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Sports Features of Friday, 20 July 2012

Source: Nana Kwaku agyemang

Dam Lies & Statistics

The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) made a startling announcement this week, when they declared that their statistical research named the Ghana Glo Premier League as the third best League on the African Continent. Whilst the football authorities privately rubbed their hands with glee at the independent endorsement of the Ghana Glo Premier League, others like me for instance, wondered how on earth they came to that conclusion. Going through their website I saw that they had a plausible reason for coming to he conclusion but that did nothing to ease my bemusement. With all our consistent inconsistencies, lack of proper playing infrastructure, unfit match officials guided by the the weight of an envelope rather than the Laws of the Game, allegations of bribery of corruption, from every quarters and a league which has a beginning but the end is always by default makes you wonder if the rest of Africa is really that bad.

The President of the Ghana Football Association was rightfully enthused about the news and claimed that the GFA had made great strides in improving the standard of the league over the last four years or so and welcomed the news. There is no doubt that the Ghana Glo Premier League has improved but to be honest the third best in Africa, I beg to differ!

Yes the sponsorship has changed from a few hundred thousand cedis from Vodafone; which was known as Onetouch at the time; to a three million dollar package from Globacom Ghana Ltd. but all is not rosy in the garden on that front. The sponsorship is rarely paid on time and the clubs still end the season with the sponsorship money being in arrears. A whole season had passed by without a cent being paid and the clubs were forced to fend for themselves. When they complained they were told by the GFA that they shouldn't depend on the Glo Sponosrship but should rather be proactive and solicit sponsorship for their individual clubs themselves! as I write today there is still arrears outstanding for the just ended 2011-12 season. And finally when a club wins the Ghana Glo Premier League they receive the sum of GHc 5000 and a brand new Hyundai 12 seater minibus!!!

The salaries of the players and all of those involved remain a cause for concern. It is no secret that players are owed up to three months worth of salaries and winning bonuses. Even signing on fees are currently still outstanding from most if not all the clubs in the Glo Premier League with only one or two exceptions. And that trend is set to continue for another season for sure, just mark my words!

The infrastructure has been below par for as long as I can remember and if it wasn't for the fact that Ghana had won the rights to host the 2008 African Cup of Nations we would not have been able to boast of four stadiums now. Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Tamale all benefited from the hosting rights and are good venues for association football. Unfortunately the grass in the Sekondi and Tamale Stadiums is the type that is used on your lawn but nobody cares! As for the other venues (The Len Clay Stadium in Obuasi not included) they get approval season after season with very little improvement. They are called stadiums but are really nothing more than walled parks, poorly maintained and overused they are almost as dangerous as crossing the George Walker Bush Highway!

Seeing an ambulance at a Premier League match was like finding a needle in a haystack. It was only after a spate of deaths on the field that we sat up to REALISE the obvious. There has been improvement so far as this is concerned, well at least for Premiership matches but for the remaining divisions and the youth leagues not to mention on the occasions the women take to the field there is limited provision and certainly not in the form of ambulances made available in the case of a dire emergency. Even club physiotherapist are make-shift and not suitably qualified. When a player lies injured on the field I cringe when I see the club physio running over to assist them. Armed with sachet water they rush over with no clue of how to identify the nature of the injury and nine timeout of ten they end up unwittingly aggravating the injury even more. And as for proper medical treatment when a player is injured there are probably only five clubs out of sixteen that even entertain that idea. The most cost effective answer to a long term injury is a visit to the village to see the "bush doctor!"

The low patronage of games is a major canker as Ghanaian football supporters prefer to watch English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and other European based leagues as opposed to watching their own. And when the supporters do turn up it is thier job to intimidate the opposing team and its officials in a bid to ensure that the home team secures all three points. There have been a few unsavory incidents too where Match Officials have been seriously assaulted and the same is true of Club Officials and Players too.

Ghana Glo Premier League matches can sometimes be very predictable especially in the second round when the business aspect of the league sets in. And the issue surrounding the competence of the Match Officials has no end in sight. Whilst some say they are doing their best in the application of the Laws of the Game and are simply making mistakes as all humans do the vast majority are not convinced. The stories about Match Officials are amazing, from the initial contact made by the Match Officials to the Club Officials, the demands that are made and the method of payment which has and continues to move on from the receipt of a white envelope to the deposit of sums demanded into designated accounts! Naturally this is all denied as a figment of my imagination but without any shred of evidence that I can fall back on i think its fair to say we all know it's true.

For as long as I can remember Berekum Arsenals FC have been wearing the jersey of English Premier League Club, Arsenal FC. And this has been approved season after season by the Professional League Board and sanctioned by the GFA! It's absolutely unbelievable! When matches involving this club are televised it's quite embarrassing to say the least. This club has nothing to do with Arsenal FC and certainly nothing to do with Emirates. How can a professional football league allow this to continue without doing something about it? Other clubs have their goal keepers wear the Senior National Team kit, and one club even allowed their goalkeeper to wear a Feyenoord jersey.

Am not convinced that if the researchers had an idea of some of the issues raised here that they would remain adamant that the Ghana Glo Premier League is the third best in Africa. If anything it is ranked third by default only. What's worse is that if you check the rankings carefully you will see that Ghana is ranked below the leagues in Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Thailand, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and even Rugby playing Australia! Now someone should tell me just how possible is that?