Sports Features of 2014-07-01

The Black Stars need our support not vilification

By: Kwame Twumasi-Fofie
I’m not sure there’s any country in the world which is riskier and less attractive to serve with all of one’s heart and mind than my country, Ghana. It is not likely there’s another country in the world which you earn so little for dying for but attract so much vilification and curses if you don’t succeed. There’s nothing like ‘You did your best but it wasn’t enough. We appreciate it. Better luck next time’. It’s Nothing But Envy
The day after our 1-2 loss to Portugal which ended our dreams of qualifying for the knock-out stages of Brazil 2014 wasn’t the first time I heard Ghanaians jubilate over a Ghana loss. However, I find one particular comment I heard on a GBC news of 27th June to be really sickening. In a GBC sampling of reactions of Ghanaians following that painful loss one particular guy was candid enough to say that the reason why he was happy we didn’t win any match was because otherwise the players would have received bonuses! You heard it right. If while some are praying for success others are seriously praying and fasting to ensure that we fail what do you expect? Sometimes the devil also wins, doesn’t he?
One day when the Black Stars were playing a friendly match in preparation for the 2014 World Cup I had to take a taxi home. I had barely entered the taxi when the driver who was listening to commentary of the match started telling me how glad he was that “these stupid boys” were losing and how hard he was praying that they would indeed lose. When I queried why he thought our boys were “stupid” and why he wanted them to lose he and asked if I hadn’t heard that they say they want to be paid in Dollars. I started, but it didn’t take long for me to realise how useless it was to argue with him.
There’s one particular panellist on a sports programme on a Sunyani based radio station who I’m sure would have poisoned himself if Ghana had done better than we did. Not on one occasion in his contribution to discussions about the Black Stars hasn’t he made it clear how hard he always prays that the Black Stars lose all their matches. And his reason? Simply because Kwasi Appiah, a Ghanaian, is our coach. If this is not envy then what is it? Making a Scapegoat of the Stars Of course, I don’t expect any well-meaning Ghanaian to be happy about our early exit from Brazil but who can tell me that losing 1-2 to the U.S. and Portugal and drawing 2-2 with three times world champions, Germany, is more embarrassing than not being sure there will be power to watch your country play in a World Cup? Aren’t we living in a country where if the power you’ve made advance payment for is restored you see people jubilating? Even as I write, there are people in parts of Brong-Ahafo Region who can’t watch any of the matches because transmission of our state broadcaster, GTV, is cut off in their areas. In any case, since when did we take even our qualification to play in the World Cup so much for granted that we see our inability to progress from that group of ours as a humiliation? We can shout aloud that in our two previous participations we did better but since when have we performed better on the football world stage than Spain, England or Italy? After all, was it we who lost by margins of 5-1 or 4-0? Are these countries not among those with the highest paid players in the world and being coached by the highest paid coaches?
It is interesting to hear Ghanaians accusing our players of not being patriotic because they insisted on payment of money promised them. Any such comments only expose the hypocrisy in us. Even the President of the Republic takes what is due him. Our political leaders who criss-cross the length and breadth of the country pleading, promising and bribing Ghanaians to give them the opportunity to ‘SERVE’ us are paid salaries and allowances they themselves decided. Quite the contrary, our footballers don’t draw their salaries from state coffers. With a few exceptions they retire by the age of 35 if they are lucky not to be forced into retirement earlier by injuries. And we forget about them the moment they are no longer able to play for us even if that was as a result of an injury suffered on national assignment. So why should anybody think that when the time comes for them to receive what’s due them as professionals they should forgo it and pretend that they’re the only patriotic Ghanaians?
Brazilian Pele, Michel Plattini, Franz Beckenbauer, David Beckham and many others are celebrities in their respective countries because of their service to their nation on the football field. But I live in Sunyani and I know how Kwasi Owusu, Captain of the Black Stars who won the 1978 Africa Cup, lives.
The late Emmanuel Quarshie also captained the Black Stars to our last CAN victory in 1982 but I remember that when he fell ill in Ghana it was his former Egyptian Club, Zamalek, who sent him to Egypt for treatment. Rev. Osei Kofi, a wizard of a player in his prime when Ghana was a powerhouse in African football, is always on the airwaves lamenting over government’s broken promises to him and colleagues over the years. Even after President Mahama personally came out recently to promise them compensation the amount is yet to be paid, at least as at some time last week when I heard him speak on a Sunyani based radio. So who expected our current crop of players to have faith in the authorities to deliver when promises made to their predecessors long before some of them were born have not yet been honoured? Haven’t we seen even medical doctors, in spite of all their Hippocratic Oath, Nurses, Polytechnic Teachers, and Prison Officers resorting to strike action to fight for what is due them after failed promises?
