The current squad of the female U-20 team of Ghana, the Black Princesses has indeed justified the need for good investment.
A short trip down memory lane shows how the team was groomed up in the U-14 level after the technical directorate of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) collaborated with the Ghana Education Service (GES) to scout for talents in schools across the country to form the first ever national female U-14 football team.
The team was originally named the Black Damsels but after their golden feat in the first ever FIFA International U-14 Tournament in the Home of FIFA, Ghanaians nearly changed the name of the team to ‘Golden Damsels’.
That special tournament organised by FIFA in late May 2007 to early June 2007 gave birth to some talented young female footballers like Edem Atovor, Ellen Coleman, Elizabeth Cudjoe, Elizabeth Addo, Florence Dadson and Mercy Myles among others.
These young talented players dazzled the special guests at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland when they brushed aside the likes of Switzerland, Chile, Thailand, Costa Rica and Tahiti to win the first ever competition for U-14.
The 2007 assimilation of young talented girls have metamorphosed into the current giant killing Black Princesses that have brought back smiles on the faces of Ghanaian soccer fans after a recently heart breaking stints when a lot of the national football teams failed to glitter in various competitions.
When all odds were against them, the Princesses embarked on a near impossible mission when they battled the Nigerian senior female football team rated as the best in Africa and one of the best in the world (ranked 27th in the world) in a combat for a final qualifying ticket to the 2011 All African Games in Maputo, Mozambique.
The first leg in Nigeria went well as the Princesses managed a well deserved 1-1 draw.
A fortnight later, the Princesses led by coaches Kuuku Dadzie and Ben Fokuoh masterminded a giant killing feat when they did what the senior team, the Black Queens failed to do – by beating the senior team of Nigeria, the Super Falcons 2-1 to snatch that all important ticket from Ghana’s avowed football nemesis.
It was indeed, a good time when GFA’s investment in female football manifested. It was getting bleak after all the national teams, with excerption of the Black Stars, failed to make any impact, but the Princesses popped up to stem the nose diving tide for Ghana football much to the delight of every follower of female football.
In fact, during the 2008 FIFA Female U-17 World Cup in New Zealand and the 2010 FIFA Female U-20 World Cup in Germany, it was observed that the future was indeed brighter for these players despite their failure to go beyond the first stage of those competitions.
In the New Zealand tournament, the girls, then at the U-17 level did not disgrace themselves at all when they rubbed shoulders with Korea DPR, Germany and Costa Rica. It was more than a modest achievement when they drew 1-1 with Korea DPR, lost 2-3 to Germany and won 1-0 against Costa Rica.
In the Germany 2010, the then Princesses were housed in a group with USA, Korea Republic and Switzerland. They showed their glimpses of maturity when they drew 1-1 with USA, lost 2-4 to Korea Republic and won 2-0 against Switzerland.
Although the girls failed to qualify to the second stage of both competitions, it was palpably clear that they abounded in talents and could have blossomed to fine female footballers – Exactly what they are now!
At the U-17 level in New Zealand under the tutelage of coach Abrahams Allotey, the team were made up of the likes of Margaret Otoo, Henrietta Annie, Edem Attovor, Linda Eshun, Ellen Coleman, Elizabeth Cudjoe and Juliet Acheampong.
Others were Elizabeth Addo, Florence Dadson, Mercy Myles, Isha Fourdjour, Mantenn Kobblah, Priscilla Okine and Deborah Afriyie.
The rest of the girls who made up the U-17 squad were Rosemary Ampem, Patricia Mantey, Abena Ampomah, Samira Suleman, Candice Osei-Agyeman, Priscilla Saahene and Linda Aboagye.
Those who constituted the U-20 team in Germany 2010 were Fafali Dumalisi, Felicia Dapaah, Henrietta Annie, Janet Egyir, Rosemary Ampem, Elizabeth Cudjoe, Samira Suleman, and Elizabeth Addo. Others were Florence Dadson, Priscilla Saahene, Deborah Afriyie, Mantenn Kobblah, Mercy Myles, Fauzia Mustapha and Juliet Acheampong.
The rest of the team were Nana Asantewa, Faiza Ibrahim, Edem Attovor, Janet Owusu, Cynthia Addobea and Patricia Mantey.
A closer look at the two squads indicates how the GFA relied on an efficient continuity programme to keep the bulk of the girls together till this stage.
There were just some few changes in both lists and as normal with every football team, one may not have the same set of teams from one level to the other. There may be some few changes all the time since one cannot predict the future. Some players may lose form while others may fight back into the team at any time. That is natural with the development of human beings.
The current members of the Black Princesses have indeed proved that they surely hold the future of the senior female team, the Black Queens – no wonder some of them have been called into the Black Queens recently.
Even before kicking a ball at that FIFA organized U-14 football tournament in 2007, the GFA CAF Education Officer/Technical Director, Francis Oti-Akenteng expressed optimism about the chances of the girls.
From a huge number of 46 girls selected by sports section of the GES and the GFA, the team was trimmed down to 17 players in preparation for that special tournament in Zurich in 2007 but the rest of the girls were not just disposed off but they remained integral to the plans of the FA as some of them found themselves back into the team at the U-17 and U-20 levels depending on their form guide.
Though the Zurich tournament was an exhibition tournament, the formation of a young team like the Damsels was hugely beneficial to the nation as they are now considered as the fulcrum of our female football development.
"The formation of the Damsels will not only make football exciting to other girls who were not reached by the selectors but serve as a nursery for the Black Princesses and Black Queens respectively”, this was Oti-Akenteng’s technical prophecy in 2007.
And after four years of that technical prophecy, the Black Princesses have indeed rationalized the investment the GFA made in them. Indeed, the Princesses are a personification of a good and prudent investment!