We have ourselves to blame…For Ghanaians’ indifference towards the Black Stars

mahama-ayariga (1)The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil left a sour taste in the mouths of football followers in Ghana; not because the Black Stars failed to sustain the tempo they set in their first two appearances but as a result of the hullabaloo that characterised their participation.

Though Ghana went to Brazil as one rock-solid unit, they returned heavily divided.

Problems of player apathy, indiscipline, money, fights and disagreements over many issues ensured that the unity of the team was broken to the core, leaving Ghanaians to suffer the disappointment of being kicked out of the tournament at the very group stage.

Players showed gross indiscipline to coaches while others openly traded punches with team officials as a result of money.

Ghana’s insipid performance thus resulted in the formation of the Justice Dzamefe Commission which is expected to submit its report after the ongoing AFCON 2015 soccer fiesta in Equatorial Guinea.

Fortunately, the terms of reference of the Commission gave it the power to delve into problems that the over 35 sports associations in the country face.

During that period, a scene like ‘the whole world against football’ was created as every official attributed the cause of their problems to the over concentration on football to the detriment of the others.

That came on the backdrop of the Black Stars players taking home whopping sums of $100, 000 (US dollars) each as appearance fees.

What made it unacceptable to the other associations was the fact that when payment of that money was delayed by FIFA, the state was able to advance money to cater for that expenditure at the same time activities and programmes of the associations stifled because they could not raise a quarter of it. Sadly, it appears lessons have not been learnt.

It was the expectation of many that as a result of the genuine concerns raised by the associations, the approach to sports administration would change a little but if Ghanaians are still in the dark as to what budget and package was prepared for the Stars for AFCON 2015 and meagre bonuses of other athletes remain unpaid but cash to pay losing bonuses are ready, then it means we have a long way to go as a nation.

I have always maintained the firm stance that the move from the payment of winning bonus to qualification would continue to generate controversy as long as we wear different lenses to look at it.

It has been over four months now since Ghana participated in the last Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow and bonuses promised athletes that win medals are yet to be fulfilled.

Razak Abugri and Abdul Wahid Omar won bronze at the Glasgow Games but the meagre $3000 dollar rewards have not been paid with the excuse that the money has not been released.

As if that was not enough, Team Athletics won 12 individual medals at the African Athletics Championship but nothing was paid as rewards.

Martha Bissah won Ghana her first Olympic Gold medal and was even made to present the medal to the first man of the land but up till today, nothing in terms of a financial reward has been advanced to her. The list continues.

All enquiries had led to the same response – no money or Ministry of Finance is yet to release the cash.

If I happen to be one of them, the question I would ask is whether it is worth sacrificing for the nation.

Interestingly, at the same time these athletes are crying for their cash, money is available to pay 30,000 dollars as qualification bonus to the Stars without a guarantee that they will win the trophy.

Before the introduction of the controversial qualification bonus, the system is place ensures that players earn bonuses when they win a match; forfeit it when they lose — but what happens in case of draws are always shrouded in secrecy. Maybe, it is a secret to a few of us.

So if Ghana is to play three matches in a group like AFCON 2015, what it meant is that the bonus on the Senegal defeat would return to government coffers.

But under the qualification bonus dispensation, each player of the team can take a total of 30,000 dollars if they win a single match and that qualifies them to the next stage.

Can this be a good deal to a state that needs money to meet the several challenges it faces?

This has created a negative impression that one can only make it through sports when it is football.

This was even demonstrated at the Maputo All Africa Games when the Black Meteors team and officials that won gold were camped in a hotel with the rest of Ghana’s contingent lodging at the Games village which was supposed to have housed everybody.

That would definitely bring an extra burden on the tax payer. What we have failed to realise is that when football brought us nothing but pain and agony, it was these least-financed sports that kept Ghana up there with the great nations.

Perhaps, these and other reasons might be the contributory factors that caused soccer fans to jubilate when the Black Stars lost their opening game against Senegal.

And much as one would wish that fans do not go that tangent, it is important that our sports authorities realise that they are to be blamed for these discrepancies that are forcing Ghana sports to take a dip.

It is time Ghana gave, if not equal, a respectable attention to the other sports disciplines so that sports is developed totally – otherwise we should make it public that Ghana is a football nation and not a sporting nation.

By Andrew Nortey

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