BY NANA BRAM OKAI II
IT SEEMS members of the erstwhile Ghana Football Association (GFA) are deaf and dumb; they see nothing and they hear nothing; they only listen to their egos. But our elders say that if a child fails to listen to advice he gets his fingers burnt in the fire and this is exactly what has happened to them.
I wrote somewhere in November, 2015, in this same column, titled, ‘Ghana Premier League in Limbo,’ advising them to be wary of the dangers ahead and do the right things. Football in Ghana at all levels had taken a nose-dive and I was warning them to change for the better. None of them, particularly, the former President took any heed but proceeded as before. I bring you excerpts of what I wrote then in 2015:-
“What we see rather happening at the moment is people paying cash to see live matches involving teams in Europe playing their respective leagues at the expense of Ghana soccer. And football lovers in Ghana are happy to do that unashamedly; they do that with glee.
“And interestingly, even children know the names and faces of most of the players plying their trade in the English Premier League; the Italian Serie A; the Spanish La Liga; the Portuguese Primira Liga; the German Boundesliga; the French Ligue 1; etc, etc but they cannot mention a single Ghanaian local star worthy of note. It’s gone that bad, you know.”
Kotoko and Hearts
“Kotoko, which used to be a force to reckon with both in Ghana and in Africa, is a pale shadow of itself and could not even stand the wrath of Kpando Heart of Lions recently. This was not the case hitherto. Also, Accra Hearts of Oak, which under the late Coach Attuquayfio went into Africa and made conquests, can no longer smash Tunisia’s Esperance on their way and suffered a 5-1 defeat recently on home-and-away basis.
“It’s not surprising therefore that our stadiums are always empty when our local teams are playing. Very few Ghanaians watch local matches these days. The observation has been that fans go to stadiums to watch their darling players play and so they will not go if they have no darling players to go and watch, hence the empty seats at the stadiums. What has happened to our local league?
State of affairs
“Somebody or some group of people must be responsible for this lackadaisical state of affairs in Ghana football. And if you ask me, I will put the blame firmly on the doorsteps of the GFA under the current leadership. It wasn’t like this in the past.
“The GFA is responsible for organizing football at all levels in this country, from the Colts level all the way up to the Black Stars. They don’t have to be physically present in all cases but they have to put structures in place so that things work out well.
“This is not the case, however. The GFA is only interested in the senior team, the Black Stars and funds accruing therefrom and so very little attention is paid to the junior teams, particularly, the Colts who are supposed to be the future stars. It’s for this reason that for many Ghanaians football means the Black Stars and the Black Stars mean Ghana football. Too bad!”
“But someone tells me that if we are to make any headway in football development and progression in this country, we have to catch them young at 13 or 14 and groom them to fill the senior teams. This way, there will be continuity and we are very likely to see a huge change in the way football is organized and played in this country.
“Frankly, I have not been personally happy about the way GFA organizes the game of football in this country and I mince no words in saying it. Everybody knows that no GFA President has been in office longer than the current President.”
Nothing significant happened after I had written this article and the rot kept on persisting. I made up my mind not to write on football and football administrators again but I couldn’t hold back. You can’t sit aloof when something nasty is taking place in your neighbourhood. So, I wrote again somewhere in June, 2017, in this column titled, ‘GFA now wants to hire paid officials to do the job,’ and I bring you excerpts of that write-up as well:-
“Frankly speaking, the GFA, under its current dispensation, is a huge albatross on the neck of most Ghanaians and the earlier they leave the scene the better it will be for themselves and Ghana soccer as a whole.
“Interest in Ghanaian football has so gone down the drain that most Ghanaians cannot mention the names of the players of Accra Hearts of Oak; nor of Kotoko; nor of Ashgold and several other teams that recently came onto the scene.
“Instead, mention Chelsea and a six year old Ghanaian boy can tell you the names of all the players and even the wives of those of them who are married. They can do the same for Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and all the European teams in the various leagues.
