Belfast Telegraph

Dreams come true for the classy Ghanaians

Right to Dream 7-0 Southampton

By Keith Bailie

Ghana's Right to Dream took Ballymena's sodden weather in their stride last night as they brushed past Southampton to win the Junior Section of the Dale Farm Milk Cup.

The West African football academy made short work of the English Premier League team, demonstrating not just their impressive athleticism but also great technical ability and their smart passing game.

Winning 7-0, the side from Accra not only proved themselves to be the best team in this year's Junior section, but put forward an argument that they are the greatest side the Milk Cup has seen in its 33-year history.

RTD have already won youth tournaments in England, Holland and Sweden this year, so their Milk Cup success comes as no surprise.

It's been a long journey for the young African players, most of whom grew up in great poverty.

British-born Academy Director Gareth Henderby explained: "Most of our players come from poor backgrounds. Families are struggling day in, day out in Africa. We have to understand the mentality of players, where they have come from and the environment they've come from and the challenges they've had.

"It's hard for them to adapt to the environment of us taking care of them 24/7 and three meals a day, excellent health care and excellent pitches.

"We take them in at eight or nine-years-old into the feeder schools and then the academy at 10 or 11-years-old and they eventually leave at 18 so they really are with us for a long time until they go into the professional game or the education pathway we have for them as well.

"But we have created a number of fine footballers who know the professional game, and this crop of players have every chance of doing well."

It took just three minutes for Right to Dream to take the lead. After a tidy passing move, Emmanuel Bam burst into the box and directed a ball towards the far post that was turned into the net by unfortunate Southampton defender Joe Tomlinson.

Midfielder Ibrahim Sadiq then made no mistake in the 17th minute. Saints defender Kameron Ledwidge played a short back-pass which Sadiq sprinted on to before slotting home.

It was three a minute before the break. Ernest Boahene scored a stunning 30-yard free-kick that bent into the top corner, giving young Alex Rutter no chance.

Emmanuel Doku then curled an 18-yard effort into the back of the net in the 55th minute. Southampton simply couldn't stop the Africans.

With four minutes left on the clock, RTD netted again. Isaac Atanga found himself in space on the edge of the box before placing the ball beyond Rutter.

The sixth goal arrived in second-half stoppage time when substitute Mohammed Diomande stroked a 20-yard free-kick into the net.

Atanga put the icing on the cake when he ran through the Saints backline and fired the ball home to get his second and RTD's seventh.

Southampton: Rutter, Dix, Tomlinson, Doyle, Olufunwa, Smallbone, Vokins, Willard, Ledwidge, Roric, Afalabi. Subs: Brooks, Langan, Bartlett, Norton.

Right to Dream: Sarkodie, Mensah, Kora, Baidoo, Danso, Doku, Boahene, Atanga, Bam, Bawa, Sadiq. Subs: Diarrasouba, Boateng, Oteng. Diomande.

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