems to me a tournament to develop and showcase young players so they can get international recognition as well as experience. CHAN’s basic requirement is that the players must be playing in the participating country’s local league. In my opinion, the Ghana Football Association have missed out on an opportunity to clearly define goals for the tournament. Putting aside a desire to win every tournament a nation participates in, the FA should have looked at this as a view an opportunity to test young talent. In my opinion, there should have insisted on mixing the team. Make sure that you have a number of players from the 17-20 age range, 20-23 and a token number over 25.
I believe we should enter teams into competitions such as CHAN(throw in the West African Football Union (WAFU)’s competition as well) to unearth young talent or talent on the fringes who have limited continental exposure. Looking at the final squad it is hard to figure out what the formula was. So seeing names of players like Bernard Dong Bortey on there disheartened me. Bortey has a huge body of work having played for big teams in Ghana before as well as a stint abroad. Sammy Adjei is a known and proven commodity who is in line to tend the goals for the Black Stars and he would fit into the camp that has a long paper trail. And I want to stress that I am not picking on these two players but using them as examples.
With competitions next year at the Olympics, the Nations Cup proper early next year, and U-20 youth tournaments, it would have been the perfect way to test some of the younger players against much stiffer competition.
But what compounds this lack of a clear direction for this team is the unbalanced nature of it. Coach Herbert Addo has taken seven strikers or attackers. Out of those, four are from one team, Berekum Chelsea. Perhaps it is a credit to Berekum Chelsea leading the league or just another example of having no other goals other than winning. It also smacks of a club self-interest that pervades the system.
CHAN could have provided a chance for national teams to broaden their base for talent. It would immediately give a Black Star or Black Meteors selector a platform to analyze the players in competition. For this to be most effective, the coaches and management teams of the various national teams would have to coordinate effectively.
So we may well come back as winners but squandered the opportunity to grow a new generation of players.