Yammin for Asante Region? Come On, Mr. Mahama!

Sun, 29 Jun 2014 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

- Part 1

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Garden City, New York

June 28, 2014

I never had any illusions, whatsoever, about the high likelihood of Ghana's not being able to advance beyond the group, or initial, stages of the FIFA-sponsored World Cup tournament in Brazil. And this was in no way because I did not believe that our players were either less qualified or not talented enough to compete at the very apex of the sport.

Rather, it had everything to do with the cynically political manner in which the sport is managed at home. The very decision by the now-former Deputy Sports Minister to have flown to Brazil only supporters and sympathizers of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), was a great turn-off for me. It gave me absolutely no alternative but to throw my full-heft behind Team-USA. And this was hardly a difficult decision for me to take, having been living here in the United States for some three decades, that is, a little more than I have lived in Ghana, where I was born and raised a little over a half-century ago.

Of course, I knew from the get-go that Ghana was going to advance nowhere in this tournament, based primarily on the diffident reaction of officials at the highest levels of government, including President John Dramani Mahama, when the official schedule of the FIFA-sponsored World Cup tournament was first released.

These Ghanaian officials seemed to be morbidly anguished and literally beside themselves with the most abject funks of despair. They called Ghana's category G group of four teams "The Group of Death." It was almost as if some mischievous characters at the FIFA headquarters had deliberately conspired to have the Black Stars kicked out of the tournament at the earliest possible chance and time.

And for me, this was the most embarrassing reaction to come from the most highly placed officials in the country in recent memory. It did not augur well for the chances of a team of hardworking young men who had distinguished themselves playing at the highest levels of the sport in Europe and elsewhere.

Thus, for me, the jinx had already been slapped on the pates of our boys long before even the first scrimmage-kick at a soccer ball had been volleyed. Couple the preceding with the fact that traditionally, our sports officials had placed themselves and their interests - both individual and collective - ahead of those of our players, the real work-horses, and the picture of the Black Stars' attempt at lifting the World Cup in Brasilia could not look grimmer.

Consequently, for me, it all comes as nauseatingly deja-vu to learn that, indeed, heading into the most famous soccer nation in the world, our sports officials had been fully loaded with their peripheral assignment allowances, whereas our real tournament representatives had been offered absolutely zilch, although in the lead-up to the tourney, we had all been publicly informed that our players had demanded a $75,000 appearance fee a piece and been promptly promised its fulfillment by the Mahama government.

To be certain, some members of the Ghanaian public were of the opinion that this sum was rather too high and smacked of the disturbingly unpatriotic on the part of the players whom, the critics maintained, ought to be proud to be sporting the jerseys of their country before the proverbial international community. For me, however, gauging by the GYEEDA, SADA and SUBAH culture of rank and callous corruption on the part of some key operatives of the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress government, one was hard pressed to fathom whether, indeed, patriotism had any redeeming value among these faux-revolutionaries of yesteryear.

Needless to say, any talk, these days, about probity, accountability and transparency reeks of the scandalously jaded and downright irritating. I am also quite certain that the row between our players and some of the sports officials had far, far less to do with the non-payment of their match-appearance allowances (for the overwhelming majority of these players are multi-millionaires to whom the widely reported $75,000 appearance must come as chum change, as it were). The real problem maybe aptly seen to have more to do with principled honesty and the integrity of the officials involved.


Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame