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Football’s fairytale! …When will it end?

Going for international tournaments and coming back with stories instead of laurels/medals has become a permanent feature in the administration of sports in Ghana.

And peeping from my small window, the way things are being done, one can confidently make a prediction that the menace will be with us for a long time.

Maybe until thy kingdom come!

Historically, the script has been the same every eventful year. Perhaps, what has changed this time with the AFCON 2019 in Egypt is the change in the characters.

Be it FIFA male senior World Cup or AFCON, the Black Stars’ participation has often been clouded by controversies about money, that is, either what was paid was not enough or more than enough.

Sometimes, the mere timing of payment could become a major controversy that will occupy major media spaces for a while, leading to an eventual formation of Presidential or Ministerial Commissions or Committees of Enquiry.

A few issues came out from Ghana’s maiden World Cup participation in Germany which largely bordered on player indiscipline. Money was really not a major factor.

A mix of the two came up four years later in South Africa but were overshadowed by the Black Stars scintillating performance that nearly landed them in Africa’s all time best – a semi final berth at a senior FIFA World Cup.

Ghana needed Asamoah Gyan’s penalty miss heartbreak to exit at the quarter final.

Following-four years later-was the mother of all controversies – Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, depicting the usual scripts of Black Stars fairytales.

In that splendid story line, which ‘Kumawood’ struggled to produce a blockbuster movie despite having a brilliant cast of all the major players, the Black Stars, for that matter Ghana earned international reviews for the way players and officials misconducted  themselves at the showpiece.

First, it was the manner Ministries of Finance and Youth and Sports delayed in raising money for the team, leading to transporting huge amount of dollars to Brazil to pay whopping appearance fees to players for no-show.

The players also grabbed the headlines with the negative response to the delay in payment of the appearance fees, culminating in fierce clashes between players and officials with players Kevin Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien being shown the exit.

Back home, the Senyo Dzamefe Presidential Commission of Enquiry was put in place by former President John Dramani Mahama with the aim of identifying the challenges associated with preparation and participation in such events, and find ways to avoid them in subsequent events.

Similar issues have also been recorded in All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games participation, which also led to the formation of the Maputo Ministerial Committee.

With this background, one expects that state agencies responsible for sports, Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) and National Sports Authority (NSA) will be guided by these precedents and get their acts right this time, regarding Ghana’s participation in the recently held Egypt AFCON.

From my point of view, the controversy over expenditure at the AFCON could have been avoided if MoYS had been open and transparent about its dealings on the matter.

In the AFCON 2019 script which has set every tongue wagging, the only difference is the Youth and Sports Minister, Mr Isaac Asiamah playing the role of a lead actor; being held responsible for what is believed to be a clear case of misuse of the public purse.

His appearance in Parliament was expected to calm nerves about the expenditure at the event, but how $4.5m was expended on the playing body, technical team, Members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Youth Sports and Culture, Ghana League Clubs Association and Old Footballers Association members, staff of FA and MoYS, supporters and journalists have rather left a soar taste in our mouth.

Giving a breakdown of the figure, Mr Asiamah explained that $924,168.00 was spent on airfare; $187,050.00 on players per diem, $129,600.00 on per diem for technical staff; $90,750.00 on per diem for additional technical staff; $965,405.00 on players winning bonuses; $347,027.00 on winning bonus for technical team and $177,000.00 as winning bonus for additional technical staff.

The rest are $1,143,519.00 on accommodation; $419,300.00 for feeding; $41,750.00 on match tickets, $44,574.00 on medicals; $8,541.00 on visa fees; 44,092.00 on internal transportation and $42,576.00 on incidentals, all totaling $4,564,352.00.

He went ahead to assure Parliament that a detailed tournament report will be provided by the Normalisation Committee by July 26, 2019, after which major recommendations and decisions with regard to the re-organisation of Ghana football will be taken.

But the July 26 deadline has passed and there is no mention of any report available and what difference will that report make in the manner football is organised in Ghana when presidential and ministerial commissions have taught us no lesson and made no impact?

Will it put soccer fans at ease as to how players that played four matches and won one were paid $42,000 or explained how appearance fees were reportedly pegged at $80,000 instead of the $20,000 claimed by Kwabena Owusu?

Failure to provide answers to some of these worrying concerns will make it a document of little or no use and that will come as no surprise when clear recommendations in some of the previous reports are violated with impunity.

Like the popular saying goes, the devil is in the detail, so as promised by the Minister; Ghanaians must wait patiently for the arrival of the Normalisation Committee document that is expected to introduce a new roadmap for Ghana football.

If they fail to produce a workable document, then it becomes very clear Ghana as a country has a genuine problem associated with its football and either lacks the men and women with competence to solve it or officialdom knows this problem and want to solve it their own way.

BY ANDREW NORTEY

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