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Opinions of Thursday, 20 November 2008

Columnist: Twumasi-Fofie, Kwame

Bechem Chelsea vs Berekum A. C. Milan

The following is an article I wrote in February 1992 and which was published in “Graphic Sports”. In view of its relevance to current developments in Ghana football I have found it necessary to have it published again.

“During my school days at Dormaa Secondary School, we had a joke which could also be interpreted as an insult depending on who was using it on whom. So, while I could jokingly congratulate my friend from Nsuhia for the performance of his club “NSUHIA KUMASI ASANTE KOTOKO”, I could find myself in trouble for simply saying “Wey Hearts” in the presence of my Dormitory Overseer who was from Jinijini, because he could bet that what I really wanted to say was: “JINIJINI ACCRA HEARTS OF OAK”.

Well, the joke, or if you like, the insult, in it all was that while there were in fact Kotoko and Hearts at Nsuhia and Jinjini respectively, it was obvious that the names did not include Kumasi and Accra. In fact, as we all know, there are several small clubs in Ghana bearing names of some of our bigger or more popular clubs, but I am yet to hear of anything like “Essienimpong Cape-Coast Mysterious Dwarfs” or “Bomaa Accra Great Olympics”. Why then don’t we seem to see anything wrong with names like Accra Manchester United, Kumasi Real Madrid or Osu Fortuna Dusseldorf and the rest?

When I was in the primary school, of course I did not know that Manchester, Madrid, Dusseldorf etc. were names of cities in Europe. But I don’t want to believe that the founders or management of some of our local teams too do not know the meaning of names they choose for their clubs. Unlike European clubs which generally bear names of their home cities e.g. BARCELONA, Olympic MARSEILLES, A.C. MILAN, LIVERPOOL etc., African clubs usually choose their names from anything ranging from geographical locations (Savanna Stars, Upper West Heroes) to rivers or gods (Tano Bofoakwa, Obuotabiri) and traditional or cultural symbols (Asante Kotoko, Abuakwa Susu Biribi). Even at the national level we Africans make it more exciting than they do in Europe by giving names to our teams e.g. the Black Stars, Green Eagles, Indomitable Lions, Elephants etc. These names do have meaning to us, and we can never run short of them.

Therefore, if for any special reason a Ghanaian team may want to adopt the name of a popular foreign team by all means, for God’s sake, let’s avoid funny names like “Osu Fortuna Dusseldorf” which is just like saying “Adabraka Sunyani Tano Bofoakwa”!

When our second division “Manchester United” got promoted to the first division they quickly modified their name to “Man U” – whatever that means. I don’t remember the reasons they gave for their change but I was wondering whether something like Nima or Accra United would not have been more appropriate.

I am not advocating for a ban or total restriction on the adoption of foreign names, whether in sports or anything. But I have a strong feeling that much as we are at liberty to admire everything that is foreign, we should not make a mockery of ourselves by adopting names in a way that would make even the original owners of the names laugh at us.

If we do not check the way we copy foreign names without caring about their meaning, I am afraid we are soon going to hear of an all-male musical group called “Whitney Houston”.

Kwame Twumasi-Fofie Bern, Switzerland

7th February 1992

How Relevant the Situation is Today!

That was my view then, some 16 years ago, but I’ve found it necessary to restate it because of its relevance to current events.

One of the three teams which recently got promoted to compete in the next Premier League is a Bechem-based club known as “Chelsea F.C.” Barely a week after winning their final qualifying match against B.A. United it was reported that they had decided to change their name to Brong Ahafo F.C. From what we were told, their reason was that they wanted a name that would identify them more with where they are from i.e. Brong-Ahafo Region. The fact that they eventually abandoned that idea doesn’t matter. What matters is that having now qualified to participate at a higher level than they were in the First Division they now appear to be uncomfortable with their meaningless foreign name.

It may be pertinent to remind ourselves that there’s already a premier side from Brong-Ahafo with the name Arsenal F.C. Also, among the Second Division teams which competed for promotion to the Brong-Ahafo Division One league were “F.C. Berlin” and “A.C. Milan”. The other day I also heard of a football club somewhere known as “Inter Milan”. Since the goal of every lower league club is to gain promotion to the Premier League there’s the possibility that if the dreams of all of these teams should come true one day some of the fixtures of our Premier League in future could be something like “F.C. Berlin Vs. A.C. Milan” or “Chelsea F.C. Vs. Arsenal F.C.”

Not only would this be ridiculous, it would also be a national embarrassment. Just imagine a situation where a fixture in a CAF organised competition should read like “A.C. Milan (of Ghana) Vs. Enyimba F.C. (of Nigeria)”. Or let’s imagine a situation where Ghana’s “Berlin F.C.” should come face to face with the original Berlin F.C. of Germany whether in a friendly or competitive match. I honestly cannot believe that there are any football administrators in Ghana who do not know that all that “Berlin F.C.” means is Berlin Football Club, and that Berlin is the name of a city in Germany, and not in Ghana or for that matter Brong-Ahafo. Therefore, if we understand how laughable it would be for a football club in Techiman to be known as “Koforidua F.C.” why can we not understand how ridiculous it is for that club to be called “Berlin F.C.”?

Admiration for Everything Foreign

Unfortunately, all this has come about as a result of our wholesale admiration for everything foreign or European. It’s astonishing how much air time radio stations in Ghana (at least those in Sunyani) devote to European soccer leagues as compared to local sports. Not only have I heard support songs of European clubs, I’ve even heard the support song of the German national team – “Deutschland, Deutschland” – being played on the sports programme of a radio station in Sunyani. Whenever there’s a long discussion about local sports the issue is most likely to be a negative one. The end result is that the average Ghanaian youth of today is more knowledgeable and interested in the various European leagues than even the Africa Club Championships.

And the irony is that after devoting the lion’s share of their programmes to promoting foreign sports to the neglect of Ghana sports these same presenters turn round to accuse Ghanaian authorities of not doing enough to promote so-called lesser known sporting disciplines.

I’m aware that we’re in a free society and people are entitled to adopt any names of their choice for their children, businesses or in this case for their clubs. At the same time, however, it’s also a fact that all over the world there are rules and regulations governing whatever we do. And association football or soccer, whether you see it as an international business or sports, is controlled by perhaps one of the most powerful regulatory bodies in the world. Just see how embarrassing it would be if one day FIFA should remind our Football Association (GFA) that names like “A.C. Milan”, “Manchester United”, “Bayern Munchen” or “F.C. Barcelona” are bona fide registered names of existing clubs affiliated to FIFA through their respective national associations and are as such not available for use by other clubs just because they fancy them.

I therefore, wish to advise GFA to ensure that no club affiliated to it should bear the name of an already existing football club especially when that name is derived from the geographical location of that club. After all, football in Ghana has since long moved from the level of kicking oranges and similar round objects with bare feet to a multi-million dollar international business. It is therefore imperative for Ghana, through our football association (GFA), to conduct our affairs in such a way as not to make a mockery of ourselves in the eyes of the international football world. And this can only be done upon the understanding that what may be acceptable in colts’ football may not necessarily be acceptable at the senior level.

Kwame Twumasi-Fofie