My heart bleeds for Ghana Football. We don't seem to be learning, and that is as disheartening and frustrating, just as it is disturbing.
There is a saying that everything is subject to change, except the word change itself. I don't envy the Normalisation Committee (NC) of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) one bit.
There is nothing more difficult than leading a people who are stiff-necked and will simply not follow or cooperate with a leader. That appears to be the perfect picture of the state of Ghana Football presently.
The normalisation process notwithstanding, some clubs, administrators and fans seem to be incorrigibly stuck deep in the past with no change in sight. Otherwise, how could some stakeholders be singing the songs of the past whilst we are in a new era and are desperately seeking for a better future for the sake of mother Ghana.
I am tempted to refer to an unfortunate incident which occurred in the past week to drum home my point. As a member of the newly-constituted Referees Committee of the GFA, I received a complaint from an official of a Premiership club (name withheld) in protest against the appointment of an assistant referee for their midweek match at home. He simply wanted that particular referee changed 24 hours to the game simply because he had not been fair to the club in the past.
Not to talk of the timing of the protest, I thought that this club official was still living in the past and therefore needed some liberation from that effect. I tried to explain to him that we are in a new dispensation which required a new mindset and attitude by all stakeholders to help move the local game forward.
I also reminded him that the level of distrust in referees today emanated from club officials, hence the need for them to help clean up the mess instead of perpetuating the tendencies which would only worsen the situation.
Interestingly, the same club official was all joy the day after the match as he confessed to me and the Referees Committee that the very assistant referee he protested against was the best official on the day, meaning the normalisation process is indeed on course.
Interestingly, the same club official was all joy the day after match as he confessed to me and the Referees Committee that the very assistant referee he protested against was the best official on the day, meaning the normalisation process is indeed on course.
Again, I also thought the call for the replacement of a referee due to his past record was unfortunate and uncalled for, especially after the new set of referees officiating the NC's special competition had been taken through an integrity course by some external FIFA instructors led by Lee Kim Chong of Mauritius at Sogakope recently.
Of course, as humans, referees can commit errors which can be excused, but not blunders that can bring the game into disrepute. After that intensive training, I believe it dawned on the participants that a lot was expected of them by FIFA, CAF, GFA and Ghanaians in general, thus committing them to live up to expectation or have themselves to blame.
I confronted the said club official with the fact that since clubs were guilty of bribing referees to influence the result of matches in the past, the logical conclusion is that they will be in the right position to stop that canker as well. I believe bribery of referees can be eliminated from our game if all hands can be put on deck. And that revolution has already begun!
Just as club officials have started protesting against the appointment of referees, the onus lies on match officials to also name and shame every club official who tries to influence them with money to mar the beauty of the game and derail the normalisation process.
I wish to advise the clubs to desist from the primitive culture of protesting against appointed referees for whatever reason, and rather trust in the system and also have confidence in our referees to deliver to the satisfaction of all. I know how difficult it is to stop one's shadow from chasing after him but in the circumstance we can cope with the monster we all created and help the system to work efficiently for our own good.
If countries readily accept the appointment of referees for FIFA and CAF matches whether we are happy or not, then the same rule should apply in our domestic game since we operate under these two international bodies. The days when clubs impressed upon the GFA to review the appointment of referees due to ethnicity, regional or whatever reason, should belong to the past.
We are all Ghanaians and one people for that matter. We should all come together to encourage our referees to be very professional anytime they get the privilege to officiate matches. I see it as a privilege because many names are on the referees list looking for the opportunity to officiate matches.
Again, referees themselves know the benefits of handling matches. The more matches you get the better your performance, as well as your chances of getting the enviable FIFA badge which every serious referee aspires for.
I end by condemning the incident which happened at Tarkwa last Thursday when a supporter of Asante Kotoko allegedly threatened the referee of their match against Medeama with death anytime he visits Kumasi. I believe these elements should not be entertained at all if indeed we all want to see a serious improvement in our game.
I expect the management of Kotoko to come out urgently to dissociate itself from that unguarded comment from that supporter which casts a slur on the image of the club.
Of course, no serious company will want to be associated with a game which is infested with such characters. No wonder the league struggled to get sponsorship in the years gone by.
I daresay that this is a fine opportunity to change the face of Ghana Football. But that change must begin with the change of attitude by all stakeholders of the game.