Learning From Our Mistakes
THE just ended Zenith Bank 4 nation tournament has awakened a lot of “sleeping Ghanaians” who saw our team as the best in Africa (currently). Even though we won the tournament, I believe there were some things that really left a sour taste in the mouth. First of all, the indiscipline that was exhibited by our players was very embarrassing for me as a Ghanaian. Our players are professionals and should know better when it comes to how to interact with match officials.
Did you see what Michael Essien did after that “silly” challenge on the Beninois player? I don't know why he was allowed to continue the match by the referee because clearly, he should have been given a red card. Aside of that, he went further to one of the assistant referees and what he said to him is between the two of them and God. Well, Essien was not the only one. Laryea Kingston and Stephen Appiah (surprisingly) were also guilty of the same offence.
If our players think that the mere fact that we are hosting the Cup of Nations means they will be getting favours from referees, then they're mistaken. The incident that angered Essien was not even a foul. We all need to be straight with ourselves. Did anyone get the chance to see Essien elbowing Derby County's Kenny Miller that has got him suspended for 3 matches? We will not get lenient officials like the Nigerian referee who gifted us a goal as consolation when we were 2 goals down to Benin. No one takes pleasure in bashing anybody but until some things are put right, some of us will always point out the bad things that are being done. Normally when you hear Claude LeRoy speak, the first impression you get is that he is a disciplinarian and a very principled man. With that, one would have thought that, he would have put Essien right on the spot when he lost his temper in the game or even substitute him as a form of disciplinary action for that bad behaviour. But instead, after going to the touchline to talk to the officials of the Black Stars, Essien went further to question the assistant referee with LeRoy looking on helplessly. Anyway!!.........
The Onetouch Premier League Our league starts this weekend with some very competitive pairings. This season's league, I believe will be very competitive if we do things right. A lot will depend on the FA, PLB and the clubs themselves but most especially the referees. If you take a good look at the teams who will be competing, you would understand what I mean. Just like Alhaji Grunsah puts it “This league will be sweet league”. Looking at Kotoko's massive recruitment, having the likes of Baba Armando, Kojo Poku, and Francis Akwaffo etc, I know for a fact that the management and supporters of Kotoko will accept nothing short of the league title from Coach Bashir Hayford. Hearts of Oak on the other hand did not really recruit a lot of players unlike Kotoko, but always trust the Phobians with their character and it's only the uninitiated who would write them off. AshantiGold FC will be a much improved side this season. I watched them last weekend against Div 1 campaigners Norchip FC at Obuasi and I can predict that another Champions League outing is not beyond the “Aboakesee Boys”.
Teams that I see as having what it takes to really compete with the big guns (Kotoko / Hearts / AshGold) are new entrants Kessben FC, King Faisal, Wa All Stars and Heart of Lions. For me, I see Kessben FC as the most dangerous of all looking at the kind of recruitment that have undertaken. I strongly believe they can even clinch an African Club competition berth. But with all this, one very important aspect of our league which if not put right will mar the league is officiating. Our referees should help us in this direction to make our league interesting and also to give us a worthy winner a team that can compete with the best sides on the continent. Favour from referees for some teams has always been a problem and because of this, the teams get away with victories which doesn't belong to them. Why shouldn't Tema Youth win against Kotoko or Hearts if they play better on that day? Why should any body decide to aid the so-called “big teams” to win a match? No wonder our clubs aren't doing so well in the African club competitions. The PLB on the other hand should task the Referees Association of Ghana to do a proper assessment of these referees in the various matches and sanction the match officials who perform poorly (that is not to say that they can't make mistakes). In saying this, bribery should also be clamped down from our league. Like we always say, the giver and the taker are both guilty. We normally accuse the referees of collecting bribes, but the clubs and their officials are guiltier that even the referees. They are the same people who bribe these referees and as we say, what goes around comes around. When they meet the same referees elsewhere (in away games), they get the impression that the referee (whom they have bribed before) has been bribed by the home team. Before, I end this piece, I will wish all the 16 clubs in the Premiership the best of luck and all we are hoping for is a great season devoid of any ugly incidents. My fellow colleagues in the media should also be as factual, truthful and objective as possible to help the growth of the game.