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The unrecorded battles of Ghana 2008

Fri, 15 Feb 2008 Source: GNA

By Richard Avornyotse - GNA Sports Desk

Accra, Feb 15, GNA - While the battles raged on, on the pitches between the 16 competing countries, there were other battles being fought unannounced.

There were battles among reporters for strategic positions to cover the matches, there were encounters between photo journalists for places to get better shots, clashes at the various selling points among spectators for tickets and duels among retailers for the sale of souvenirs and teams' paraphernalia.

Hours to the start of the competition, there was a big battle for accreditation, fought between local and international journalists and officials of the Local Organising Committee, (LOC) charged with overseeing the issuance of authorization to cover the championship. The battles on the fields got all the attention and some encounters between the police and miscreants dodged the eyes of journalists who covered the event.

Francisca Weyhmeuller, a German photographer who was robbed of her camera, a mobile phone, some money in euros and some documents on the opening day at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium received no attention from her colleagues in the media and the police. May be, they were too eager to watch the opening ceremony. The young German girl lost in battle to a criminal.

She was just one of the losers of the various battles, which took place during Ghana 2008.

A major battle which raged on for the entire duration of the tournament was between the big companies which sponsored the championship.

MTN were the title sponsors and deservedly got a lot of attention as they were mentioned copiously in write ups and had their logo shown often on television screens world wide. They also branded the centre-circle of all the pitches before matches and during half time. There were, however other corporate challengers who craved for equal attention despite the disparity in the value of their financial commitment to the tournament.

Companies such as Stanbic Bank, IGI, Guinness, UNICEF, DHL and Samsung took prominent positions at the stadiums with their pitch panels, getting worldwide television coverage anytime play went close to the metal plates.

Canon, Western Union, Universal Motors and Doritos were other corporate bodies, which had pitch panels mounted in their names. Pepsi was also prominent at the stadiums.

Despite the huge advantages these companies enjoyed, most of them sought to 'steal the show' at the various stadiums, to undo each other and get better noticed than others. It was a corporate war to get further mileage to enhance business.

It was a corporate war, which was fought, albeit, with an excellent armoury of civility and fanfare to up interest in the tournament with social and recreational spices.

The corporate war raised the cadence of spectatorship but also took its toll on the tournament.

While companies supported cheer groups and facilitated their entry to match venues by providing them with free tickets, which they had acquired from the LOC, such deeds opened avenues for people to hoard and engage in illegal sale of tickets.

The money of the companies supported CAF and the LOC to stage the competition so they deserved to get ticket allocations for their clientele as a business promotional strategy.

Well devised strategies, but mind you, some of the tickets went on sale at New Town, Bubuashie, Abossy Okine, Osu and Circle, well above their stipulated prices. No wonder tickets were in short supply. Some smart Alec made megabucks. Maybe some of the tickets for the illicit trade came from other sources too - the selling points and the LOC itself.

The sponsoring companies also clothed their invited guests in their corporate colours and armed them with the necessary equipment to make them real soccer fans, ready to participate in the cheers and fanfare associated with the game.

Companies came up with designer clappers, cheer sticks, horns, spectator bags, caps, drinking cups and mugs, umbrellas, polo and T shirts of all sizes with the company identification logos on them. Some splashed their banners at advantageous places to catch attention, while others made bearers carry placards announcing their presence.

Ushers and volunteers too, decked up in shirts designed in company colours and trade marks to tell their own promotional stories. A familiar feature of the corporate war was the manner in which they sought to satisfy their guests. Most of the companies served lunch to their guests before matches and bused them to the stadiums to form a mass and draw more attention.

While there was no score board for the gladiators in the corporate war to announce the winners, some of the companies made big gains that would enhance their corporate profile and boost their businesses, regardless of the baser quality of service they provide. Ghana 2008 has rejuvenated the identity of companies, which staked their money in it and chances are that most of them would reap the benefits of their support.

There was yet another battle fought among the new craze of soccer fans, the supporters groups.

The line up included Ghana National Supporters Union (GHANSU) Nationwide Supporters Union (NSU) Supporters Union of Ghana (SUGHA) Women's Supporters Union of Ghana (WOSPAG) and the Students Supporters Union of Ghana (SSUG)

There were fierce battles between these groups to get attention and support from sponsors, translating into uniforms and free tickets for matches.

They had their own constituencies of support and made sure that rival groups were kept away from their domain. The allocation of tickets sparked off fierce battles as those who had more became targets of abuse and vilification by the others. As they all desired to cheer the Black Stars into the mood to play beyond their limits, one wondered why they did not amalgamate under one umbrella to prosecute their agenda. Maybe some individuals are benefiting and must retain their positions in the various groups. Some even violated the rules of merchandising by aligning themselves with competitors of companies which had invested heavily in the tournament.

This was one hell of a war that was fought in different battles on many fronts, sometimes with crude weapons, just to hammer the opposition into nothingness.

Now there is a cease fire and the survival of the different groups will depend on the ingenuity of their leaders. In most battles, there are winners and losers. Maybe with time the winners and losers of the unrecorded battles of Ghana 2008 will emerge.

Source: GNA
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