International Relations’ experts are of the view that the international system is anarchical such that States depend on their own resources for survival.
Resources of a country could either be human, capital or natural. While most African States have over-relied on natural resources as the sole means of survival, many, especially in the Western world have moved beyond such imagination. Capital and Human resources are currently the driving force of the economies of First World countries. Ghana has been blessed with sporting talents in the area of football, Athletics and boxing among other sports. These are areas that can make the State a globally competitive one if much attention is given in that direction. The country has over the years branded itself as a football nation courtesy her dominance in African football in the past as well as her performance in the first two World Cups it represented.
So, I ask the question, is this brand breaking walls for the image of the country both within its circles and on the international stage? From where I sit, I realistically think that, we come nowhere close. The reason for my assertion is that, the spontaneous mention of athletics brings to mind States like the USA, Kenya and Jamaica. In the same vein, as soon as football is mentioned, Brazil, the English Premier League, La Liga of Spain, Bundesliga of Germany and Italian Sierra A readily comes to mind. This is what I call branding. Branding must be spontaneous. A brand name should immediately come to mind as soon as a clue is given. I know some critics will be quick to question why most of my samples are focused on the West.
The truth is that, if we take a look at Africa as a continent, Ghana currently has no place in league and club football as the Al Ahly of Egypt, The TP Mazembe of DR. Congo and the Esperance of Tunisia are what comes to mind as soon as African football is mentioned more specifically Club or League soccer. We are as a country, gradually losing out in Africa and on the International stage. The November 4 African Soccer Club ranking gave a confirmation of what I refer to in no uncertain terms as a disgrace to Ghana Football as the first thirty (30) well-performed clubs on the continent had no mention of any Ghanaian Soccer Club.
If the 2004 African Confederations Cup could produce two Ghanaian Clubs; Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak at the finals, then simple logic would mean that, Ghanaian Clubs should be topping the radar as far as club football is concerned in Africa in this current age. Narrowing the spectrum down to how Ghana can strive on its football prowess to become globally competitive is the fact that, there are some key pointers we must consider. I believe Ghana Football as it finds itself at the normalization stage must not only be limited to the Football Administration (FA). Several sectors of the game I opine, must be tactically and critically looked at. Based on some special observations and a little research on how the EPL’s and the La Liga’s got to where they are today, here are some few points Ghana can consider and adopt as we normalize football activities in the country.
First, in my considered opinion, the country’s football laws must be revised to ensure that clubs that are promoted to and/or are already a part of the Ghana Premier League (GPL), have better pitches which would enhance the beauty of the game. Aside the many variables that I have observed, is keeping in shape the top-flight leagues in Europe, beautiful and proper nature of pitches coupled with the smoothness and proper maintenance structures I believe, have really boosted and contributed to the popularity base such leagues have chalked over the years. For more than sixty years that this country had had itself in the international football business, the country lacks at least one ultra-modern stadium endowed with beautiful, smooth and levelled surface.
I was lucky to catch a glimpse of the qualifier between Cape Verde and Tanzania in the just ended international break and I was marveled seeing the beautiful sports facility the Tanzanians were welcomed onto. It means some African countries are learning. While we backlash the Black Stars for failing to qualify for the 2018 World cup finals, let us take a second to question the nature of the Tamale Sports Stadium when the Stars met the Cranes of Uganda in our very first qualifier. Maybe we should consider watching the replay. Controlling the ball was terribly difficult for the players who currently are having their profession outside the country.
The deplorable nature of the pitch in my view was also a major contributing cause of the goalless draw the Stars pulled against the Cranes on the 7th of October 2016. How sad it is to sit behind the screens watching the Ghana Premier League (GPL). Though the quality of the camera used is another canker, the state of most of the centers are nothing to write home about. Why would a fan not pay Two Ghana Cedis (GHS2) at a DSTV centre to watch an EPL match between Newcastle and Watford at the expense of say a match between Hearts of Oak and Kotoko at the stadium? Fans will be willing to stand watching a football match displayed on a proper pitch than sitting to observe abysmal performances from their teams due to the poor nature of turfs. Normalizing football in the country must begin from the development of better pitches by the State for the national teams and by the club owners for their various clubs.
Going forward, I would like to ask a question about why club owners are given the opportunity to occupy positions in the football administration (FA)? That in my view is the major contributor of corrupt sentiments in the football organogram of the country. The last time I checked, some club owners still had their noses in the affairs of the FA and even the management of the national team. The former President of the GFA, Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi is also the owner of Wa All Stars. Mr. Winfred Osei Parma known to be the owner of Tema Youth Football Club as at June 2018 also paired as the Black Stars Management Committee Chairman. The latter scenario is just like having Abramovich of Chelsea in England as the Management Chairman of the Red Lions. Is that not ridiculous and a classic case of conflict of interest? Why would the results of the last five matches of the GPL not come out so obvious as to who wins each? Why would deserving players not miss out on the chances of playing for the national team? The policy of promoting my own will always be the order of the day. If indeed we mean business in normalizing football activities in this country then I suggest that club owners must not serve in any of the positions of the FA and/or the national teams. The only organization they can be a part of should be GHALCA where they can push the concerns of their teams to the appropriate authorities for attention.
