Last week, I had reason to commend the Dormaahene, Osagyefo Oseadeayo Agyeman-Badu II, for delivering a timely insightful speech which bordered on patriotism on the part of Ghanaian athletes, especially footballers.
And exactly one week later, the thorny issue of whether or not to reduce the bonus of the Black Stars has resurfaced just a few days to such an important FIFA World Cup qualifier against the Comoros away on Friday, followed immediately by the return leg in Kumasi next Tuesday.
As usual, a rumour which happened to be a fallout from an emergency meeting between the Minister of Youth and Sports, Dr Mustapha Ahmed, and offcials of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) indicated that the long-standing Black Stars’ winning bonus of $10,000 had been slashed down to $5,000. Quite naturally, the Stars captain Asamoah Gyan, who did not take kindly to the supposed ‘bad news’ has already expressed his reservation about what he perceived to be an outrageous decision.
But quite interestingly, neither the GFA, who were allegedly supposed to communicate the decision to the players, nor the ministry has yet denied or confirmed the bonus reduction, giving room for more speculation.
Like many Ghanaians, I am of the view that the sector minister should take the bull by the horn and let the players know the true position of their winning bonus to put the matter to rest. Obviously, the situation as it is is not the best, especially where skipper Gyan and his colleagues think they are being treated like slaves just days to a crucial World Cup qualifier. How unfortunate!
When I heard those unfortunate comments on radio, the question which came to mind was whether it was these same players who were rewarded $25,000 each and Grand Cherokee cross-country vehicles for placing second at the 2015 AFCON in Equatorial Guinea. I think these offers are enough grounds to convince the players of the senior national team to consider a bonus reduction, if the rumour making the rounds is anything to go by. If they still reject the $5,000, everybody will know that the players are just being unreasonable.
We were all in this country when the Ministry made a u-turn to corner the same players and assure them of their regular bonuses after coming out to announce a review of the Stars’ bonus for AFCON 2015. Who were the ministry fooling on that occasion? And so it happened that the team indeed enjoyed their normal bonuses plus an extra $25,000 on their return home, even after failing to win the trophy.
As I stated in this same column a few weeks back, we don’t need a soothsayer to tell us that the government is currently struggling to settle the Stars’ huge winning bonuses. Come to think of it, the team’s winning bonus for their 1-0 victory over Rwanda in Kigali in September is still in arrears, in addition to the bonus of the technical team in respect of the match against Lesotho in Accra as far back as June. Hitherto, both players and officials of the team received their bonus immediately after matches.
So if the same government, which was committed to paying $10,000 as winning bonus, and some additional offers in the past, now says it can only afford $5,000, what is the fuss about it? I still cannot fathom why officials are dancing around the issue.
For me, it is all about burying our pride and letting the players know the realities on the ground for which reason it would not be feasible for the government to continue paying the $10,000 bonus. This has nothing to do with demeaning the players; it is about facing realities!
Had the government considered the $5,000 bonus recommended by the Dzamefe Commission earlier on, this issue would have been dealt with long ago.
Before I rest my case, I want to remind the players that they owe this nation a lot for making them who they are today. Whether groomed locally or abroad, our players still owe this nation so much for investing in them and also giving them a huge platform to develop their respective careers. That is why I don’t expect them to see a reduction of their bonuses as a punishment or a sign of disrespect.
Surely, the privilege of playing for one’s country cannot be quantified in monetary terms. I, therefore, expect the players to gladly accept the new offer from the state which has been there for them all these years.
To quote the Dormaahene, it is high time our players appreciated the significance of wearing the national colours. If for nothing at all, it increases their market value.
It’s Ghana first! I hope our leaders are listening too, since charity begins at home.