Ghana’s U-20 men’s team, the Black Satellites, will get their 2021 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign underway on Tuesday, February 16.
Two years ago, in the 2019 edition, the Black Satellites disappointed Ghanaians in Niger.
The team assembled by Jimmy Cobblah had the potential to go all the way but instead were booted out at the group stage.
The Satellites found themselves in an all-West African group with Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. They started on a bright note with a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso, but back-to-back defeats against Senegal and Mali ensured their elimination.
But this team, led by Karim Zito, will look to right the wrong in Mauritania. The 2009 U-20 world champions survived a dreaded qualification process by overcoming the likes of Nigeria and Ivory Coast to be crowned champions of the WAFU Zone B U-20 tournament.
Zito’s boys landed in the Northwest Africa country on Sunday ahead of the first match against Tanzania. They will face Morocco next and then The Gambia in their final group game.
What is at stake for the Black Satellites?
Unfortunately, there will be no U-20 World Cup this year after FIFA cancelled the tournament in Indonesia due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The AFCON usually serves as a qualification to the world tournament, with the top four teams earning tickets to represent the continent.
But there is still a lot at stake for the Black Satellites.
Move up trophy-ranking table
The biennial youth tournament which started in 1977 sees the Black Satellites as the third most successful team with three trophies. Their record is only bettered by Egypt (four times) and Nigeria (seven times)
Black Satellites, however, last won the tournament in 2009. They came very close in 2013 as they reached the final but lost to Egypt on penalties.
A win in Mauritania will take Black Satellites joint-second in the trophy ranking with Nigeria missing out on the tournament.
This tournament is a huge platform for players to showcase their talents to the world. International scouts and coaches will follow with keen interest.
Zito’s 26-man squad is dominated by home-based players. These players dream of playing at the biggest stage of world football and the U-20 AFCON offers a route.
Black Stars skipper Andre Ayew is a prime example of a player who benefited from participating at this tournament. His profile shot up after leading Ghana to the AFCON title and then the World Cup in 2009. A year later, he played at his first senior World Cup.
Mohammed Kudus, a member of the disappointing 2019 squad, now plays for Dutch giants Ajax. The midfielder was Ghana’s best player at that tournament.
To bring back the love
The common message that has been preached under the Kurt Okraku era is the need to bring back the love of fans.
Hypothetically, there is no better way to incite love amongst fans than wining. And not just winning, but winning trophies and competitions that makes fans feel the love.
It’s been more than 10 years since Ghana celebrated a trophy triumph. The feeling of wining a continental showpiece at U-20 level might be the final piece to bring back the love.
Lifting the WAFU Zone B Championship was close enough, however, the Black Satellites will have to take it further and conquer Africa to win back the fans.
Source: Joy Sports