I am sure you saw the social media ‘joke’ about the ‘six killer diseases’ being whooping cough,measles,TB,Arsenal,Polio and The Black Stars! This was after our previously beloved ‘all conquering Black Stars’ were beaten so painfully against the run off play by Cameroon at the semi-final stage of the just ended AFCON in Gabon.
Indeed, just after that game, a friend sent me a frightening message that his heart was broken and he felt like going blank or passing out. I called him immediately and advised him to take hold of himself and not do anything stupid to himself! Why would one want to die because Ghana lost a soccer game?
Ghana’s Black Stars in the immediate post-independence era was Africa’s darling side which whipped countries on the continent with pretty ease. They were beating some of them by very wide margins. In the course of time, they annexed the continental trophy four times before any other country could win twice. All that ended in the 80s and even with super stars like the Abedi Pele’s and Tony Yeboah’s in the 90s, they never won any silver ware.
Fast track to 2006 and the Stars begun to shine again and did us proud at their first world cup appearance in Germany. Since that time our records show three world cup appearances, seven Afcon presence and reaching the Afcon semi-finals six times. At the global stage, but for Suarez and our inability to take the golden chance, we would have made history as the first African country to reach the seminal finals. Yet, the name Ghana became synonymous with soccer flair and success on the continent and on the globe. The PR the Black Stars has done for Ghana around the world is more than any conscious effort to invest in branding our nation.
All of the shine seem to dim now and Ghanaians are not enthused. Fact is, the Stars did not only piss off the fans on the field but by their excessive demands for higher winning bonuses and display of what some fans see as arrogance and disrespect to the Ghanaian tax payer.
Let me begin this way. The Ghanaian fans will be wrong to think that the Black Stars must win every game. Almighty Brazil and other strong national teams have all seen their down sides. In fact, our continental rivals like Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria and others have all gone through what we are going through. No team on earth does not suffer defeat at any point in time. The football game is always pregnant with three outcomes: win, draw or defeat. Therefore, teams win some, lose some and draw sometimes but hell should not break lose. Those who want only victory from soccer matches are not true followers of the game. Infact, they are even not good students of the school of life where the three soccer elements are always at play.
So what is the real issue with our Black Stars? It is believed that, from our maiden entry into the world arena, our team has been pampered with gargantuan winning bonuses. Compared to their counterparts from around the world, our Stars are said to be among the highest paid national teams. They have had the guts to hold the nation to ransom by demanding huge amounts of appearance fees and bonuses when the average citizens wallow in poverty. Brazil 2014 was the worse when the Stars made us the subject of global joke when a plane load of cash was flown to the team in Brazil.
It was since that time that most people had it to their necks and started to boycott the team. The team’s decision to accept a lower amount of bonus in Gabon was a thoughtful one to appease the fans but the timing too made it look like politically motivated. Yet, they were warming themselves into the hearts of Ghanaians by wining some games to get to the semi-finals in Gabon. Then boom! They came crushing like a pack of cards.
A cogent analysis of the problem will show like one analyst said that in the past 12 years, the Black Stars have used almost the same team under four national presidents, twelve sports ministers, nine coaches but without any effective succession plan for the team. Their limbs are weary now and naturally, diminishing returns have set in. The team has had the skipper Asamoah Gyan as its only effective arrow head so in his absence the team struggles to score goals.
The bottom line, therefore is that poor leadership at the FA has produced the poor results we are seeing today. How come all of their focus has been on only the Stars and not the other levels of Under 20, Under 17 etc where we can grow more talents to feed the Stars? How come, the women’s national teams are not paid any attention at all, though they are always making us proud? We have put all our eggs in one basket and now suffering the consequences thereof.
People have questioned why our local league doesn’t seem to be on the front burner of the FA though they must be aware that a great local league impacts national teams. Don’t they care because there isn’t anything they stand to gain from there?
The Gabon failure must be the last straw to get everyone sitting up to find a lasting solution to not only the dwindling fortunes of our stars but our sports holistically. I have heard some suggestion of a kind of revolution of our sports in general starting with the demonetization of our disappointing Black Stars and a root and branch reconstruction by changing the leadership at the FA and restructuring basic and secondary school sports competitions as well as the rebirth of the university games whilst strengthening the local league as the start of rebuilding our sports for the future as other countries have done and now seeing the results. Is the new Sports Minister listening?
Never again should we allow the Stars to break the hearts of our people! Never again!
By Kojo Ackaah-Kwarteng,
Head of Station,Onua 95.1