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Sports Features of Friday, 21 June 2013

Source: Mohammed Amin Lamptey (SPORTS JOURNALIST)

President Mahama is custodian of all national teams

*… Including Black Stars*

It is on record that the game of football was first introduced into the Gold Coast towards the end of the 19th century by merchants from Europe. Sailors during their leisure times played football among themselves and sometimes with a select side of the Ghanaian people. The popularity of the game spread faster within a short time along the coastal areas of Cape Coast culminating in the formation of the first football club, Excelsior in 1903 by Mr. Briton, a Jamaican-born, who was then the Headteacher of Philip Quaicoe Government Boys School in Cape Coast.

Football in Ghana has been described by many as the passion of the nation especially with the national teams and the Black Stars in particular. Therefore, any siting president is also described or seen as the number one supporter and patron of all the National Teams including the Black Stars. In effect,the current President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama undoubtedly can be described as the Chief Patron and the ChiefCustodian of the Black Stars of Ghana and therefore, has every right under the sun to intervene in any issue he deems necessary if only it would help in the forward march of all national teams including the Black Stars.

Ghana for some time now finds itself in a fix regarding the real definition or meaning of interference and intervention in the management of our football matters ever since FIFA instructed some few years ago that football matters should be handled by football administrators alone, when they (FIFA) realized that leadership of member countries of football in the world could use the game of soccer as a political tool to enhance their political campaign strategy or propaganda by sidelining individuals who may not be with their political parties or are against their philosophy.

But it is significantly noteworthy that FIFA can never be right on this score, why?

1. Where is the game of soccer played? I hope in a country where there is a president who is the number one custodian of every activity and therefore qualified to be the Chief Custodian of the Black Stars.

2. Who are the Administrators, in this the case, the managers of our football, right from the GFA, down to the handlers of our colts soccer in Ghana? I hope they are Ghanaians under the watch of the number one custodian of the Land, the President.

3. Who provides the infrastructure, security, sponsorship, and motivation? I hope it’s the entire Ghanaians true their taxes and other supports under the leadership of the number one custodian of our country, the President.

4. When our national teams participate in a tournament, which country are they representing and which national anthem would be played? I believe they would represent Ghana and certainly the Ghana national anthem would be played because they are Ghanaians and of course have a President who is the number one custodian of every activity that goes on in their country.

5. Which flag would our national teams including the Black Stars fly at international competitions? I believe is the Red, Gold and Green with the Black Star in the middle, which of course the number one custodian of Ghana, President Mahama has sworn an oath to defend.

It’s high time we all call a spade a spade with our perceptions on how football is run in today’s modern world. FIFA may be right in some way, especially when you have a poor structured football administration that cannot stand the test of time and due to inefficiency and poor leadership, the government or the President as it were would definitely be attracted to assist in resolving an issue which would eventually help the smooth running of our game both nationally and international.

Thankfully, for some time now I have seen a lot of maturity in our football administration, coaching and player attitude but there is more room for improvement.

However, this approach by the President in meeting the Ayews to rescind their decision to come back and play for the Black Stars has being interpreted by Ghanaians in two ways.

One section sees it as an intervention which according to them is normal being a stakeholder and the father of the nation. But interestingly to intervene according to some dictionaries, could also mean to interrupt, especially in order to prevent a bad result.

The other section views it as interference which they believe was not right due the order given by FIFA, regardless of who the person may be. Amazingly the meaning of interference by some dictionaries is, to take part in a matter that does not concern one and in which one is not wanted.

Realistically, I think the two interpretations above have no space in the real modern system of football administration where governments and football associations are trying very hard to build a strong bond that would bring about mutual trust and unity of purpose. I do not think Ghana can be isolated in this regard especially when through soccer the Brand Ghana in Football has affected positively every aspect of our endeavours.

The government of the day is always confronted with overweight budget from the football governing body for tournaments when our national teams are to participating in international competitions, with the Black Stars receiving the bigger chunk even though they normally get support from corporate organizations who agree to offer their support due to the stability in the country and sometimes through the influence of top government officials.

