American founding father Benjamin Franklin famously said; “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. It may have been wise to remind the Ghanaian and Nigeria Under 20 camps of this after a turbulent two weeks has seen ‘club v country’ rows, media lampooning and bribery clams unsettle the respective countries preparations for the Under 20 World Cup.
The Ghanaians will have to do without key attacking figures Sadick Adams – due to a FIFA ban – and Ishmael Yartey. The latter in particular is not only a massive loss on the pitch, but has also whipped up a media frenzy off it by accusing Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh of selecting his squad from personal friends and players who were willing to pay the coaching staff bribes for inclusion. There are certain factors that suggest this statement isn’t without foundation. The Under 20 squad recently returned from an all expenses paid invitational training camp at cash cows Aspire Football Academy in Doha; upon leaving the camp Sellas made the shock announcement that he would be replacing Yartey – on of the sides most talented players – with the untested Aspire striker John Benson. Sellas has rubbish reports that John’s inclusion was his way of repaying Aspires hospitality, insisting that Yartey was unfit and out of form. The latter comment seems strange though, especially when you consider the wingers recent performances for Portuguese side Beira-Mar where he has scored three goals in five games, staring just one of them. Ghana’s attacking threat will no doubt suffer from the loss of both players, the only positive spin from this debacle is that we should all get the opportunity to see more of Opoku Agyemang who will step into Sadick’s shoes as Ransford Osei’s strike partner.
Nigeria’s off the field preparations have also been fraught with controversy, this time with the inclusion of a foreign based player. Samson Siasia has had to participate in a game of diplomatic tennis with Scottish side Aberdeen who were far from happy about the manor in which winger Sone Aluko was called up to the Under 20 squad. All grievances seem to have been settled for now, but for a player likely the shoulder a lot of attacking responsibility, due to the absence of Macauley Chrisantus, the pre tournament drama has been an unwelcome distraction. A lack of defensive cover is also a concern. The question ‘why has Alex Nkume been left out of the squad?’ has been doing the rounds on the back pages of Nigeria’s daily newspapers, sports radio programs and football blogs. Central defender Kingsley Udoh was a big loss for the side, one which they seem to have failed to address.
All this said, the pre-tournament excitement and concerns will be laid to rest this Thursday, when Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago cross those white lines in Alexandria to kick off the 17th edition of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup.