With very few countries around the world operating leagues for teenage girls, the task of selecting a U-17 women’s team is not an easy one for most national coaches, particularly for African ones. One man who seems to have found a successful blend, however, is Ghana boss Abraham Allotey, who steered the Black Maidens to New Zealand 2008 and has repeated the trick by taking the team all the way to the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010.
“It’s a tough task because talent is scattered all over the country and it’s your job to go out there and find the best players,” he tells FIFA.com in the comfortable surroundings of the team’s Port of Spain hotel.
If results over the last couple of years are anything to go by, Allotey has done a fine job of tracking down the country’s best young footballers. “I have faith in this generation,” he says, clearly delighted with the group of youngsters he has brought together. “They have a lot of skill and talent and are not lacking in motivation. They are very quick and athletic too and they’re very creative out on the pitch.”
Team captain Beatrice Sesu backs her coach’s words up with a shy smile: “Yes, I think we have all those qualities. We really want to do well, we don’t feel any pressure on us and we have the courage we need to perform.”
In charge of Ghanaian club side Post Ladies for many years before taking over the Black Maidens, the vastly experienced Allotey is expecting big things from his charges in the Caribbean. “I think the team can explode in this competition,” he predicts. “I don’t want to put any pressure on them though. We want them to go out and enjoy it and express themselves with the ball. If they can do that, they can go far.”
Midfielder Sesu, who plays her club football for Post Ladies, is equally expectant. “We want to go all the way to the final,” she exclaims. “That’s the goal we have in mind: to do our very best and make the final. We’re not nervous or anxious about our opening game here and we just can’t wait to get started.”
The road to the final promises to be an arduous one for the Ghanaians, however, who have been drawn in a fiercely competitive Group D alongside two title candidates in Brazil and Canada and the European runners-up Republic of Ireland. “We have a lot of respect for our opponents but everything will be decided out on the pitch,” says the defiant Sesu, who began playing football at the age of six and names Lionel Messi as her favourite player.
“It’s a difficult group,” acknowledges Allotey. “But we're not up against the whole pedigree and the entire population of these countries. At the end of the day it’s 11 against 11 on the pitch and we have high hopes of doing well because we’ve brought together the best players possible.”