The Ghana Fumbling Association (GFA)
• Kurt Okraku, GHA President
The country Ghana is an association of fumblers. Given any opportunity, we fumble and make a mess of ourselves. We ask our citizens to give us their votes to serve them only to fumble with the opportunity and turn our failure right back on the voters.
I have always argued against the saying that “opportunity comes but once”. Just like some people, this country has had opportunities on numerous occasions but fumbled each time. This government has had more pecuniary inflows than any other in our history, but has fumbled with the economy.
Even after the monumental COVID cash receipts and our boast that we managed the pandemic better than all other countries, we still blame our current woes on COVID. Given the opportunity to get Finance Minister Mr. Ofori-Atta sacked, our NPP and NDC Members of Parliament who all want him out are fumbling with the issue and Ken remains very much at post and calling the economic shots.
When our Electoral Commission had the greatest opportunity to add to Ghana’s elections distinction, Mrs. Jean Mensa and her team fumbled with varying figures at Election 2020. With the unique opportunity to rubbish the said election fumbling, the NDC also fumbled at the Supreme Court with no clear evidence to prove their case.
Now, let me bring in Qatar 2022 where, once again, Ghana fumbled. In my estimation, the current crop of players is the best yet. They are youthful, hungry for success and determined to go places. But, again, there is a Ghana Fumbling Association in charge. I watched our match against Uruguay and in spite of my belief we could carry the day, my heart skipped a beat when Captain Dede Ayew elected to take that fateful spot kick.
I am aware there is a template for taking penalties, but this was a different environment altogether. First, Ghanaians have been psyched for revenge on what Louis Suarez did to our country at South Africa 2010. Second, though coach Otto Addo said publicly that revenge was not on the team’s mind, the question is how psyched were the players to not have the same mindset on the field of play?
Knowing Dede Ayew was the only survivor of that South Africa debacle, the team psychologist, if there was one, should have asked that he not take a penalty during open play, the template notwithstanding. Dede quickly thought it was payback time when he elected to take that kick. His momentary hesitation at the blast of the whistle spelt doom for the team.
I believe Dede Ayew is not matured enough to have appreciated the enormity of the situation, else he would have given the chance to his younger brother, Jordan or anyone else to effect that kick. I do not blame Dede at all, but that miss told the players, “We’ve been down this road before and here we go again.” I told those watching the match with me that Dede would miss the chance if he took the kick and if he did, Ghana were out of the tournament.
The issue with us is the player turnover rate in our national teams. Only a few of the players who qualified the team for the tournament were in the final selection. Despite being eliminated, everyone admits that Senegal have been a formidable team because the players have been together in the team for a long time. The Black Stars do not have that luxury. Other players with godfathers will be drafted into the team if there is a national assignment tomorrow.
I recollect an interview granted me when I was Deputy Editor of the then Accra Mail by Ali Jaraa. That interview opened a vista for my interest in our football stars. Jaraa mostly touched on his ailment, his frustration at being neglected by some of those who should have cared and his future plans in spite of his extremely debilitating condition.
As a result of this, I have spoken to a lot of footballers, not as a journalist but as an older fellow with an interest in football matters. They easily open up and tell their tales. Almost all the narrative has been confirmed by a documentary I watched on France newfound maestro, Kylian Mbappe, who is making waves at Qatar 2022.
Mbappe hails from Cameroon and his father wanted him to play for the Indomitable Lions, but some officials of the Cameroon FA wanted money before the youngster could play for his fatherland. France saw the potential and Mbappe is on a roll. The documentary says that this lust for money is prevalent in African football, the reason our teams cannot go far. Ghana is no exception. You need a godfather to get on our national teams.
At times you need to pay to be fielded. Not only that, the interference in team selection from influential people is nauseating. There are a minimum of a dozen players of African descent in the French national team, yet their compatriots in African teams do not go far in tournaments on the world stage.
Dede and Jordan Ayew are not known to have played in our domestic league, but they have featured consistently for the national team. Does this explain anything?
Every player of our team at Qatar 2022, save Barnieh, plies their game in foreign clubs, not so? What does this explain?
I heard coach Otto Addo say he has stepped down as the manager of our team. I do not believe he took the decision because he doesn’t like the team any longer. He didn’t take the job because of the money either. He lives in relative comfort. My suspicion is that he might be uncomfortable with the managers of the Football Association. I may be wrong, but what could the matter have otherwise been?
Another news report stated that Otto Addo claims he took the decision because there were negative reactions when he was given the job. This cannot be the case as far as I am concerned. As a Ghanaian, Otto Addo cannot pretend to not know what comes with the territory of managing our teams.
There are over 30 million coaches in Ghana, over 30 million soccer analysts and yet over 30 million football critics in this country. So, managing any of our teams cannot be a walk in the park. It is even possible that the GFA is an enemy of the national teams it is supposed to be in charge of.
The players cannot talk because to do so will reduce their marketability if they don’t feature for the national team. And the managers know this too well and take advantage of the boys….and even the girls.
Whatever it will take to keep Otto Addo and his boys together for as long as it takes, the football authorities must do it. Addo, or any manager so appointed, must be assured of free hands to handle his job without let or hindrance.
What has happened to the development of the game from Colts to Academicals and to the national teams? How long can we allow our national team players to be born and incubated in foreign lands? Then it becomes an issue of begging them to switch their nationality to Ghana.
I check myself for mentioning Academicals. I wonder what Academicals to think of when a dozen students in Senior High School share less than a tin of mackerel at a meal. What energy will they have to engage in games or sports?
The reality is that, as a country, we are in a fix. And something must give.
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By Dr. Akofa K. Segbefia