Ghana football first!

This is a personal opinion as I contemplate my sadness and frustration at the current state of football in Ghana, as well as my hope for a brighter future. I certainly don’t have all the answers and humbly accept I still have so much to learn about the people and culture here. That said, I’d like to share an observation that might be of service to those who truly love and believe in Ghana football. At least that is my intent in presenting these issues. Here goes… WAKE UP! The patient is on life support and it is time to act decisively before it is too late. We MUST stop strip-mining and selling at a discount the precious national asset that is Ghana football. To wit, why is every professional player desperate to go “outside” long before they are ready, even if that means plying their trade in places where they are miserable? Why do ALL the young people support foreign clubs and ignore their “home” teams? Why do we play matches at 3pm on weekdays when most people are working and/or studying? Why don’t the majority of our facilities properly showcase the beautiful game and provide a safe and professional environment for our players/supporters? Why weren’t the Black Stars in Russia? Why is developing players for export the only semi-sustainable business model for local clubs? Why do we fare poorly in CAF competitions against nations/clubs/leagues we should be beating handily? I could go on and on but the key point here is that the issue goes far beyond the current corruption scandal, which is but a mere symptom of the much larger disease: we don’t properly support our own while we invest our precious resources on foreign brands in faraway lands. The question we need to seriously ask ourselves is when are we going to start putting GHANA FOOTBALL FIRST? Or, are we simply content with the status quo of exporting one of the nation’s most valuable economic and social assets for the benefit of others? This is a choice people, and don’t ever lose sight of the fact that we have the power to choose. So, what do we want? Foreign or domestic? Theirs or ours? To be clear, this is not anti-foreign football (that would be ironic coming from me, wouldn’t it?) because we need foreign investment in our game. What it is, is strongly PRO-GHANA. Just imagine for a moment how compelling Ghana club football would be if a fraction of the 400+ Ghanaian pros spread across the globe stayed home to showcase their immense talents here. Just imagine. I am not naïve to the fact that we all love watching the best in the world, however, it CANNOT come at the expense of our own football. Supporting and taking pride in our local clubs and players is NOT mutually exclusive to watching the great leagues and players elsewhere. And yes, for the foreseeable future we will be a “selling league” as are most leagues and clubs around the world. There is no shame in that as long as we sell at the right time, get fair value in return, and reinvest the proceeds back in to the further development of football in Ghana. There are no easy or quick fixes to the problems that ail. The answers are many and they are hard, but it is said that “charity begins at home.” Well, isn’t it about time we prioritize the health and welfare of the game here and lift ourselves up instead of knocking each other down? Once and for all, let’s choose GHANA FOOTBALL FIRST and start protecting, nourishing, growing and truly celebrating what is ours. Now here’s the good news and my sincere hope for the future. IF we can show the “red card” to things holding us back like party politics, self-interest and corruption, I truly believe the ingredients exist to build a global football superpower. Yes, superpower, because we have the one thing in the sport that absolutely cannot be faked…an abundance of playing talent. Add in political stability, a growing economy, great weather, passionate supporters, etc., and the only thing that can stop us, frankly, is us. Let’s cease being our own worst enemy and instead bond together around a shared and noble purpose: Ghana football. So, here is my plea and call to action. Let’s all link arms and start a grassroots movement among the true believers in the game at every level to invest locally and put GHANA FOOTBALL FIRST. When we do, I think we will be very proud of the results while the world looks on with envy. Who is with me?

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By Mark Noonan The writer is the Chief Executive Officer of Accra Hearts of Oak]]>