Why does Ghana dominate the world?

by Hédi Hamel, editor Afrique Football

The first big scoop on the stage of world football: the careful attention given to these young stars in Ghana has led them to the first peak of their young career.
How does a country like Ghana, out on the west coast of Africa with a population of 17 million come to dominate junior football as it has done in recent years? Having been U-17 world champions in 1991 and runners up in 1993, here they are again as U-17 champions in 1995. Taking part in this competition were the best players in the world between the ages of 14 and 17, from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Nigeria, Australia, Argentina and Brazil, among others. Unbeaten throughout the whole tournament, the young Ghanaians played their usual game, that is to say dream football. They showed superb ball skills in all their movements, a great feel for the game, team understanding and artistic touches in most of their play. This kind of football doesn't seem to exist anywhere else at the moment. For the time being Ghana are on top of the world, and anyone who wants to replace them will have to be good.

How can one explain the Ghana phenomenon and this exceptional run of success? A quick look at the background details might help. On the historical side one can look back nine centuries to when Ghana was the empire of Ghana and as a symbol of past glories occupied a place in the conscience of Africa. On the colonial side Ghana was under British rule as the Gold Coast and until its independence in 1957 the most prosperous country on the west coast of Africa. On the economic side Ghana was the richest British colony in black Africa. On the ethnic side Ghana was known for its tribal divisions, about fifty of them, including the well known Ashantis in the west.

Keepeing a tight hold of the FIFA/JVC Cup!
But the real reason for the success of Ghana's youth should be sought in the development of the human infrastructure which got going a long time before neighbouring countries. The level of education rose by a factor of six between 1945 and 1960 and by a factor of 11 up to 1980. The young people are remarkably well educated, with figures for today that show nearly 80% with primary education and 45% with secondary. Taking part in sport is an important (and obligatory) part of this educational system. Talent spotting is a regular and fairly merciless activity in every district. You don't just have to be able to play football, you have to be good. Regional championship are held on a frequent and regular basis. Urban centres such as Accra and Kumasi are thriving economically and are also great sporting centres.

It is in this favourable atmosphere that Ghana's football players grow up. In a country enamoured of show and spectacle, any young hopeful player has to give his utmost for 90 minutes. There is no truth behind the tales of falsifying ages, which some malicious tongues would have us believe. Here, tens of thousands young players pass from one category to the next. Ghana has never needed to resort to trickery to put out a good team. Stories of this kind certainly did not originate from anyone who has seen them close up, more likely they originate from those who have never seen them play at all. Africa is rightfully proud of all of these "little big men".

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