So my humble question is, would any person be right or wrong to question the involvement of the President of a nation like Ghana to resolve an issue he deemed necessary to help facilitate the smooth running of a game that is perceived as the passion of the nation? Opinions are like noses and every person has one, therefore let us stick to our opinions but also try to eschew sentimentalism, destructive criticism and fanatism when we are confronted with issue like this. How can one spend money on a venture and has no say what so ever regarding the progress of that business in the spirit of supervision, monitoring and evaluation?

The President of any country can never be wrong be it interference or intervention in helping to resolve an issue in his country where he is the Chief Custodian. Have we so soon forgotten that in2004 the King of Sweden had to persuade their great legend Henrik Larsson to come out of retirement to represent his country at the 2004 European Championships? What about the presidential intervention by the former Cameroonian President, Paul Biya who singlehandedly convinced the legend Roger Milla to come out of international retirement to participate in Italy 1990 World Cup, even though age was not on his side but we were all witnesses of his exploits.

There are countless examples of similar situation across the world where football is played. In the case of Ghana as it were, what I have realized is that due to politics, hatred, and tribalism, we seem to be often blindfolded when we are required to holistically analyse an issue of national importance. You can find this in our schools, markets, homes, communities, offices, politics, businesses and sadly, our children seem to feed on these questionable behaviors through the power of the media.

Due to the physical nature of football and its injury prone nature, the game of football from inception received mix reactions from potential actors and followers until leaders of soccer modernization quickly deviced a unique strategy by targeting world leaders to accept it as a global game that could help bring about peace and avoid war. In spite of this, the game of soccer was unattractive with only a few followership until once again the leadership of FIFA in collaboration with some marketing gurus in the world redefined the game of soccer through the lens of global marketing which has made it attractive and one of the most lucrative businesses in the world at the moment. Before the advent of the current flamboyance of the beautiful game of soccer in the world, the World Cup, the European Cup, the Asian Cup, the South American Cup, the North American Cup, the African Cup were already in existence but the real passion and business drive was not there. Instead, the organizers preoccupation was to create an avenue for fun, recreation and the consolidation of friendships across the globe.

Here in Ghana we can trace our antecedent right from the time of the first President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who not only consumed, slept and drunk football but he also used it as a strategic weapon and platform against disunity, tribalism, ethnicity and conflict resolution. Dr. Nkrumah was in constant collaboration with Ohene Djan, then Director of Sports to make sure things were done right. Ohene Djan launched the domestic league in the year 1958 which was the cradle of our today’s Glo Premier League. Under Nkrumah, we built Stadia, the national Academicals was introduced, Ghana hosted Africa Cup of Nations in 1963 and won and defended the trophy in 1965 in Tunisia. Indeed, we were told Nkrumah even used soccer partially in his crusade and propagation for the unification of the African continent.

As part of efforts to develop the game of soccer, Dr. Nkrumah brought into Ghana expatriates who came to help in the development process of our soccer which brought about the finest soccer coaches and tactics Ghana is noted for today. Football became popular in Ghana and it would continue to stay at the top because of the role played by all our past presidents such I.K Acheapong of blessed memory, Dr. Hilla Limann of blessed memory, J.J. Rawlings, J.A. Kufuor, J.E.A. Mills of blessed memory and of course the current President, John Dramani Mahama. In effect, what I am trying to drum home is that our presidents were part and parcel of our soccer development from the beginning when FIFA was not attractive like they are today and needed them most to assist in marketing the game of soccer by investing in infrastructure, capacity building, facility, equipment and the like. I think it is illogical the same FIFA could turn around today to ask those leaders to stay away from a process they were part of. Meanwhile, the welfare, budgets and incentives of both players and their officials are borne by government or the state. Incredible!

All said and done, one may only think that FIFA brought this aspect of Governments staying away from football activities just to discourage the practice of unscrupulous leaders hiding behind football to inject their whims and caprices that could end up in the politicization of the wonderful game of soccer. Ghana is always united when our national teams play and win. We are always brought together by our national teams to which we are all custodians but the chief custodian is the President. It is said that politicians use such victories of our national teams during their political campaign. So it is obvious who were questioning the meeting between the President and the Ayew brothers and those who supported the move by the President? That is if we are to use political assessment device.

