Black Stars shining brightly

13 years ago

Ghana's Black Stars will spend the next nine months without any competitive action, but it will be far from a dormant period for the West African giants' footballing heroes.

As they mark a breakthrough into the top-20 of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking this month, Ghana continue frenetic preparations for their hosting of the 2008 CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals, when the 16 best teams from the Mother Continent will congregate in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale to decide the African champions.

Ghana are seeking to reclaim a crown they last lifted back in 1982, a task they have turned over to the wily and canny expertise of Frenchman Claude Le Roy.

The former Racing Strasbourg manager long ago made his mark on African football, notably winning the Nations Cup with Cameroon, who he also took to the FIFA World Cup finals in his native country in 1998.

LeRoy has also coached at the Nations Cup finals with Senegal and Congo DR, whose unheralded side he led to the quarter-finals at the most recent tournament in Egypt last year.

Now Le Roy has a chance to write his name once more into the history books with the Black Stars by returning to the winners' podium in the Nations Cup and also setting a new mark for coaches in terms of longevity and attendance at the continent's biggest competition.

LeRoy is astute enough to realise he has the makings of a team who can dominate the continent's football over the next years.

Ghana's young generation, epitomised by the world-class talents of Fenerbache midfielder Stephen Appiah and his Chelsea partner Michael 'the Bison' Essien, have been growing in stature rapidly, boosted by the confidence gained from their debut showing at the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany last year.

Ghana were the only one of the five African representatives to make it past the first round and their elimination at the hands of Brazil came only after they had spurned a handful of game-winning chances.

A large banner in the stands at the final match in Berlin between Italy and France seemed to sum up the spiritual contribution of the free-attacking and stylish Ghanaians best, reading simply: 'Thanks Ghana'.

LeRoy took over after the German campaign and to date has taken his side through some testing friendly matches which have given a glimpse of the Black Stars' potential for next year's tournament.