Business in Ghana

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World Cup Diary 8

Posted by Business in Ghana on June 29, 2014

From Kwasi Gyan Appenteng

The Mega-shambles in Brazil

As it was in the beginning, so it ended. There was a bit of brilliant football in between but who will remember that? Ghana in Brazil 2014 was a total shambles which we probably would wish to forget quickly. Unfortunately, and for completely wrong reasons not only will this mess stay long in our memory, it will cast a shadow on our sporting performances past and present. Let us look at the evidence.

In Ghana, we quickly find scapegoats for our failings and the culprit this time is our age old friend and enemy, money, described as the root of all evil. Mr. Kwasi Nyantakyi, the man who in any other country would have fallen on his sword has fingered money as the enemy within. It is not the last time money would get a bad press but on this occasion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, may I plead that planning and not money should be in the dock.

Ghana qualified brilliantly doling out a magnificent victory over Egypt in Kumasi before finishing the job in Cairo. Between the qualification and the start of the tournament was sufficient time for planning. Not Ghana; we were not sure about anything including the final squad, friendly matches, money and of course officials and spectators.

Of course, discussions and arguments over the final squad are normal and probably took place in most of the 32 finalist nations. In Ghana that was not really a major issue. We still retain large doses of authoritarian culture in our bloodstream so any attempt to question the coach’s selection was met with the mantra: “leave it to the coach”. Which is probably a good idea, but only good if you are absolutely sure the gaffer knows what he is doing.

Our selection fight was over who to take as supporters, who indeed are spectators, to Brazil on the government’s bill. Again, in most countries, if you want to watch a football match you pay, you go, you watch. Most of the spectators going to the match from Europe, Australia, Asia and the Americas would have saved their own money over the past four years. Here, things are different. It is the government, i.e. me and you that must pay for some people to go and watch the tournament on our behalf.

But who are these super-lucky people who are so gifted as supporters that in a time of painful economic circumstances they are paid to go and watch football matches on our behalf. I don’t really mind if the state wants to pay for some genuine football supporters to go and support the Black Stars but who must these people be and how are selected? Again you would think that in the sufficient planning time there was between qualifying and the games proper this issue, among others, would be settled. You would think wrongly; this is Ghana.

You often hear people say that there is no planning in Ghana and say it as if this is some kind of natural occurrence or an Act of God from which we cannot recover because there is no cure. In fact, the apparent lack of planning is itself planned, if you see what I am seeing. It is a deliberate ploy for corruption to thrive. Corruption and nepotism will not thrive when there is proper planning and openness about what we do. But when things are done in a shambles and left at the last minute that is when bad things happen.

In the circumstances, Mr. Joseph Yamin, the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports declared that membership of the NDC ruling party would be the main grounds for the selection of supporters and spectators to the tournament. His explanation was that this was a reward to the party youth for working for an NDC victory and that the NPP did the same thing in 2006. So far, we don’t know whether this is the position of the government or merely Mr. Yamin talking politics. Do we even know in the end who went and how they were selected?

Normally, extra-football controversies die down the moment the actual playing begins; but not this year. The shambles on the field resembled what was happening in the real world. Before the start of the tournament we heard ugly rumours about money issues but these were often denied by officials with a – with straight faces. I saw the Vice President His Excellency Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur on TV giving the usual promise to the players as if he believed it. That was before the start of the first match against the USA. Knowing what we know now, we can surmise that Coach Kwesi Appiah’s strange selection could have been influenced by circumstances outside of football.

In any case, rumours surfaced immediately after the first match – that painful defeat to the USA, that some senior players had confronted the coach after the match. Again, officials denied the rumours but as more details emerged it was confirmed that there was trouble in the camp. The rumours about money being the root of all the troubles were confirmed when the government of Ghana charted a plain to carry physical cash and distribute to the players in Brazil. This incredible act has left the entire world both amused and bemused at the kind of country and people we are. I have never felt more humiliated as a Ghanaian than last Wednesday and Thursday when international broadcast stations and social media had a huge laugh at the expense of a country that had not yet discovered international money transfer.

Given the players’ rebellion over the appearance fee and the sacking of “senior players” Messrs Muntari and Boateng, only a wild-eyed innocent freshly arrived from outer space would believe that we had the right preparation and the players had the right frame of mind to play good football. Lapses in concentration were bound to occur. And they did, at a cost.

This has been a costly undertaking. In addition to the cost of sending the players, a platoon of officials (which is the thing Mr. Muntari complained about), party supporters and assorted hangers-on to Brazil, we also have the cost of lost productivity, the extra electricity and of course loss of sleep. My friend Dr. Kwaku Danso in California has calculated that Ghana lost about 25 million dollars a day in lost productivity watching the World Cup.

In any serious country there would be huge enquiry into the shambles of 2014 and use that to streamline the entire administration of sports in the country. For once, let us resolve as a people to ensure on accountability. Mr. Nyantakyi and entire GFA must do the decent thing and allow the nation to start afresh.

Another person who should probably start afresh is the Kumasi-based prophet called Kyei Duah who declared that the Black Stars will qualify to the next round. It will not be fair to call him a false prophet, but of course his prophesy was false. Personally, I think what he saw was for 2018. Cheer up folks. That is only four years away.

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One Response to “World Cup Diary 8”

  1. Thank you very much, Onua Pa Kwasi, for this “hot” Diary 8! Some of us living outside Ghana (including perpetual exiles like myself) thank you very much for the candid assessment, which can make both the Afro-Optimist and the Afro-Pessimist shake their heads in disbelief! Well, that is part of the happenings of “Ogyakrom” (Ghana, as some close relatives and friends call our nation!), and there we have them!

    As I read your brilliant analysis, Kwasi, you made me smile at the “What Went Wrong” tone! It seems we need the scrutiny after the hurricane-like happenings in our football (or soccer) fortunes, but still — like Maya Angelou’s “Still, I Arise” — we will also continue to sing: “Lift high the flag of Ghana…” Amen?
    A.B. Assensoh, Oregon, USA.

    PS: By the way, Onua Pa Kwasi, where do I see you in Accra on my arrival early in July of 2014 to attend a relative’s important funeral rites? I need for you and a few brothers and sisters to pour a libation for me with Akpeteshie (Ogogoroi)!:-)J

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