Even though the debate was healthy and good for the development our football, I think the earlier we disabuse our minds about the real definition of our Presidents when it comes to their responsibilities as diplomats and custodians of all activities in our country especially football, the better it would be for us all. The buck stops with them when things go bad and, therefore, we should all rally behind them and at the same time challenge our football governing body to do the right things so as to avoid the president intervening into matters that are purely the responsibility of the FA.

It is clear world football governing body (FIFA ) is aware that every national team belong to the nation which is headed by the President of that country and the Football Association are the direct administrators of the game .This scenario encourages a constructive and productive partnership between the government and the Football Association because the two are inseparable as it were.The Ministry of Youth and Sports and perhaps elsewhere is the sole representative of Government in terms of negotiations and other related issues. The President cannot be denied the right to assist or question both the FA and the Youth and Sports Ministry when things are not going on smoothly as in the case of our players resigning from the Black Stars citing variety of reasons.

Significantly though, I will urge the Ghana FA to quickly avoid the occurrence of this situation by establishing a solid managerial framework that will admit professionals who are well vest in man-management to assist by teaching all management members of all our national teams especial the Black Stars and our coaches in particular so that we can also join the train of positive change in football administration in the world.

So Ghana has a pattern, whether deliberate or otherwise as a guide to follow. Therefore every sitting President would like to follow suit so much so that the country’s image and integrity in the world of soccer could be sustained and consolidated. President Mahama is very much aware of these historical facts and would be very glad to add value to this legacy he has inherited with a World Cup appearance in 2014 or may be with a Nations’ Cup and other youth championship triumphs. Ghana is currently in Turkey to participate in the Youth World Cup, believe you me, the President will be more than excited to win it for the second time following the historic victory in2009 and coming after Ghana failed to lift the AFCON 2013 in South Africa earlier this year.

I hope this topic which gave chance to a productive debate would be seen to all stakeholders in Ghana football, including the Presidency and the Ghana Football Association as a unique opportunity to redefine their approach to issues concerning executive intervention by the Presidency, establish a time tested communication network with the executive through the Ministry of Youth and Sports to facilitate a conducive information flow between the two.

The FA must as a matter of urgency also resuscitate their management training programme for their management team members with a bit of Marketing so that they would understand what is man-management, conflict resolution, target setting, player attitude evaluation, managing players ego, how to manage both stubborn and un-stubborn players and effective communication between the Trainer and his Player. Why do you think the Sir Alex Fergusons, Scolaris and other renowned world football managers constantly receive standing ovations? It’s because of their ability to man-manage world class footballers irrespective of their egos. The GFA’s communication department must also strive very hard to maintain their very much improved role in recent times but should try and avoid certain information spillovers that at times create mistrust among staff of the FA and Government officials. Information management should be considered vital as the human blood.

I wish to also appeal to myself and colleague Journalists to be circumspect and wary of igniting issues that would not fetch our nation Ghana nothing but rather create public friction which eventually ends up dividing the people instead of uniting them through the three cardinal points of Journalism that are to educate, inform and entertain. Sports Journalists and their media houses can help when the right or qualified Producers are acquired, the right and qualified host or presenter is appointed and the right production meetings are held before every show as well as post programme meetings so that certain preventable mistakes which normally affect both our noble profession and the beautiful game of soccer and sports in general could be averted. I

dentifying the right resource persons to contribute on a topic via phone or to be in the studio as a panelist is the heart of every productive sports programme. Phone-in segment is one of the gambles any presenter would take irrespective of your purpose of activating the phone lines. Research has it that out of 100% of callers, it is often 30% of callers who would call and offer productive suggestions based on the topic for discussion and the other 70% only praise presenters, offer “off the mark” comments or sometimes sending out greetings to friends and relations.

Reading of text messages must be professionally handled because on many occasions faceless individuals use such platform to attack innocent personalities who have worked hard to attain their status.

To forestall some of these things from happening frequently, we need to redefine our individual roles and responsibilities as stakeholders so much so that we can protect our individual interests and the interest of our nation Ghana. It is always important to respect the privacy of another person so that yours could be protected as well. Express your views and opinion on any issue but please be objective and constructive instead of being bias and destructive.