Right to Dream Academy (RtD) have won the 2014 edition of the Gothia Cup – the prestigious World Youth Football Tournament, held in Gothenburg, Sweden.
In a pulsating final, the Old Akrade-based academy beat Mjällby AIF 7-6 on penalties to win the trophy and became the first Ghanaian side to win the Gothia Cup since Asante Kotoko in 1997.
“This is a big moment for the Academy,” RtD technical director, Gareth Henderby, said about the feat. “To win the Gothia Cup is a fantastic achievement – it’s only our second year participating in the tournament.”
He added: “The Gothia Cup has a great pedigree and Right to Dream adds its name to the history of this tournament. The players showed a great amount of character to win the final, and a great sense of belief – you need that in tournaments, playing multiple games in a short space of time. They have proved they are winners.”
The RtD Academy came through six tough matches to win the tournament, including a 4-1 victory over the Finnish side, HJK Helsinki, in the semi-finals.
The final was watched by a crowd of 8,000, including a large contingent from the Ghanaian community in Sweden. It was a match full of tension with RtD dominating possession and creating a series of chances. But resolute defending from Mjällby AIF kept the score locked at 0-0 in normal time. A penalty shoot-out followed, with the young Ghanaian team coming out on top after seven successful penalty kicks and a crucial stop from the Academy keeper, Kusi Danquah Godwin.
Reflecting on the tournament, RtD captain Sirdick Adjei-Grant said: “The teams we played against were technically very good so we had to be very disciplined and mentally ready each time we stepped on the pitch. We made sure we played our game, moving the ball quickly and dominating possession. That was the key to our success in the tournament.”
RtD’s Armeyawu Muntari was named Man of the Match in the final. He identified the team’s strength of character as the difference between the teams: “Every single member of the squad showed hunger and passion – we just believed in ourselves and that collective belief enabled us to come through this final challenge.”
By winning this tournament, Right to Dream has helped to demonstrate the young, talented footballers that Ghana and Africa possesses, which bodes well for the future.
The RtD squad now heads to the UK for an eight-week tour, which will see the Academy youngsters test themselves against some of the best UK Academy sides, including Manchester City, Newcastle United, Sunderland and Everton. The tour will also provide the students with an opportunity to live in and learn about different cultures, together with a series of educational visits.
Speaking on the significance of the Gothia Cup and UK tour, Adjei-Grant said: “These tours and tournaments provide us with the opportunity and feeling of playing under pressure, against good opposition and in front of big crowds; so that will be great for our development. Every time we cross that white line, we go out to represent Ghana well, and show the world that Right to Dream is one of the best football academies – the Gothia Cup has shown everyone that.”
The Academy is sponsored by Tullow Ghana, and is the cornerstone of Tullow's agenda for creating shared prosperity through sport.