On September 1, 2020, Ghana Football Association (GFA) President, Kurt Okraku was worried. It wasn’t because of an imminent Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) verdict which some said would see him out of office. That was not to be. An anxious Kurt, in his address to Congress that fateful day, disapproved the utterances of some FA members, which he said, were tarnishing our football’s image.
Kurt’s worry was how unsavory commentaries by football people had been making the of selling the product Ghana football to the corporate world, difficult. “Despite the hard work done by the GFA, a few of us do not think about this family; there are a few of us, who perhaps only think about their personal interest; there are still a few of us who do not think about the total good of our football,” he said.
“There are a few of us who continuously go out of this family and go out to the public space to malign your product, my product, your business. We must reject these people,” Kurt stated. His advice, to some observers, was akin to gagging those with dissenting views. No, it wasn’t. He was being blunt because the conduct of football people, whether good or bad, impacts on the game’s collective image. If it’s bad, the consequence is dire and if it’s good, the results are positive.
Almost a year after Kurt’s emotionally charged Congress speech, we’ve been spared of too much ill-talk. Sadly, it’s now violence, which is threatening to destroy the product. The media have been accused of denigrating the product we seek adverts for, to run match commentaries. Recently, when Asempa FM organised a branding and marketing workshop, the GFA President, who was in attendance, said, until that event, he thought Asempa FM wasn’t for Ghana football. Asempa FM has rejected that notion.
Analysing Kurt’s passionate speech at the September 2020 Congress vis-à-vis the rising cases of violence, the lingering question is: Who’s spoiling the product Ghana football? Is it fans who invade pitches to attack referees and are left off the hook by the Police? Is it club officials who threaten to kill referees and further assault them only to get away with soft GFA sanctions and worse of all Police inaction? Is it club officials who plead with Police to free arrested hooligans who are their fans? Or, is it just the media, which report ugly incidents in our game and run commentaries on them?
Is it also the Police, who don’t arrest, prosecute and get hooligans jailed to deter others? Or, is it simply the GFA, which is seemingly helpless in the hooliganism fight, so much that, it hasn’t for instance condemned attacks on a referee and the bloody fight between coaches and players almost 72hours after those inexcusable incidents? Lawless fans and club officials are guilty of tarnishing the image of the product Ghana football.
The GFA and the Police stand accused. It’s not enough to impose fines, ban venues and suspend rogues parading as football people. Present those rouges cited for assault to the Police. The police shouldn’t just stop fans from attacking referees. They should arrest them. As long we aren’t ready to take the line of putting hooligans right before the law, a crucial part of the fight against football violence will be lost and it’s the product Ghana football that will suffer.