Gone were the days when supporters used to attend stadiums just because a certain Charles Taylor, Prince Tagoe, Ishmael Addo, Stephen Oduro or even Don Bortey were found on the team sheet for a particular match. The euphoria that ran through the cities of Accra, Kumasi and other suburbs when the two rivals, Kotoko and Hearts were about logging horns was incredibly amazing and beautiful. I was a child when the players mentioned above were in their prime performance in the Ghana Premier League (GPL), and those were the days I could mention the starting line-up for both teams. Today the story is way different. We have lost it. Kids do not even know the names of the players in the national team to talk of Kotoko or even Hearts. Those are the grassroot sentiments that must inform us that the football business in our country is facing some severe hemorrhage.
In my esteemed view, a particular duration must be entrenched in our football laws on how many years a player must play in the local league before parting ways with their clubs to other foreign leagues. This will bring maturity and as well drag supporters to match centers. According to Goal.com (2018), the ‘Home Grown Player Rule’ was introduced by the English FA ahead of the 2010-11 season as part of an initiative to have the Premier League nurture talents from its own shores rather than buy its way to success with foreign talents. This means there would be a much higher chance of the league producing better quality of English and other British players. The reason for such rule was to create more attention for British players and see the Premier League produce better local talents rather than outsourcing foreign players to stay competitive. This has led to increase in transfer fees for quality English players, with Rahim Sterling’s move being a classic example: The then 20-year-old winger cost £49 million from Liverpool to Manchester City, while City’s all-time top scorer Sergio Aguero cost a mere £32m. These are policies one expects our football management to be coming up with in our quest to adequately develop and attract good markets for our very own local players.
Slating a time limit on how many years players must play in the local league before moving out, must go with lucrative payment terms to the players. One cannot conclude on players staying longer when all they could receive are meagre salaries. The FA must set strict, enforceable reasonable limit on how much home clubs should get their players paid. Football today is money and so club owners who are capable of meeting some financial requirements that will be relieving to themselves, the league, the FA and the players must be allowed to run the football business even if they amount to five in number. I was sad and amazed to hear Patrick Razak of Hearts of Oak had signed a two-year contract with Horoya AC of Guinea. No disrespect to the Guinean League but I think, we must bow our heads in shame. This was arguably one of the current best players in the local league. If we can lose our best players to less ranked leagues then I think we are way low. But must that be the case for a country that has been a part of the Confederation of African football (CAF) since 1960? We must wake up.
Academy football where the youth get groomed for the future is also another important driving force in the football spectrum today. This is evidenced in the spectacular performances of countries that have intense concentration in youth or academy football. Countries such as Germany, Spain, England and France are currently on top and it is not surprising their dominance in current football is indeed something to write home about. The lack of academy football coupled with the absence of youth leagues in our football dispensation is gradually seeing a depreciation in the Ghanaian style of play. We must direct attention to the young ones.
Every club must have a youth base. The youth national teams must be groomed to effectively go through the stages of football from Under 15 to 17 and the subsequent levels that follows. It is based on this that we can stand the advanced countries. The country must build small playing centres in every region of the country where children can come on board to exhibit their talent in playing the game. You will be amazed the number of talents we are wasting away in the villages and the hinterlands.
Lastly and to conclude, we must endeavor to bounce back as a country. We should create good brands for ourselves. There must be the exerting of some force in whatever we do. Ghana is a country that likes to do things without intense prioritization. We lack that mental toughness, one of the many reasons we see ourselves as participants, not winners. It is no surprise we get to the finals of competitions and slip on winning the ultimate. It is not just football but in all circles of activities. It is normal to hear a Ghanaian get to the finals of a competition and then he/ she would lose to another national and you are likely to hear praises such as‘Wo aye adie’(to wit, you have done well). Elsewhere, you only do well if you emerge as the winner. If the politics, trade or even Agriculture cannot get us to be globally competitive, sports especially football can. In the 2013/2014 season, the English Premier League, and its clubs contributed £3.36 billion to that country’s GDP.
Across the field, the total ecosystem of the League and clubs supported employment of more than 100,000 workers and added around £2.4 billion to UK Government coffers through tax receipts (Consultancy.uk, 2015). We do not pay attention to few pointers because if we do, the kind of recognition and benefits the country chalked after her performance in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups would have given us a clue that sports can really drive our nation forward. I urge the Normalization Committee to pay attention to some of these important concerns even if its implementation will be in the long run, to enhance the football business in this country. Long live Ghana, Long live our gallant sportsmen and women.
By: Abdullah Mohammed | Ghana | [email protected] |
The Sports Diplomat – 0549178682