With coach Kwesi Appiah in search of new players to build a national team that can match up to the Black Stars of old, there are many young players of Ghanaian descent out there that he should not overlook.
The Black Stars’ next game is against Egypt in the final round of group matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, to be played this month in Cape Coast. With Egypt having sealed qualification already, there will be nothing at stake for both teams, and Coach Appiah will be expected to give young and promising players the opportunity to justify their retention in the team.
Below is a list of four young players that the coach could invite?
Kwasi Okyere Wriedt (Bayern Munich)
Wriedt, who joined the European giants last summer from VfL Osnabrück, was born in 1994 in Hamburg to Ghanaian parents and is eligible to represent either Ghana or Germany.
The 23-year-old lanky striker, who stands at 6.2ft tall, having been named on the bench of Bayern’s squad on Matchday 8 in the Bundesliga against Freiburg, went one step better last Wednesday night by coming off the bench to help Jupp Heynckes’ side beat high flying RB Leipzig on penalties in the German League Cup.
Wriedt has been rewarded for his performances with Bayern’s second team, in which he has struck nine times in ten Regionalliga outings so far this season, including a goal in the Derby win over 1860 Munich last weekend, building on the 12 goals he scored for Osnabruck in Germany’s Third Division last term.
Interestingly, he became only the second African player in history to don the famous red shirt of Bayern after his legendary compatriot defender Sammy Kuffour (1993-2005), and we are sure it will be the first of many occasions to come in the near future.
Gideon Jung (Hamburger SV)
Born in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1994 to Ghanaian parents, Gideon Jung started his career at Sportfreunde Baumberg, a German amateur football club in the 2011-2012 season before moving to Rot-Weiß Oberhausen the ensuing season. In the 2012-2013 season, Jung was spotted by Hamburger, who eventually signed the versatile midfielder in July, 2014.
The defensive midfielder, who now plies his trade with Hamburger SV in the German top-flight, is yet to be capped at the international level. He is eligible to play for either Germany or Ghana.
Towards the end of last season, the 23-year-old established himself as a regular member of the Hamburger team and has picked up in the current campaign from where he ended last season, with consistent performance for his team.
What makes him even more important to Hamburger is his ability to play in defence, whenever he is called upon.
Edward Nketiah (Arsenal)
Nketiah has already inked his name in the history books for being the first player born after Arsene Wenger took over as manager at Arsenal to score a competitive goal.
The young striker, born in 1999 in England to Ghanaian parents, came on as a late substitute to score a brace and help Arsenal come from behind to beat Norwich City 2:1 in the Carabao Cup last Wednesday.
Nketiah, who plays for the club’s U-23s made his debut for the first team last month in the UEFA Europa League against Bate Borisov.
After his match-winning performance last week, Nketiah is now set for a 650 percent pay rise as well as more first team action.
Former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, who worked with Nketiah during his time as the U-18s coach, was full of praises for the youngster, saying the Ghanaian was always going to score goals.
The 18-year-old, who started his career out with Chelsea before joining Arsenal in 2015 on a free transfer, ended last season as the club’s U-18s top goal scorer with 24 goals in 28 matches and was subsequently promoted to the U23 squad.
Nikolas Nartey (FC Cologne)
Another player of Ghanaian ancestry who could be lured into the national team going forward, is Nikolas Nartey, who plays for FC Cologne in the German Bundesliga.
The central midfielder, born in Denmark in 2000 to a Ghanaian father, has represented the country of his birth at youth level so far, but is still eligible to play for Ghana.
He joined the German club in January this year, where he played for their youth side in second round of last season. However, after impressing in the junior ranks, the 17-year old has been promoted to the first team this season.
However, to convince these players, and many others, to choose Ghana over their countries of birth, depends on how far the FA is willing to go, especially in cases where their host countries are equally interested in their services at the international level.
There are many examples of young footballers of Ghanaian origin out there for grabs, but to fully benefit from the services of footballers who trace their roots to the country, the Ghana Football Association, together with the Sports Ministry and other stakeholders, would have to develop policies at spotting and supporting young footballers rather than only going after them when they have become stars.
This policy may not even be in the form of material support, but just a show of genuine concern in the players’ development from a tender age.
Losing out on Mario Balotelli, Danny Welbeck, Marcel Desailly, Memphis Depay, Jerome Boateng, among others, in the past, should teach the country some valuable lessons.
There are many footballers of Ghanaian ancestry who, if the country had succeeded in persuading them to play for the senior national team, might have helped the Black Stars win a trophy or two in our over-thirty years search for one.
Thomas-Moore Adingo l thebftonline.com l Ghana