In 1991, Ghana’s male U-17 team, the Black Starlets became the best team of their age group after winning the World Cup in Italy.
They were led by German coach, Otto Pfister, and he had the responsibility of guiding the likes of Yaw Preko, Emmanuel Duah and the super talented Nii Odartey Lamptey to go past teams like Brazil and Spain on their journey to winning the trophy.
Apart from the names mentioned above, the team possessed top performers like Samuel Osei Kuffuor (who would play for the Black Stars and Bayern Munich later in his career), Dan Addo, Ben Owu, Isaac Asare, Sebastian Barnes, Kofi Nimo, Mohammed Gargo, Ali Jahraa and Mark Edusei.
How did they get to Italy?
To book a place in the 1991 U-17 World Cup, which was the fourth edition of its kind, Ghana first pipped Sierra Leone on away goals despite an aggregate scoreline of 3-3.
The team then went ahead to eliminate Guinea 3-0 after two legs in the third round of qualifying before defeating Morocco to book a spot in the main tournament.
Exploits in Group D
Ghana was placed in Group D and was drawn against European side, Spain, South American giants, Uruguay and Cuba.
In the Black Starlets first game, Nii Odartey Lamptey, who wore the number 8 jersey put up a show of grit, courage and sheer class as Ghana edged past Cuba in a thrilling 2-1 contest in Livorno.
Mohammed Gargo and Odartey Lamptey helped Ghana defeat Uruguay 2-0 before facing Spain for the final group game and for who should top Group D.
Spain held Ghana to a 1-1 draw with Galvez scoring the equalizer after Nana Opoku had given Ghana the lead in the 42nd minute of the game.
The Starlets finished second and booked a quarter final showdown with South American giants, Brazil who had neither lost nor conceded in the group stages.
The battle against the world giants
On 25th August 1991, in the city of Carrara, a commune of Tuscany, the Black Starlets did the impossible, handing a 2-1 defeat Brazil.
Nii Odartey Lamptey handed Ghana the advantage with his 36th minute goal.
Leandro, however, grabbed the leveller 3 minutes before half time but Mohammed Gargo, in the 58th minute, grabbed Ghana’s second goal of the night.
Qatar now awaited the Starlets in the semifinals.
The tough test against Qatar
In front of 1,200 spectators at Viareggio, Qatar and Ghana cancelled out each other in a thrilling contest which had no goals after 90 minutes.
Both teams failed to find the back of the net even after extra time.
So, the game went to penalties as a place in the finals of the U-17 World Cup was on the line.
Khalil Al Mazroei missed the first penalty of the game while Nii Odartey Lamptey scored his and so did Sebastian Barnes, Kofi Mbeah and Joseph Essien for the Black Starlets.
Rayed Al Boloushi and Mohammed Salem converted their spot-kicks but Mohammed Al Bedaid miscued his effort as Ghana advanced 4-2 on penalty shootouts.
Rematch against Spain in the finale
In a match officiated by Leif Sundell and played in front of a 5,000 people in Florence, the Black Starlets of Ghana put up an overwhelming performance against Spain in the final of the U-17 FIFA World Cup hosted by Italy in 1991.
Captained by 16-year-old Nana Opoku, Ghana dominated from the very blast of the referee’s whistle in the Artemio Franchi, Florence.
The skill of Yaw Preko, the pace of Emmanuel Duah, the vision of Nii Odartey Lamptey, the courage of Ben Owu and bravery of 14-year-old Sebastian Barnes was enough to hand Ghana its first U-17 trophy.
The first half ended 0-0 but Ghana was dominant and had a few chances to take the lead but failed to do so.
The Addo, Duah and Mbeah show
Daniel Addo, who wore the number 12 jersey put up a show in the second half. The 14-year-old who played for Accra Great Olympics was just class and too skilful for the Spanish side.
So was Emmanuel Duah of Neoplan Stars and Kofi Mbeah of Soccer Missionaries who tormented the Europeans in the second half.
The likes of Carlos Castro, Cesar Palacios, and Ramon Gonzalez could not deal with their trickery, pace and strength anytime the teenagers attacked.
Emmanuel Duah got the first chance in the second half of the game. He picked up a pass from Nana Opoku, run wide to his right, found some space in the 18-yard box, entered and attempted a shot only to meet the gloves of Lopez Vallejo.
Kofi Mbeah was next to test Lopez, the defender beat two men with skill and pace, and struck a powerful left-footed shot but the effort was parried by the goalkeeper.
Ghana attacked again and Duah picked up a pass from Barnes on the right flanks, went straight into the box. After flooring Carlos Castro, he sent a cut back to Nana Opoku. He found Odartey Lamptey but he missed.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 77th minute through Emmanuel Duah from a Nana Opoku corner.
Duah came close again moments later but his powerful strike was not enough to beat Lopez Vallejo.
Juan Carlos Murgui and Cesar Palacios tried responding but the Ghanaian defence was up to the task.
Ultimately, the Black Starlets prevailed and were crowned world champions for the first time at the U-17.
The Odartey Lamptey tournament
At the end of the tournament, Anderlecht and Ghana forward, Nii Odartey Lamptey was named the best player of the competition after he grabbed four goals and two assists in the tournament. He also won the silver ball after finishing joint-top goalscorer with 4 goals with Brazil’s Adriano.