After coming from behind on two occasions to draw level with Mali in their final world cup qualifying game at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi last Sunday, the entire team of the Black Starts and their Malian counterparts descended on the Manhyia Palace Gardens where a red carpet treatment was rolled out for them to dine and wine with the occupant of the Golden Stool, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, and his wife, Lady Julia .
The red carpet dinner, according to Otumfuo Osei Tutu, “ was in appreciation of your gallant performance during the world cup qualifying series which saw you qualifying for the 2010 tournament earlier than expected, and at a time many renowned teams in Africa and Europe were struggling to qualify.”
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who had planned ahead to honour the players and technical team of the Black Stars moments after they won their fourth consecutive World Cup qualifying match, took opportunity of the last game in Kumasi to invite them to the Manhyia Palace where he extended to them a golden handshake and a royal dinner.
To prevent uninvited guests from invading the palace, security at the gates was very tight.
Abrante Amakye Dede and his bandsmen were at the palace to provide highlife music to reflect the serene atmosphere at the royal dinner.
Some of the dignitaries who graced the occasion were the Akyempemhene, Oheneba Adusei Poku, who gave the welcome address, the Paramount Chief of Kushia, Nana Pra Agyensen, the Sports Minister, Mr Rashid Pelpuo, the President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and his Vice, Messrs Kwesi Nyantakyi, and Fred Pappoe, the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Kofi Opoku Manu, The Mayor of Kumasi, Mr Samuel Sarpong as well as Mr Akenten Appiah Minkaha, a statesman, and the Anglican Bishop of Kumasi, Rt Rev. Daniel Yinkah Sarfo .
Others were the Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports, Mr Nii Nortey Dua and Messrs Randy Abbey and Jones Alhassan-Abu, both GFA members.
Prior to the dinner, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who arrived at the Royal gardens with his wife, interacted with the Black Stars players and technical team.
After shaking their hands with the players and officials, the Asantehene gave them pieces of advice on the expectations of Ghanaians as they feverishly prepare to take Africa by storm during the January 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
In his address, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II said the gallant performance of the Stars during the World Cup qualifying series was very commendable , saying he planned to dine with the team some months ago, and with this he hoped to raise funds to support their preparations towards the tournament to enable them perform creditably in South Africa.
He said the performance of the Stars in Germany four years ago did not only market Ghana as one of the soccer giants in world soccer, but had also built confidence in the players.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu said following the recent performance of the Satellites which saw them conquering the world at the under-20 level, and also saw Dominic Adiyiah winning the Best player and Golden Boot awards at the same tournament, the Stars have a huge responsibility of doing better than what they did in Germany.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II also commended the other West Africa countries which qualified alongside Ghana for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, saying their qualification has proves that West Africa is home for Africa soccer.
He, therefore, challenged governments in the sub-region to increase their budget allocations for the development of soccer in particular, and other sports programmes in general, as a way of unearthing talents to promote sports.
He commended the GFA, the technical team and the entire players of both the Satellites and the Black Stars and urged them to focus on their training programmes and also be disciplined in all their endeavours to enable them bring more laurels for themselves and the nation.
Earlier, both Mr Nyantakyi and Mr Pelpuo outlined the preparations for the Stars for the Angola and South Africa tournaments.