The Minister of Youth and Sports, Isaac Asiamah, has been quoted as saying the government is considering the possibility of mobilising supporters to India to cheer Ghana’s Black Starlets during next month’s FIFA Under-17 Championship.
The minister, in dropping the hint, indicated that any such travel arrangement would be contingent on the various splinter supporters’ groups merging as one body to benefit from any government largesse, just as the case had been in recent times.
The presence of a strong, unified supporters’ group is very essential in helping teams win very difficult games, and on such occasions, the supporters have been described as the “12th man” on the field to reflect their importance.
However, the thought of government spending huge sums of money to convey supporters to cheer the national team is very worrying, given the abuse of such an exercise in the past.
Besides, the Justice Senyo Dzamefe Commission of Enquiry which investigated Ghana’s 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign recommended that the state no longer get itself involved in such mass transportation of supporters to international sporting competitions, a recommendation which was endorsed by the government White Paper.
During the public sitting of the commission, it became evident that government’s sponsorship of supporters to Brazil became a conduit for fraudulent activities and other related problems, including immigration headache which made the headlines for the wrong reasons. The public outcry was enough to force the government not to embark on future state -sponsored trips for supporters, given the huge sums of taxpayers’ money involved and the fact that the trips often take partisan twists.
Therefore, the u-turn made by the minister when he met with some of the supporters’ group is quite worrying, given the tight budgetary constraints the sports sector faces, which had compelled the Ministry of Youth and Sports to take some tough measures, such as reducing the bonuses received by the national football teams to ensure fiscal prudence.
Perhaps the minister was misunderstood by suggesting that the government would sponsor supporters to India. But in the face of financial constraints, with many sporting federations unable to access their budgetary allocations, spending state funds to transport many supporters to India to cheer the Starlets is not a prudent use of state resources, especially when other national teams have been denied of the needed resources for important assignments.
Instead, the Sports Ministry could use its influence to get private companies in Ghana, particularly those owned and operated by Indians and others with strong economic ties with India, to consider sponsoring supporters to cheer the Starlets at the U-17 World Championship. State mobilisation for such trips often ends in controversy and scandals, which must be avoided before they explode in our faces.