Goal Ghana's Nana Frimpong argues that the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi must be the only venue for the home matches of the Black StarsFEATURE
By Nana Frimpong
When the Black Stars took to the pitch in Kumasi last Friday for the epic World Cup qualifier against Zambia, they rode on the wave of vociferous support from the 40,000 plus fans who filled the match venue.
The stadium in Kumasi which is named after the legendary Ghanaian winger Baba Yara has hosted most of Ghana's recent competitive home games, including those already honoured in the ongoing qualifying series.
The trend actually dates back to the period of the senior national side's qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup, when crucial victories at home over the likes of South Africa, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde established Kumasi as the Stars' favourite stomping grounds, a distinction once claimed by Accra.
AFCON 2008 & BEYOND
Events at the 2008 Nations Cup hosted by Ghana signalled a monumental shift when, after struggling through games in the competition's earlier rounds played in Accra, the national team gave arguably its finest display at that Afcon as they roused themselves in the third-place match to a thrilling 4-2 triumph over the Ivory Coast in Kumasi, fuelled by some of the most incredible support they have enjoyed in a long while.
The side hasn't felt as comfortable anywhere else since then. The number of post-2008 Ghana games played outside the Baba Yara Stadium could be counted on one hand, while the names of nations that have been put to the sword at the Stars' preferred venue in that period roll off the list quite easily, among them are the likes of Sudan, Lesotho, Congo, Libya, and Zambia.
Football fans in Kumasi are as passionate as any to be found elsewhere in the country and are certainly more so than their countrymen who inhabit the nation's capital, Accra. In Accra, the support for the Stars appears infrequent and arguably less intense. Over the past few years, Kumasi has done enough to ensure that the Stars' games need not alternate between the two bustling cities as seems the policy of the Ghana Football Association. Why? Because the team hasn't lost at the stadium in 13 years.
Apparently the players relish the backing they receive when in Kumasi and are also quite accustomed to the playing surface -a few have openly admitted so, in fact- while the fans are ever so willing to contribute all they could to the national cause. With the Stars consistently playing to a full house at Ghana's largest stadium, the Baba Yara could prove a profitable cash cow for the country. Plus, the stadium in Kumasi, unlike Accra's isn't tainted with the regrettable history of a gory football tragedy that would otherwise deter soccer fans from flocking there in their hordes.
If allowed, the Baba Yara Stadium could become to Ghana's Black Stars what Wembley has been to England's Three Lions- impregnable fortresses at the mention of which opponents quiver.
Friendlies involving the Stars as well as matches of the junior national teams could be spread around the country for people of other parts to share in the joy of watching the country's best footballers play.
When the games that really matter are due, though, staging them in Kumasi should be a no-brainer.
It certainly has earned that right!