Football is no Drain on Our Economy
I fully appreciate the disappointment of well-meaning Ghanaians who were counting on the success of our Black Stars as an escape route to all the ‘challenges’ we’ve been experiencing in recent times but I completely disagree that because of their inability to succeed, the Black Stars should take the blame for all that’s not going well in Ghana. In the first place when the draw first came out not many football experts outside Ghana gave us a chance to qualify to the next stage.
The envious ones, as expected, would want us to believe that expenses incurred on the Black Stars, specifically the contentious appearance fee, is a drain on the national economy. This is erroneous because it is a fact that FIFA pays money to all football associations participating in World Cups. On top of that we also know that the FA receives various sponsorship packages from the corporate world towards our preparations. What this means is that most probably by the time the accounts are balanced after our participation the country may have made some profit instead of losses. And to those wondering why it is only African teams who always have to fight over money I think the answer is simple and obvious. It is so because it is African teams who are always being cheated by their handlers. Not only Muntari has complained. Essien, K.P. Boateng and even Kwarasey have said something about the corruption in our camp.
And it is very disappointing that just out of envy some people prefer to ignore the benefits Ghana as a country, derives from merely participating in the World Cup. I have a strong feeling that apart from Kwame Nkrumah, Kofi Annan, probably our cocoa and gold, there’s no one institution, commodity or individual that has lifted the flag of Ghana higher on the international stage than our senior football team, the Black Stars, and to a lesser extent our other youth teams.
The Case of Sulley Muntari
I have never supported indiscipline and violence so there’s no way I’m going to support whatever Sulley Muntari must have done resulting in his expulsion from camp and suspension from the national team. But typical of how we do our things, while everybody is blaming the young man I haven’t heard of any action being taken about the issues he voiced out. Sulley is reported to have queried the presence in camp of all those non-essential personnel who ‘dwarfed’ the number of players. He is also reported to have slapped Mr Armah. But if we should take his behaviour as that of an immature and undisciplined ‘boy’ what do we say to the ‘big man’ who was expected to have demonstrated maturity even in the face of provocation? Did he not say he was “a gangster more than” Sulley? Did he also not return the slap with a blow and even threatened to use a fork as ‘a weapon of Sulley’s destruction’? So why is it all about Sulley and nothing about the man he fought with? Sulley was shown the red card he deserved but what type of card was shown to Moses Armah? Still on the issue about money I want to know if 100,000 multiplied by 23 equals three million. If not, where’s the change?
And did I hear that the Minister of Sports and his Deputy have been re-assigned different ministerial appointments? In football terms that is nothing more like shuffling John Boye from defence to midfield. Do We Have to Sack Kwasi Appiah?
Calls for the sacking of Kwasi Appiah are nothing new and there’s no way they were going to stop even if Ghana had lost on penalties in the final against Brazil. Right from day one there were some Ghanaians who made it clear that what we needed was an ‘Obroni’ (not necessarily a better) Coach. The irony is that it is these same people accusing our players for not being patriotic enough for insisting on payment of their money who are calling for a Ghanaian Coach to be replaced with a ‘White Coach’ in spite of the fact that we have had some ‘White’ coaches who failed to qualify us for even the Africa Cup of Nations.
There are also those claiming that it was wrong to have impressed upon players who decided at one time or the other not to play for the country to rescind their decision. These people forget that the reason for asking them to reconsider their decision was not because we liked them so much but rather because we recognised how valuable they were to us. The case of Asamoah Gyan and Dede Ayew is a good reference point here. While everyone recognises the benefit players derive from World Cup exposure the fact still remains that at the end of the day it is their own good performance that is going to promote them.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It is quite normal that after tournaments we sit down and analyse what went wrong to enable us find solutions to them. Under normal circumstances I would have expected that the Football Association should be able to handle this on their own. However, perhaps as a demonstration of his special interest in finding out what exactly led to our poor show in Brazil we hear the President has called for the setting up of a committee to investigate the matter. Since so much has been said about the players’ insistence on payment of their appearance fee I hope that members of the President’s committee are not going to be paid any allowances as demonstration of their own patriotism and commitment to Ghana.
Finally, I expect all well-meaning Ghanaians to reject any calls for the dissolution of the team and start all over again as has usually been the case. It is this attitude that has always resulted in Ghana going to tournaments with many inexperienced players and no Ghanaian player ever being capped for up to 100 times. National teams are made up of only nationals and by all indications it doesn’t appear as if we have many players out there who are better than those we sent to Brazil. Already, very soon we are going to start our qualifying matches for CAN 2015 so we don’t have much time for experiments. We therefore have no other option than to support Kwasi Appiah and his boys to show us what we can do in our own backyard.
Kwame Twumasi-Fofie kwametwumasifofie@yahoo.com
Source: Twumasi-Fofie, Kwame
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