- Title: GHANA: SOCCER - Ghana prepares for the continent's premier footballing event
- Date: 19th January 2008
- Summary: VARIOUS OF FANS SINGING AND DANCING
- Embargoed: 3rd February 2008 12:00
- Location: Ghana
- Country: Ghana
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA4VGCB7QVRIGPY9PS9W5G833ZJ
- Story Text: Soccer-mad Ghana prepares for one of the continent's biggest and most colourful footballing events - the African Cup of Nations - which starts on Sunday.
Members of Ghana's Nationwide Supporters Union take rehearsals before next weeks' African Cup of Nations very seriously. Victory for Ghana's national football team the Black Stars may depend on their ability to keep the players' moral flying high.
The passion and colour seen is just a signal for what can be expected in the weeks to come as African footballing nations gather for the continent's most prestigious football event.
This group is just one of about seven major cheering squads in Ghana.
Avid football supporters like these are expected to converge in their tens of thousands from across Africa.
In the stadiums that will host the competition matches, last minute-adjustments are made, the grass manicured by hand.
A presiding sense of optimism, compounded by record economic growth and political stability in the west Africa nation has also marked the country's preparations to host the tournament. Over 150 million US dollars have been spent to rehabilitate and construct four stadiums and the city streets are receiving a facelift.
Ghana's team the Black Stars have won the tournament a record four times but recently, success has been elusive. In 2006, they were knocked out during the quarter finals. This time around, both the success of the team and success of the event are at stake, according to the Black Stars' assistant coach, Sellas Tetteh.
"It's not going to be easy when you look at the line up, the top African countries, football nations and I believe that at least we could do well, but all the same, no matter what the opposition, no matter what the situation, no matter what the problems, and pressure, we have to come out tops and we believe that we will come out tops," he said.
The hosts have had a few opportunities to test their preparedness. They won the Four Nations Cup in Accra last November, a warm-up tournament before the African Cup of Nation starts. They beat Benin 4-2, bolstering their confidence and that of their fans.
It will take a lot to keep those fans happy in the actual event. The support teams are determined, however, that even if their team proves not quite up to the task, support from the stands with take them to the final and beyond, according to Abdul-Aziz Haruna, general coordinator of the support teams.
"We are going to the use the 10,000 membership of the Nationwide supporters group to cheer so we are going to intimidate the opponent with our song, with our support with this we are going to take the cup," Haruna explained.
Whatever the outcome of the final on February 10, Ghanaians are united in their belief that the competition will showcase their country.
"This is a programme that will sell the country and sell the continent of Africa the outside world. Yes, we've come of age and this is the one particular point where we'll prove to the outside world that we have come of age in term of organisation, in terms of maybe showing hospitality, infrastructure etcetera," said one Accra resident, George Sackey
"Ghana is a very peaceful country and so we expect that we are going to be hospitable to all the countries that are participating and we are expecting them to come and enjoy our hospitality," said another resident, Skina Hansome.
However it ends, the competition is likely to be one of the most colourful footballing spectacles in some time.
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