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London is not the only city that has a Chelsea and an Arsenal. Down in the south of Ghana is a town just 1000 km sq large called Berekum that houses football clubs of the same name. There’s also a Berekum AC Milan and a Berekum Berlin FC, in the city, and indeed the country, with straight hat-tips to European football icons. “The popularity of the football leagues in Europe has been so strong, that our local clubs have decided to name themselves after them,” says Kwadwo Agyemang, the board chairman of the Ghana National Sports Authority.
The who’s who of world football, be it a club from England, Spain, Germany or Italy, there is a team named just the same that exists and competes in the various divisions of Ghana. Be it Drobo Barcelona, Bolga Juventus, or Aflao Bayern Munich, the European presence, at least on paper, has been strong.
Yet even through the namesake, there is an idea that is planted in developing footballers: an aspiration to play abroad. “Everybody wants to go to Europe and play for the top leagues and clubs. That is always the dream,” adds Agyemang.
Though most of the clubs named after European teams play in the lower divisions, Berekum Chelsea is the only team to be competing in the top flight Premier League, who won the title in the 2011-12 season.
None of the Ghana players competing at the U17 World Cup in India come from a club named after a European outfit. Instead, coach Samuel Fabin, himself a teacher, scouted players from schools all over the country to form the bulk of his team. Ghana, who play against Niger on Wednesday in Navi Mumbai, is featuring in the U-17 World Cup for the first time since 2007. They were disqualified the last time for fielding an overage player in the African Cup of Nations. There is pressure on the team, especially since Ghana won the tournament in 1991 and 1995, to do well.
“In any tournament we enter, the fans expect us to win regardless of the opponent we meet,” Fabin says.
The coach is aware of the presence of scouts from international clubs -taking note of his players. And he’s done his bit to ensure his wards aren’t distracted. “We’ve told the security to make sure no player is spoken to without our knowledge,” he adds.
At least till they are in India, there will be no Chelsea or Arsenal – from either London or Berekum – calling on them.
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