Sports Xtra

Column: Is redemption imminent for Ghana football?

Written by Fiifi Anaman


By Gideon BAIDEN

When Emmanuel Agyemang Badu converted Ghana’s winning spot kick in the 2009 U-20 World Cup final against Brazil, “hell broke loose” in Ghana.

There was joy unspeakable. Multitudes of Ghanaians lined the principal streets in the country to celebrate the historic victory. To journalists and football enthusiasts, that World Cup victory was not a one-off, but tangible proof that Ghana’s football had come of age and the West African giant was ready to be a world-beater.

A year later, the Black Stars made it to the quarter final of the World Cup and, bar Luis Suarez’s hand-ball and the consequent penalty miss from Asamoah Gyan (a memory Ghanaians wish they could abolish from their hippocampus) the narrative would have been different. The handwriting on the football wall was crystal clear; Ghana was building (or seemed to be building) something spectacular.

Four years later, the Black Stars qualified for the World Cup (for the third consecutive time). Expectations were enormous, and reasonably so! This time, we were poised for at least a semi-final exit.

But alas: The Black Stars’ output in the 2014 world cup, contrary to expectations was nothing to write home about.

The campaign in Brazil gained infamy for its concentration of controversy: alleged arrogance, conspiracies against co-players and love for money were the “laurels” our national team players brought back home. It was a debacle.

After the 2014 World Cup, the team, its spark stolen by the well-documented disgrace, underwent a steady decline, one that culminated in failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Like the cruel kick whilst on the ground, the Anas Aremeyaw Anas exposé on football corruption followed on the heels of the Russia 2018 fiasco. The investigation, dubbed “Number 12: When Greed and misconduct become the norm”, swept through the nation and beyond like a wildfire in the bush during the dry season.

The government of Ghana and FIFA moved to and fro like a simple pendulum which had gained momentum in order to arrive at the best way to restore Ghana’s football to normalcy. FIFA emerged victorious in the “tussle” with Ghana’s government and a Normalization Committee (NC), comprising of Dr. Kofi Amoah, Lucy Quist, Lawyer Duah Adonten and Naa Adofoley Nortey was put in place to run Ghana’s football.

In the middle of September, the NC was unveiled and began its work. When the NC staged its maiden press conference, Lawyer Duah Adonten – in an incident that later became a cause célèbre in the Ghanaian sporting press and beyond - arrived an hour late. He was accosted by veteran journalist Ekow Asmah, and a rather ugly altercation ensued that marred proceedings. Though apologies were later rendered, the mannerisms and general body language of the other NC members during that confrontation left a lot to be desired – Lucy Quist and Naa Nortey were guilty of cheekily answering questions posed to them by journalists, while President Dr. Kofi Amoah condescendingly ordered for the microphone to be snatched away from Asmah, while the latter was question the lateness of Lawyer Adonten.

Months later, the NC announced a Special Championship comprising of all sixteen Premier League clubs and forty eight Division One League clubs to commence on the 26th of January, 2019. This announcement had been long overdue and was indeed received with gladness – the majority of the Ghanaian football fandom had vehemently clamoured for the return of football as the months post-Number 12 continued to elapse in inactivity.

However, it seems, the lack of transparency and accountability which characterized the erstwhile Nyantakyi administration has reared its ugly head again, this time in the dealings of the NC and the clubs.

At a meeting to brief the clubs on the tournament, the NC failed (or maybe didn’t want to) tell the clubs the entire amount which was to go into the new venture.

It was later reported that the government had coughed up $800,000 for the tournament.

Reports gathered also indicated that Oduro Sarfo, the leader of the representatives of the various clubs, was unhappy about the NC’s communication about the proposed competition. And indeed, but for the intervention of Togbe Afede, Oduro Sarfo and Dr. Kofi Amoah could have engaged in a fight.

The bottom line is that the collapse of Ghana’s football was caused by the insatiable love for money and a total disregard for proven tenets of leadership such as transparency and accountability (you can add to the list).

We are not asking for the heavens if we ask that the NC be more transparent and show a little bit of humility in their dealings with the media and other stakeholders in Ghana’s football, are we?

We are hungry to be served our local football meals but we want the meals served on clean plates with clean cutlery, and on a dining table. The NC as our chef must not see this request as burdensome.

A crucial element within the mandate of the NC is to enforce a review of the GFA’s statutes so as to ensure compliance with the requirements of FIFA and CAF; how far along are they on this? And what about the conduction of elections to usher in new leadership too?

If after all the happenings in Ghana’s football, we haven’t learnt the lessons which caused the crumble of our football cookie in the first place, then we must sit tight, because our footballing redemption isn’t as imminent as we thought with the NC struggling to deal with the media and the clubs.