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Sports Features Mon, 20 Apr 2015

Seychelles 2015: Lessons for Ghana Black Sharks

by Yaw Ampofo Ankrah

8 of Africa's elite beach soccer nations met in Seychelles to play for pride, honour, rankings and a world cup qualification during the maiden edition of the CAF beach soccer nation's cup in Seychelles.

After 20 matches and over 160 goals, Madagascar were crowned champions of African beach soccer beating Senegal 2-1 on penalties.

The final was intriguing as both sides attacked from kick-off. Madagascar opened the scoring but Senegal replied and after a tense and cagey affair, the match had to be settled via a penalty shootout.

Ghana's Black Sharks led by Captain Michael Sema gave a good account of themselves by beating former champions Senegal 5-3 in the last match of group B while recording the highest score line of the tournament with a 12-1 thrashing of hosts Seychelles.

The Sharks also left the tournament with the goal king award going to striker Alexander Adjei who bagged a record 16 goals including 8 in Ghana's final match against the host.

Aside Madagascar, Senegal will be the other country to represent Africa at the beach soccer world cup in Portugal even though some of their performances in the tournament were less than impressive.

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West African beach soccer powerhouses Nigeria and the Ivory Coast battled it out for the third place with the Nigerians recording an impressive 9-1 win over the Ivorians.

North African giants Morocco and Egypt, showed promise but could only settle for 5th and 6th place respectively.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) would be confident that their two representatives would give a good account of themselves come September in Portugal.

By which time outstanding players such as Madagascar striker and best player of the tournament Tokiniaina Randriamampandry as well as Senegalese attacker Kamara would have adequately prepared for the world stage.

Same can be applied to Ghana who's leading scorer Alexander Adjei, defenders Husseini Mohammed, Harold Acquaye and Aziz Kofi have been consistent and impressive.

The Ghanaians would have to learn to be more focused and intense in every minute of every game as they blew hot and cold. After writing a petition against unfair officiating in their two opening defeats, the Black Sharks overpowered Senegal raising hopes of a semi-final berth.

However, their inconsistent form and tactical naivety deprived them of the glorious opportunity.

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Although attendances was below expectation at the ultra-modern beach soccer stadium; first of its kind in Africa, there are many reasons to be highly optimistic about the future of the game on the continent.

It is no surprise therefore to hear the president of the Seychelles Football Federation Mr Suketu Patel in his welcome address stating that ''the sports is here to stay and this is just the beginning''.

Another country that must try and follow the Seychelles example is Ghana.

The West African nation has twenty beach soccer clubs spread across several coastal communities but with literally no infrastructure to support the growth and development.

The current Black Sharks team is made up entirely of players from beach soccer clubs.

As the only country in Africa to have two competitive beach soccer leagues (championship and division1), the missing piece in the jigsaw would be investing in technical areas and structures such as the beach soccer stadium in Seychelles.

FIFA and Beach Soccer Worldwide would be quietly confident and happy at the organization of the maiden tournament which has been of a high standard and almost incident free.

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The tournament structure and format in Seychelles might be changed in future to accommodate more teams especially with the rapid improvements being witnessed throughout the continent.

Ghana's presence on the awards podium at the end of the tournament could be a catalyst to attract more support for a sport many believe is on the verge of explosion in a country emotionally attached to football.

It is remarkable to consider that the team purchased their tickets to Seychelles barely 24 hours before the start of the tournament. Notwithstanding this and other challenges before and during the qualifiers, the Black Sharks showed remarkable grits, determination and resolve to take something back home from Seychelles.

The non-availability of funds from the Ministry of Youth and Sports did not derail their participation. Salvation came from an unlikely source as Ghana's transport minister Mrs Dzifa Attivor rallied corporate Ghana to support the Black Sharks.

In less than a week, she helped raise GHC 20,000 from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and GHC 30,000 from the Ghana Oil Company Ltd. The minister also donated GHC 10,000 and presented items to the team worth over GHC 10,000.

Judging from where the Black Sharks have come since their formation in 2013, the team's inability to qualify for the World Cup will likely serve as a springboard to a new dawn for the sport in Ghana.

Summary: Winners: Madagascar

Runners up: Senegal

Third place: Nigeria

Goal king : Alexander Adjei MVP: Tokiniaina Randriamampandry (Madagascar)

Best Goalkeeper : Jhorialy Rafalimanana

Yaw Ampofo Ankrah is the founder and President of Beach Soccer Ghana. He's a professional broadcaster and works for South Africa based sports network Supersport.

Source: Yaw Ampofo Ankrah