Neglect youth football, forget AFCON laurels : E.T. Mensah tells GFA
Friday, February 3, 2017
No national team can progress when the state neglects youth football, a former Minster of Youth and Sports, E.T Mensah, has said.
His comment comes on the back of the failure of the senior national team, the Black Stars, to reach the finals of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon after suffering a 0-2 defeat to Cameroon on Thursday February 2.
According to Ghana’s longest-serving Sports Minister, unless structures are put in place to promote youth football like he did during his tenure, the national team will continue to suffer.
Telling Moro Awudu about the structures he put in placewhen he served as Minister of Youth and Sports from 1993-2001, Mr Mensah, speaking on the Executive Breakfast Show (EBS) on Class91.3FM on Friday February 3, said: “Some people call me the father of modern football because when I took over, [the FA] was Ghana Amateur Football Association. Players were not on the payroll, players were not given the right treatment, the structures were weak and we had to go through the processes, that is first deal with the structures...”
“…When I entered the Ministry people would come and tell you ‘this one is NPP, this one is this’, and at meetings I tell them: ‘With us in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, our focus is clearly defined. We know what our goal is and our party is youth and sports’, and so I treated everybody with even-handedness, consulted widely, brought on board former players like the Aggrey Fynns when he was alive, the CK Gyamfis. I put in place structures where they were given roles to play and like Osei Kufuor said, ‘When you forget about your youth, forget it.’
“Those days every time at U17 we were qualifying, U21 the least we had was silver, so we had a pool of players. I was privileged to be in Germany for a soccer programme and I picked all the things they talked about. We went down to basics to establish the youth club for the national team and we in this country had colts football for years. So when I got back to Ghana what I did was, I wrote a memo to the president that we needed to start a national youth team. It was approved and as part of our budget for that year, we built 25 self-contained rooms in Winneba and then we decided on having a national youth team. We brought the likes of Afranie, Osam Duodu, and co and got them together. And we also decided that we were going to train our former Black Stars players as coaches. They came, we started the process and every year they go round the districts to organise soccer tournaments to pick players...and we were so open that anyone who was a good player got a chance.
“We took the youth seriously; if you don’t take the youth seriously, forget it. If you don’t think about your raw materials, do you want to have finished products?” he asked.