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Sports Features of Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Source: Abel Manomey

Great Olympics striker writes about the struggles of locally-based players

From September 2015 to December 2016, I begun a journey and ended successfully with one of the fastest growing football club in Ghana, which I adore, love and they developed me to become a better player, Kotoku Royals Football Club.

I was then in level 300 at the University of Education Winneba, pursuing Bachelor of Science in Physical Education.

Under the supervision of Coach Baba Ali Mohammed and the Chief Executive Officer Linford Kofi Asamoah, a training program was designed for me to follow and practice whiles I am in school, so I could report to camp and join the team on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings sessions before league matches on Sundays.

In the events when there are midweek games, I have to leave Winneba at dawn, skip classes and take risks with my life, as I board vehicles to join my colleagues at Oda for Division One League games.

Zone 3 in the Division One League comprised of teams from Greater Accra Region, Volta Region and Eastern Region and I had the opportunity to travel and play in these towns and capital cities of these regions.

At these venues where visiting teams go and play their host, they are at the mercy of God as only two or three security personnel are present to maintain law and order before and after the league game.

Away team players and officials are always abused verbally and physically by teaming home fans, to intimidate and put fear in them before a game is played.

Referees are not spared in the heat of these abuses, especially when the home team is losing at the end of the first half. When away team wins, players are attacked physically with canes and sticks, tyres of buses are deflated and players and officials are held hostage for hours before they are allowed to go home.

In the Ghana Premier league, the hostility of home teams towards visiting sides exist and I have been a witness to some whenever we travel to play in our away games.

Security officers stand aloof as players are warned, pushed, beaten and prevented from having their warm up and also not to use certain routes to the field before games.

This is what locally-based players in Ghana go through for 30 weeks in the football season as they toil with sweat and endangering their lives for a salary that rarely comes.

What if they do lose their lives when they travel on match days due to road accidents?

What if they become permanently disabled after a gory accident during these journeys on match a days?

It is not surprising at all, that one of the greatest football teams in Ghana, had to get an insurance package for players and officials after they had an accident on their way home after a Ghana Premier League game.

I hope the other remaining clubs will take a cue from this experience and protect the lives of locally-based players in their teams respectively.

Luther Boateng is a locally-based player who committed suicide in the afternoon of December 5th 2017. He played for Okwahu United, Techiman Eleven Wonders and Bofoakwa before his demise.

There are thousand and one players who are going through various degrees of emotional and psychological trauma and are ready to repeat the same actions of Luther Boateng due to financial constraints.

If clubs in the Ghana Premier League will invite clinical psychologists to have one-o-one interactions with their players in their respective clubs before, during and after the league, issues confronting them can be shared and solved amicably by these professionals.

Accra Great Olympics Football Club, which I represented, had a session for players and officials during the first round of the league where sports psychologists were invited to have interactions with us. This experience was awesome as players and coaches were able to bring out issues bothering them.

Luther Boateng could have been the locally-based player to score the final goal for Ghana to win her first World Cup.

He could have been that locally-based player in Ghana to excel and win the Balon D'or.

He could also have retired and become the President of the Ghana Football Association to help bring reforms in the Ghana Premier league. Today he is no more … no more.

It is not surprising that most locally-based players, who are frustrated with the continuous demands of life, seek to turn their attention to drinking alcohol, smoking heavily and others giving up on the game.

Locally-based players need a life after retiring from their beautiful game. We want to see a window of hope, so when our football careers end, our retirement package will be treasured and something we will be proud of.

I am Abel Manomey and a locally-based player deserves the best.