Vote with feet
“Why is this so? The answer is obvious. Ghanaians have voted with their feet when it comes to football in this country. At least, that is the position now; it may change in the near future but for now this is what we have on our hands.
“Ghanaians no longer go to our national football stadia to watch our local players in action but elect to go to pay to watch European teams playing and place a bet too on them. What can be more appetizing than this to them?
“And this is because our league is not well planned and implemented. Unlike other leagues which go the full haul till end of May or thereabouts, our league doesn’t start and end according to the scheduled programme.
“Our league suffers from intermittent suspensions, intermittent truncations, unnecessary litigations and what have you. So, before the league comes to an end real interest in the Ghanaian game has died off.”
“The 2016/2017 league in Ghana came to a close in October 2017 when others had completed theirs long before in May and have started the 2017/2018 league in earnest. But, in our case, the 2017/2018 league will start in January 2018. Obviously, we are sleeping on the job. And you don’t want anybody to say something about this? How?
“You can’t execute football administration this way and expect good results. Yet, there are examples throughout the world to follow. Why are we not following the good things in the world concerning football?
“By agreeing to employ experts to run Ghana football, the GFA is tacitly admitting that it has come to the end of the road and they need help from those who can run the show better. I have my doubts however, about this proposition.”
To tell you the truth I’m not surprised about what was captured by Anas on the tape screened recently. It shows you scenes of men and women who have come to the end of the road in their job and are therefore desirous of hanging on through any means, fair or foul. They should have gone long ago but for inordinate personal ambition.
But don’t go yet, I have excerpts from my third article written around June 6, 2016 titled, ‘Football League in Disarray’ for you and here we go:-
“Once again, the news coming from football circles is not so pleasant. The premier league in Ghana has been slapped with injunction, thereby putting the start of the 2017/2018 league in complete disarray.”
“To start with, one wonders why a league, like all other leagues elsewhere in the world, that should have started around September, 2017 and end in the middle of June, 2018, should be so ill-planned that it was scheduled to start in January, 2018. At what point in time then would this league end for the 2018/2019 programme to commence? Your guess is as good as mine. There is complete mess as far as football administration in Ghana is concerned.
“We were all expecting the league to start in January, 2018; at least that was what they told us and we took it coolly, in good faith. Come January, 2018 and we heard nothing from the corridors of football administrators of Ghana. Then came the bombshell on February, 05, 2018 and it was that an injunction had been slapped on the GPL by an aggrieved party for which reason the league can’t start for now. Blimey!”
Fans and analysts
“Frankly speaking, to several football fans and scores of football analysts in Ghana, this is no news at all. Several people have given up on Ghana football so much so that, news of this nature is no news to them at all. They are not surprised.
“And it’s because the administrators of football in this country have run out of ideas and are not up to scratch any longer; yet they won’t leave the scene.”
“The current President has been in office for years but within this period, colts football has witnessed a deep nose-dive and nobody will dispute this. Women’s soccer is half-heartedly supported as their coaches sometimes go without their salaries for months. The Black Stars too, the darling team of the current leadership of GFA has also not won any cup within this period although they have come close on several occasions. What does this tell us?”
“This tells us that there must be change in the leadership of the GFA so others can also try their skills on the job since wisdom doesn’t reside in the heads of only one person or one group of people. Maybe if we have a change, the new chaps will succeed where others have not succeeded or even they may be lucky to win a cup where others have not been so lucky to win a trophy. There certainly must be a change at the GFA set-up.”
“You may recall that the current leadership of the GFA first came into office in 2005, a year before the World Cup in Germany and they were to hold office for four years. In 2009, instead of holding an election to renew their mandate or to be kicked out, something dramatic happened and they stayed on and on.”
I did what I should do as a patriotic citizen of this country and they wouldn’t listen. So, I shed no tears for any of them caught in the web.