German World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaus has called on Ghanaians ‘to go back to the roots’ if they want to reclaim their spot as a football powerhouse globally.
He indicated that it was a decision Germany made two decades ago after a poor showing at the 1998 World Cup in France and the European Championship that followed two years later and that decision has been the pinnacle of their recent success.
“Lots of investments have been made in the youth game to develop talent with the right infrastructure, mindset, professionalism and opportunities, this is what we hope to achieve in Ghana.”
He added that Germany has been a home to several distinguished Ghanaian internationals and hoped that would spur the youth on to aspire to play in the Bundesliga and to recognise that they can make it there.
“Great talents such as Ali Ibrahim, Tony Yeboah, Abedi Pele, Anthony Baffoe, Ibrahim Tanko, Mallam Yahya, CK Akunnor, Samuel Osei Kuffour and players of Ghanaian descent such as Gerald Asamoah and the Boateng brothers graced the Bundesliga,” he said.
On the other hand, he cautioned young football players against rushing for lucrative deals that may stifle their development, instead he urged them to concentrate on opportunities that guaranteed them playing time and development .
Matthaus, a Ballon d’Or winner in 1990, who chalked 464 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern Munich, was making these assertions at the launch of the Bundesliga legends tour in Accra -an initiative of sole Bundesliga broadcasters in Sub-Saharan Africa, StarTimes and the Deutsche Futball Liga (DFL).
He was joined by former teammate ex-Ghana International Samuel Osei Kufuor, and former Ghanaian and Wolfsburg captain CK Akunnor, who took turns to engage the media on developing young talents and the Bundesliga/StarTimes partnership.
Whilst in the country, he is expected to promote the Bundesliga, interact with football fans, meet key stakeholders in the football industry and also spend time with young players and coaches at the Bundesliga Football School at Sukura in Accra.
Answering a question on the decline of African players in the Bundesliga in recent years, Mattaus attributed it to development at the youth level.
He added that to get more Africans in the Bundesliga, it required them to be equipped with the proper skills, training and professionalism in the youth ranks to make their assimilation into the European game seamless.
“We are here to help (StarTimes Bundesliga School) bring Ghana football to where it was maybe 10 or 20 years ago. Those days, Ghanaian players not only used to feature prominently in the Bundesliga but also in the Premier League, French league, Seria A, LaLiga and exhibited high quality and that is what we want to help with. Obviously, we will be happy if the best ended up in Germany.”
In his remarks, Osei Kuffour observed that there was a sharp depletion in the talent the country produced previously, citing the take-over of pitches by churches and the lack of developing proper infrastructure as the reason for the current predicament.
He insisted that Ghana rode on past glories and therefore hastily prepared for competitions instead of investing in long-term planning which was more productive.
For his part, CK Akunnor added that the German principles of punctuality, discipline, seriousness and a winning mentality must be instituted rigorously at the youth level.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO