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Opinions of Monday, 5 October 2015

Columnist: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Foreign soccer on TV, not solution to poor patronage

Football, popularly known as soccer in the United Kingdom and the US is a popular game in Ghana and Africa. As a passion of the nation, many citizens are fans or supporters of one team on the local league or the other. However apart from Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak that are rated high among popular teams in Ghana, Africa and worldwide, the rest of the football teams have little following in Ghana and abroad.

As a result of the little recognition given our football currently not many people care to pay and watch football matches in our football stadia and parks. This has led to many local teams unable to make good money from gate proceeds to be able to give adequate financial support to their players.

Many Ghanaians remain home or go to video centers every week to watch English, Spanish or German soccer on television.

Most football fans do so by subscribing to DSTV, paying huge subscription fees for the benefit of the foreign leagues and other business interests. English and foreign soccer teams are so popular in Ghana that their results are used in games of chance being subscribed weekly by football fans young and old.

Some Ghanaians including Sannie Dara the Deputy General Secretary of the Ghana football association in charge of media and public affairs has recommended the banning of the screening of foreign soccer on our local television.

Other people have kicked against this proposal saying that the showing of foreign soccer on our television cannot be the reason for the little patronage of our local league matches. The low patronage of soccer is not a recent happening.

It began gradually from the days when our players begun trooping to ply their trade abroad to the extent that today the situation is getting worse. In the early days after attaining independence, soccer was very popular in Ghana and therefore got the right patronage.

Right scratch and as a result of our colonial past we supported foreign teams like Liverpool and Manchester United and other teams but our local teams like Asante Kotoko, Hassacas, Cornerstones, and later Republicans were also very popular. We had players like Baba Yara, Addo Odamitey, Kwame Adarkwa, Salisu and later Ibrahim Sunday and Rev. Osei Kofi who attracted fans to our stadia. There were times when people trooped in just to watch some of our players like Baba Yara, Dogo Moro and others.

Although these players were very popular when they featured for their local teams and national team the Black Stars they did not accept foreign contacts to play for teams abroad. Perhaps the opportunity was not there for the older players. But Reverend Osei Kofi was said to have turned down an offer to play for Leeds United FC in England, for the love he had for Ghana.

However today, the situation is different. Globalization and financial interest have set into soccer to the extent that many of our good players from Ghana and other African countries like Didie Drogba Michael Essien, Abedi Ayew Pele, were poached to play for foreign teams in England, Spain, Germany and even of late China and India. Because soccer fans wish to follow the progress of their idols like Michael Essien and Drogba for example while in Chelsea FC, they paid attention to watching them on television at the expense of the local leagues.

Currently, we have many people supporting the English, Spanish an German teams like Chelsea Manchester city and united, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid than they do for their local teams in Ghana.

Do you blame these fans for supporting the Players playing abroad when their roles abroad were sanctioned by their local FAs with the support of their clubs? This trend will continue because the local teams are the breeding grounds of the good players (in soccer academies belonging to top teams abroad ) who they sell to foreign teams for huge money.

For the love of money we have refused to follow the path of self-reliance and domestication period! Sannie Dara must also know that unlike the past when most Black Star players consisted of local players, today the Ghana Football Association also relies largely on our Ghanaian star players abroad to play for the national team the Black Stats. From the above accounts we find ourselves in a difficult situation.

We cannot stop the sale of local players abroad and cannot stop the GFA from selecting only players abroad to play for Black Stars because the GFA is responsible for its actions. For whatever reason, the GFA says the foreign players are our best materials for selection into the Black Stars.

Since these neo colonial systems backed by the desire for football players to go and play abroad continues the increase in interest in foreign soccer especially in England, Spain and Germany would not stop.

We cannot blame the players for wishing to play abroad. They need to make money to fend for themselves and save enough towards retirement and for their families.

Their local teams also rely on them for contract sums to maintain their player and their managements. Because the gate proceeds are not adequate in Ghana the sponsorship from First Capital plus cannot be relied upon for adequate support for our local league.

Instead of banning the showing of the English and other leagues on our television, the GFA and Sannie Dara must strategize very well by looking for ways to finance the teams on the Ghana league by attracting more sponsors to stop the exodus of good Ghanaian players to feature in football leagues abroad.

One way of doing so is by removing the cap, allowing at least three local players at a time to play for the Ghana Black Stars to generate interest in local players in the local league. Secondly the GFA must surcharge the Ghanaian stars playing abroad on the huge cash they make abroad. Because the players have love for their nati

on they are likely to accept the request for the to donate to Ghana soccer. The GFA must also tax the Black Star players heavily on the bonuses they collect at the end of all matches they play for the nation. These monies can be used in funding the local football teams in our local league. This way we could generate interest in the local league by retaining good players to play in the local teams. I do not have all the answers for whipping up interest in the local league.

However, while the banning of the screening of foreign soccer is not a good option, we must all put our heads together to find the way out of the problem of low patronage of local soccer league matches in Ghana.


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