President Simeon-Okraku motivates U17 team ahead of WAFU B tournament

2 months ago

The President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Kurt Edwin Simeon-Okraku, has met with the nation's national male U17 team and backed them to qualify to the 2025 U-17 Africa Cup of Nations.

Beaming with smiles and energy, the hardworking GFA chief, interacted with the players and technical team at their hotel in Accra on Tuesday, ahead of the team's WAFU Zone B opening match against neighbours Ivory Coast on Wednesday May 15, 2024.

President Simeon-Okraku told the team his hands were itching to touch the golden trophy at the end of the tournament, thus setting a tough target for the Black Starlets.

"I am very happy to be here and to see you on the night before your first major competitive test tomorrow. Over the past months, you have been working hard and looking forward to this week. I've come here to encourage and assure you that the Football Association and the entire nation are behind you," President Okraku said

"You offered yourself to serve Ghana at this tender age and Ghana has offered all of you the chance to serve. This is the first time that I am going into a tournament that I feel extremely confident. I trust in your abilities and whatever happens, you will surmount the challenge. I'm looking forward to the celebration after the match." he encouraged amidst loud applause.

The President urged the team to stay positive and united to achieve the ultimate goal of qualifying to the 2025 U-17 Africa Cup of Nations, which has remained elusive since 2017.

"No matter how the game starts, we must beat them. Let's stay together. There will be good moments and challenging moments but let's stay together and fight for the honour of our dear country", the President quipped.

"It’s time to show Ghana and Africa the things you’ve learnt. I am in no doubt about the quality of talents we have in this team. Neither am I in doubt about the level of commitment and desire to show what you have."

"Tomorrow (Wednesday), you will get the platform to exhibit your God-given talent to Ghana, Africa and the rest of the world. The opposition will not escape tomorrow! We'll beat them," President Okraku charged the playing body and the technical team.

"Our desire is to go to the 2025 AFCON: And to open that door, we need the victory tomorrow. For me, tomorrow is our final!"

President Simeon-Okraku charged the players to reward Head Coach Laryea Kingston and his backroom staff for the confidence reposed in them.

"For the chunk of you, this is your first time of representing Ghana in a competitive game. But when you were first scouted by the technical team, your ambition was to arrive at this day. Your ambition was to show to Ghana the stuff you are made of and what you can do for yourselves and for our country. Fortunately, you've gone through a good preparatory period where you have listened, practised and rehearsed all the ideas, the methodologies and the processes from the technical team. Now, it's time for you to show to Ghanaians all the things that you have learnt."

"I believe that no matter what the opposition throws at us, we'll be patient, we'll play according to our style, we'll control the game according to our style, and we'll win," he said amidst huge applause.

"I want to see not 11 leaders on the pitch, I also want to see 11 leaders on the bench. Leaders who believe in each other, trust each other and stay with each other. Tomorrow's victory is important."

"It's also a test for your coach. It's the first time that he's been handed a job as national team head coach of Ghana. If you love him, show it on the pitch for him. If you want people to be happy with your coach, do as he has taught you and let's get the victory for him."

"We are all looking up to you. Myself, the coach and his backroom staff and all Ghanaians. It means we have to be focused, stay with each other with one target of qualifying. We can do the do tomorrow if we stay together and play according to the plan, and like I said I am not in doubt about your ability to conquer." President Simeon-Okraku concluded.

The Black Starlets will open the WAFU Zone B tournament on home soil with a crunch tie against Cote D'voire on Wednesday at the University of Ghana Stadium. Benin is also in Group A.

A run of unbeaten matches in Ghana has turned the home team into a side with high hopes of qualifying to the U-17 AFCON for the first time since 2017.

The team took their preparations a notch higher when they participated in a UEFA U1-6 tournament in Russia last month, losing to the host nation and dismantling Kazakhstan and Serbia.

The regional tournament serves as a pathway to the 2025 U-17 AFCON, with the top two teams earning qualification.

The Black Starlets will commence their campaign against Ivory Coast on May 15, followed by a fixture against Benin six days later.

Ghana have not participated in the U-17 AFCON since finishing as runners-up in 2017. It is noteworthy that the U-17 AFCON also serves as a qualifying platform for the World Cup.