The Black Galaxies, Ghana’s locally assembled senior national team, is eying a return to the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) competition, after a six-year absence as they contend with West African counterparts Benin tomorrow at the Cape Coast Stadium.
Being the first-leg preliminary stage fixture, with the return leg scheduled for the Stade de la l’Amitie General Mathieu Kerekou in Cotonou a week later, the Galaxies will be aiming for a favourable result that will lessen the burden of qualification ahead of the second leg.
Aggregate winner of the two-legged affair will proceed to the final qualifier stage where they face Nigeria for a spot at the 2023 CHAN in Algeria.
The CHAN is a competition reserved for players who compete in the domestic league to afford them the opportunity to represent their country, while also promoting their domestic league globally.
The Galaxies, formerly Local Black Stars, despite emerging as runners-up in the first edition in 2009 and in 2014 have failed to qualify for the last three editions in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
Eager to halt the cycle of non-qualification, head coach Annor Walker has been preparing his lads earnestly for the arduous task ahead.
A series of friendlies against lower tier sides who they smote with ease – including Accra five Stars (3-0) Kenpong Academy (2-1) and All Royal Academy (5-0) may not be the fierce competition the team required in the preparatory process but Chairman of the Galaxies Management Committee, Dr Tony Aubyn in an interview on Kumasi-based radio, OTEC FM, contended that despite the lack of international friendlies, the local engagements had placed the team in good shape and spirit.
The case is the reverse for the domestic ‘Squirrels’ who played a two-legged international friendly against the Republic of Congo where they won 1-0, before losing by the same score in the reverse meeting.
Coach of the Squirrels, Moussa Latoundji, whose team is built around local stars drawn from Benin’s top clubs Coton FC, Buffles de Borgou and Loto FC is counting on the momentum blowing around Beninois football following the Under-20 side chalking second-place at the WAFU Zone B U-20 competition and subsequent qualification to the 2023 Under-20 African Cup of Nations, to inspire his charges to upset Ghana.
Sensing that failure to break the chain of CHAN qualification will be viewed as a referendum on the quality of domestic football and a further painful pill down the throat of the country’s football lovers, following the recent failings of the Black Starlets, Satellites and Black Maidens in recent times, Coach Walker has assembled the crème de la crème on the local scene to accomplish his mission.
The team spots a perfect blend of experience and youth for the Benin conquest. Captain and creative force Gladson Awako of Hearts of Oak fame, defender Mohammed Alhassan (Hearts of Oak), Vingent Atingah (Medeama SC), Michael Ampadu (Legon Cities), Konadu Yiadom (WAFA) and Maxwell Abbey Quaye (Great Olympics) will be counted on for their experience and leadership.
While Daniel Afriyie Barnieh (Hearts of Oak), Imoro Ibrahim (Asante Kotoko), Dominic Nsobila (Accra Lions), Kassim Razak (Great Olympics), Danlad Ibrahim ( Asante Kotoko) and Suraj Seidu (Hearts of Oak) would be relied on by Walker for their youthful exuberance, aggression and energy.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO