As I spoke with Black Galaxies Coach Annor Walker 24 hours after their 4-0 aggregate victory over Benin (Ghana won 3-0 in first leg), I heard joyful confidence in his voice as he reflected on his team's attitude, performance and results in the first phase of the 2023 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying matches.
Clearing the final qualification hurdle is the goal for us having missed three straight CHAN tournaments, the coach intimated. The second and final part of the task, is to beat Nigeria this month for a place in Algeria. Annor Walker portrays the exact mindset of a coach, who not alone knows the enormity of the work ahead but also understands what to do to accomplish it.
“The Nigeria game won’t be easy” Annor Walker admits and proceeds to explain why the only remaining obstacle on our CHAN qualification route, Nigeria, would be tough but beatable. Nigeria hasn’t forgotten how Ghana denied them a chance at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. They’ve sought revenge in other matches, beating the Black Queens and the Black Starlets their respective qualifiers recently.
Annor Walker agrees, that gives Nigeria extra impetus but he and his assistants, Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum and Bismark Kobby Mensah have a counter-plan. “We need to work hard on the Nigerians” he accepts. That hard work is already in motion. Not everything can be put out yet Annor Walker is sure the positive developments that preceded their two Benin encounters would be reinforced.
“The FA ensured we camped early. There were breaks for the players to go to their clubs during the league but we had time at Prampram and Cape Coast” he says. “We scored well in our trial matches; the players have shown seriousness, discipline and hard work”. The coach attributes the wins over Benin to these and points out that, the players’ commitment to the course of the Black Galaxies is high.
Hearts of Oak’s Afriyie Barnieh and Karela United’s Osman Bashiru had a brilliant partnership in the last game and that signals teamwork, an element the coach and his Team Manager, Edmund Ackah, cite for their progress. “We’ve been inspired by GFA President, Kurt Okraku, our coaches understand themselves same as the players who are so serious. It’s team play. We’ve been challenged to go into battle and for Nigeria, it’ll be doing or die” says Edmund Ackah.