The Mayor's office in Natal, Brazil has described Ghana as the new force of African football following the West Africans impressive outings in their first two World Cup appearances.
Receiving a six member Ghanaian delegation sent by the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Mayor Carlos Eduardo Nunes Alves said he has been following the Black Stars and their colourful supporters in Germany and South Africa.
''Consider yourselves at home here in Brazil because just like us, Ghana also like to play good football and win.
We in Natal will give you a World Cup appearance that you will cherish for a very long time''
The team was mandated by the Minister to look at the best options available for Ghana on the ground, compare prices with services, internal travelling connections, security updates, and also to explore affordable accommodation for supporters among others.
The delegation held several meetings and toured various sites in Natal, Rio and Sao Paolo to get first hand information that would go a long way to assisting the execution of one of the best world cup appearances and branding of Ghana.
The Sports Minister Hon Elvis Afriyie Ankrah who was not part of the delegation will be presented with a comprehensive report and recommendations on Thursday after which he will consult key stakeholders to conclude Ghana's 2014 World Cup mission including plans for a mega village which will brand all aspects of Ghana.
Hon Afriyie Ankrah has been tasked by President Mahama to ensure that past mistakes at World Cup and Afcon tournaments that led to scores of supporters and journalists been stranded at airports for example is not repeated.
Additionally, the ''due diligence'' has become necessary owing to vastly conflicting information and price quotations presented by some Ghanaian travel and tours service providers.
The Natal Mayor's office indicated that a new chapter in Ghana/Brazil ties would be opened especially considering that Brazil 2014 promises to be significantly different from South Africa 2010. The selected city Natal, does not have an official Ghanaian community at present but that was one of the key issues proposed by the Ghanaian team at the historic meeting.
The Mayor who was highly impressed by the presentation of Ghana said; ''The World Cup is not only about football but many possibilities including exchange programmes in education, commerce, science and culture. Besides, it is now becoming popular to find Brazilians learning to speak English so that they accommodate their brothers and sisters from Africa''
When Natal's mayor, was elected last October, the decision to spend $180 million on the spectacular new stadium had been taken and construction was well underway. If given the choice, he says he would also invest in schools, hospitals and transport for his city's 800,000 inhabitants.
In welcoming the Ghanaian team, the Minister in charge of Tourism in Natal also assured a great fanfare and carnival for all visitors. The meeting which was also attended by Natal's Sports and Recreation Minister and Internal Affairs Secretary discussed the possibility of a twin city cooperation between the West African state and the World Cup hosts.
The delegation, led by renowned Educationist Mr. Horace Ankrah who is Chairman for Brazil 2014 Events/Logistics/Grounds/Welfare Committee was made up of a Security and Intelligence expert from National Security Mr Charles Domi, and Mr Larry Acheampong who is a Social Integration Consultant and statistician.
Other members were Mr. Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah who is a Media and Communications Consultant, Mr Agbesi Nutsu Social Affairs Expert on the Protocol, Welfare and Logistics team as well as highly sought after Events expert Mr Fred Darko, the Project Coordinator for the Brazil 2014 Project.
The team were also joined by officials from GNPC (Headline Sponsor of the Black Stars) and Zenith Bank (Sponsors of Ghana Brazil 2014 project) who were in Natal to conduct feasibility, partnership and business possibilities with community and Natal City I interests.
In another development, Youth and Sports Minister Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah has assured Ghanaians that the budget for Ghana’s 2014 World Cup campaign will be made public when the green light is approved by the Presidency.
It is no secret that the previous Black Stars budgets have been a subject of sometimes heated public debate. The sector Minister has insisted that his Ministry and the GFA will continue to be transparent with all World Cup related issues of national concern.
Football analysts expect the budget to be in the region of US$21-23 million in view of the fact that in 2010, Ghana had a budget of US$19 million approved for the World Cup in South Africa.
The Black Stars will be the guests of Montenegro on March 5th before moving to play Holland in an international friendly on 31 May.
Another game has been lined up by the GFA in Washington against Costa Rica after which the team will fly out to Natal in Brazil.