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West Africa celebrate World Cup success

By Christian Purefoy
Ghana's fans will provide plenty of color and passion during the 2010 World Cup finals.
Ghana's fans will provide plenty of color and passion during the 2010 World Cup finals.
  • Ghana's vocal fans are celebrating reaching the 2010 World Cup finals
  • West Africa will have strong representation in the South African tournament next year
  • Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana have all qualified for the finals

(CNN) -- A cascade of trumpets, rolling of drums and a raucous chorus from a small army of young men and women painted in Ghana's green and yellow colors.

It's a small taste of what's to come in the run-up for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

In the last few years, Ghana's fans have organised themselves into a variety of local groups across the country -- creating a vast support network that is readily using newspapers, radio and television to encourage and criticize the handling of their national dream -- the Black Stars.

"The people love their sports, they love football," explains Sports Minister Rashid Pelpuo.

"It's the passion of the nation and when we fail to win -- it's a minister who has caused it because he's not committed, or it's one player or the other, or the coach must be fired."

And the commitment from fans, government and players appears to be having its desired affect.

West Africa is the powerhouse of African football with Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana all qualifying for the finals.

But this year, Ghana qualified first and then went on to win the Under-20's World Cup -- the first African country ever to do so.

For Dominic Adiyiah -- ranked the most valuable player in the Under-20's and now brought into Ghana's national team -- the pressure may be enormous but it's an opportunity of a lifetime.

"You have to be thinking, this is the time, I have to do it and do it well whatever happens," he explains.

And once players like Adiyiah prove themselves on the pitch, the fans demand total commitment.

After Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien missed the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, he and his family were publicly harassed by fans as unpatriotic. Since then he has never missed an international match.

Although Essien insists -- for the World Cup in 2010 -- fans should not expect too much from just one player.

"We've got some good players but we need to put forward a very strong team for the African Nations Cup and World Cup -- that's the only thing we need -- to field a strong team and see what happens," explains Essien.

And behind the 11 players on the pitch -- there will be a country of expectant fans.