Is this the Starlets team we’ve been waiting for?

Is this the Starlets team we’ve been waiting for?

• Players and officials of Starlets celebrating their victory after the tournament

After many years in the doldrums, Ghana’s Under-17 team, Black Starlets, on Tuesday, emerged winners of the UEFA Under-16 Development Tournament hosted by Serbia – producing a super-stellar performance that gives a lot of hope for the nation’s football, heading into the future.

The two-time world champions stormed into the competition with a 4-0 whitewashing of hosts Serbia before staging a valiant, doughty-charactered win against Spain with nine boys – after suffering two expulsions in the second stanza.

A brace from Benjamin Tsivanyo and Peter Ham­mond’s spectacular strike en­sured the Starlets recorded a 3-2 victory over the startled Spaniards in a fiery evening of end-to-end football. The game, according to reports, was comparable to a World Cup finale.

Remarkably, the Star­lets entertained their Swiss opponents in the final game, edging them 3-2 in another captivating session on Tues­day, to dazzle away with the trophy at stake.

Could this be the Starlets team that Ghanaians have been waiting for?

As we laud the boys for their wonderful piece of football, it is also imperative to congratulate the technical handlers of the team led by Coach Karim Zito for carving out that performance.

Years back, the Starlets brought the nation an ex­treme transport of delight with their captivating brand of football – endearing them­selves even to people who do not really love football. They became a house-hold name.

Indeed, in 1991 (Italy) and 1995 (Ecuador), they con­quered the world at the FIFA U-17 World Cup tournament – having also been losing finalists in both 1993 (Japan) and 1997 (Egypt) in the same campaign – aside a third-place finish in New Zealand, 1999.

Also at the continental front, the Starlets have been two-time winners in 1995 and 1999, aside from two runners-up and third-place finishes.

In fact, in those days, the national cadet team was anybody’s sure bet at tour­naments – and no one got it wrong because the team was destined to deliver. Then, like a bolt from the blue, everybody took their eyes off the nation’s pride and the team that produced the golden generation of the likes of Daniel Addo, Samu­el Osei Kuffuor, Nii Odartey Lamptey, Mohammed Gargo, Emmanuel Duah, Isaac Asare, Joseph Fameye, Awudu Isaka, Christian Sabah and Stephen Appiah, to name but a few, began to stagger and slump into near obscurity.

Indeed, back in 2014, the Starlets were banned from the 2015 U-17 Africa Cup of Nations after being found guilty of age cheating in a qualifier against Cameroon, with the central Africans re­placing Ghana at the tourna­ment held in Niger. That was how low the Starlets embar­rassingly slumped!

The performance of the team in Serbia, therefore, gives Ghanaians a lot of hope, believing it is a har­binger of bigger and better things to come.

This time around, it is the expectation of many that the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and those who matter in the scheme of things, will not switch off their ‘engine’ but work their tails off in a bid to build the Starlets into a ferociously winsome outfit – capable of conquering the sub-region, Africa and the world.

By John Vigah

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