On 1 April, the groups for the World Cup in Qatar will be drawn. But which of the two top teams from West Africa will take part? The Super Eagles from Nigeria or the Black Stars from Ghana? This question will have an answer after the two exciting play-off matches next week.
Pitch in Cape Coast Stadium damaged
But first, it had to be clarified where the first leg between Ghana and Nigeria will take place. The original plan was to play the match at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium in the city of Cape Coast. The multi-purpose stadium has a capacity of 20,000 spectators and is normally the home of the Ebusua Dwarfs from the Ghana Premier League. The Black Stars have so far played all their home matches in the World Cup qualifiers at the Cape Coast Stadium. The Cape Coast Stadium was the only stadium in Ghana to meet the high-security standards of CAF.
But then photos emerged showing the devastating state of the stadium. What had happened? On Ghana’s Independence Day, 6 March, various events were held at the stadium. The pitch conditions did not allow for a football match. And although the sports arena built by China IPPR International Engineering Corporation is quite modern, the pitch cannot be replaced as quickly as in football temples like Schalke 04’s Veltins Arena, where the entire pitch can be removed from the stadium.
Nigeria proposed Neutral Ground
The opposing team from Nigeria summarily demanded that the match be moved to a neutral pitch. Ghana refused and brought in the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi. The stadium is named after Ghanaian football legend Baba Yara. Baba scored 51 goals in just 49 games for the Black Stars in the 1950s. The stadium is regularly home to multiple Ghanaian champions Asante Kotoko.
A commission from the CAF has now granted one-time permission for the Baba Yara Stadium, making the change of venue official.
For Ghana, the move from Cape Coast to Kumasi has no disadvantages – on the contrary. The Baba Yara Stadium holds twice as many spectators as the Cape Coast Stadium. It will provide much better support for the Ghanaian national team in this extremely important match.
Hot water and better floodlights
However, there are still some improvements that the Black Stars have to do in the stadium before the play-off match kicks off – the list of CAF is long. For example, both teams must have hot water for the showers. Moreover, the stadium needs better floodlights of 1200 lux – otherwise, the Ghana Football Association will face financial sanctions.
The match will kick off on Friday 25 March at 20:30 CET. The return match will then take place just four days later in Abuja, Nigeria.
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