New generation of Ghana stars heralds a bright new future
IT was no surprise that Nike chose the face of Didier Drogba to adorn the giant poster that dominated Joburg’s central business district in the build-up to the World Cup.
After all, the Chelsea striker is the totemic figure in African football, probably the continent’s most famous and best active player and a man who uses the profile and wealth his talents have brought him to do his best to help his country and continent in any way he can.
When Drogba speaks, Ivory Coast, and much of Africa, listens.
This was supposed to be his tournament, the stage on which, at 32, he cemented his legacy.
He may still do so, of course, for all the worries over his broken elbow.
Ivory Coast, until the draw for the group stage was made, looked Africa’s greatest hope.
South Africa have the impetus of hosting the competition, the pride and the desire, but they lack quality.
Algeria are young, inexperienced, while Cameroon are over-reliant on Samuel Eto’o.
But Ivory Coast’s golden generation had the look of potential quarter-finalists at the very least.
And then their name was drawn alongside Brazil and (an admittedly over-rated) Portugal, and Africa’s best chance of making a mark on the occasion which means so much from the Cape to Cairo seemed to be shot.
Drogba’s injury simply confirmed that opinion. The continent has had to look elsewhere for inspiration. In Ghana, they have found it. The Black Stars won their opening game against a well-drilled, highly regarded Serbia side (some people, mentioning no names, may even have tipped them to win the group) thanks to an Asamoah Gyan penalty.
It was a deserved win, a performance full of verve and brio and attacking intent, and one achieved without Ghana’s trio of Drogbas – Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah – at least until the latter came on in the 73rd minute.
There, in Ellis Park, was proof of the rich seam of talent which the country has unearthed in the search for successors to the generation spearheaded by the Chelsea, Inter Milan and Bologna midfielders.
Talent drives across Ghana in recent years and a consistent emphasis on youth development have brought players like Isaac Vorsah, of German side Hoffenheim, Rosenborg’s Anthony Annan and the Udinese midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah to prominence, supplementing the resources available to manager Milovan Rajevac.
Emmanuel Kwesi Afranie, a vastly experienced coach involved with the corporate-sponsored talent hunts, is certain that the players who have been discovered have “the calibre… to be the future of the nation”.
“Given that Rajevac’s bench held Dominic Adiyiah – top scorer and best player in last year’s World Under-20 championship, which Ghana’s Black Satellites won – and the likes of Samuel Inkoom and Jonathan Mensah, it is hard to argue that the future is bright.”
Drogba, and his generation of Ivorian gold, have found their heirs. – The Telegraph
OUR TIME: Asamoah Gyan and Anthony Annan celebrate Ghana’s victory over Serbia at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.