By Alex Osei-Boateng
ACCRA, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Ghana said on Friday it had stepped up preparations for the upcoming West Africa Football Union (WAFU) tournament in September.
The two-week soccer fiesta, which will run from September 9-24 in Cape Coast and Sekondi, features 16 teams in the West Africa sub-region.
The launch and draw for the tournament, which started in 1974, was held in Accra Thursday night.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Isaac Kwame Asiamah, said his outfit was making frantic efforts to lick the two venues into shape before the beginning of the championship.
"The tournament has received the blessings of this government and we are proud to be part of it," he said.
The president of the Ghana Football Association, Kwesi Nyantakyi, called for support from Ghanaians and the corporate world to make the tournament, which is reserved for only home-based players, a success.
The WAFU championship has over the years promoted and created competitive opportunities for players from the sub-region to hone their skills and foster regional integration.
The past successes of the game have proven that football and the WAFU Cup have grown new territories by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to compete and share ideas.
The tournament serves as a platform to promote unity, friendliness and development of football among our member-countries.
Organizers have divided the sub-region into two zones, with Zone A consisting of host nation Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
Zone B involves Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Liberia, Niger, Senegal and Cape Verde.
The first round of the tournament will see all 16 teams battle it out in a knock-out phase, with the eight qualifying teams advancing to the group stages.
The winner of this year's edition will take 100,000 U.S. dollars in prize money.