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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Columnist: Anteh, Nii Ayi

Football Adninistration In Africa, The Ghana Case.

The euphoria that surrounded the swoop of the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) over the Ghana Football Association (GFA) seems to be dying down. And even with the much talked about FIFA ban on Ghana not coming and the GFA softening its stand in order to allow the EOCO to embark on its constitutionally mandated assignment, it is only a matter of time that this whole unfortunate incident would be pushed to the abyss of our football history. However, the incident I believe has left in its wake lingering issues for us all to ponder about as soccer loving citizens of Ghana and Africa as a whole. One of such issues is the role of the government in football administration on the continent.
The government factor in the administration of football across Africa is too crucial that not even the football administrators themselves can wished away regardless of what the FIFA laws say. Let the FIFA laws say whatever, in Africa and Ghana for that matter, the relationship between the state and the football federation is not anything that can be easily decoupled. The sad truth is, unlike the developed world, football federations cannot do without the governments in Africa.
In Ghana for instance, the government through the National Sports Council owns the best stadia that our clubs and national teams use. Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, our most celebrated football clubs and former continental clubs winners haven’t owned any befitting stadium of their own since they were formed many years ago. Hearts of Oak will be hundred years since its formation next year. Till date, these clubs and many others use the government built and owned stadia in Accra and Kumasi respectively.
Circumstances abound in many African countries that football games have had to be aborted because of the absence of security personnel on at the stadia. I can’t imagine any game proceeding in the on-going Glo Premier League in Ghana without the presence of the men and women of the Ghana Police Service. They have become so part of the game that a venue would never be ideal for the beautiful game without them. These officers irrespective of the stipends that would be given to them by the Professional League Board are resourced and maintained by the government of Ghana.
Again, the governments of African nations pay the winning bonuses of the various national teams around the continent. Indeed, until recently when the Black Stars of Ghana has become one of the very attractive African National teams to the extent of getting some corporate sponsorship, the winning bonuses, per-diems and all other expenses of the team have been borne by the government of Ghana. And it is rightly so because the government, in trust of the good people of Ghana owns the Black Stars and not the Kwesi Nyantakyi led Ghana Football Association. And that is more the reason why it is very important that the government is not kept in the dark over various sponsorship funds that were received by the GFA for the Black Stars, the Black Queens and the Black Satellites in the run up to their recent international competitions. And that is why it was very appropriate that the US$ 11 million accrued from the 2010 World Cup was rightly paid into the government chest.
Football is the passion of the most nations across Africa. It creates jobs for many Africans and supports the families of millions. In most African countries, it is a common sight to see thousands throng to the streets in wild jubilation for an important national team triumph in a football competition. The joy football lovers derive from the game cannot be rivaled. And that makes it very impossible for any democratically elected government on the continent of Africa to frustrate the smooth running of the game.
Further, considering the ardor that the game of football invokes and the sheer number of people that follow the sport in most African countries, it is very appropriate for the intervention of governments to ensure that the average football fan is neither short-changed nor exploited by these businessmen turned football administrators that run the game across the continent. The occasional directive of free entry or subsidized fees to match venues to the citizenry to watch the national teams play is one of such intervention.
The Ghanaian case of football administration in Africa is indeed an interesting one. The Ghana Football Association has become so attractive that many people have desires in occupying positions there. It is a widely known rumour that many sympathizers of the President Mills government have made various moves to grab a position or two within the GFA. A plan the current officials of the federation had fiercely fought. A recent directive (though later withdrawn) of the government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports to the FA to send the legendary Ghanaian football icon, Abedi Ayew Pele to CAF as the country’s representative for an Executive Committee position on the Continental body in the stead of the FA President, Kwesi Nyantakyi is perhaps still fresh in the minds of many.
But the GFA cannot continue to be in the woods with the government. They have to devise innovating ways of dealing with the government and the latent politics that comes with that. And the earlier the officials of GFA get around that, the better it would be for all. For at it stands now, there will be no winner in this on-going “flexing of muscles game” between the FA and the government.
These represent my candid views about the subject. What do you think as the silent observer in this whole spectacle? Let get a lively discourse on-going.
Till the Ghana National Anthem is played at the next international soccer match, I happily hum, GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND GHANA………

By: Nii Ayi Anteh
(gentlepope@yahooo.co.uk)