Feature: Time up to separate football from politics

Author: Ebo Kwaitoo

Whoever misinformed President Nana Akufo-Addo that money could secure us the much-needed Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy has done this nation a great disservice. Perhaps, the happenings in Egypt should be enough grounds to separate football from politics to spare Ghanaians the frequent heartbreaks.

In the words of the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, let me state that if the foundation is weak, the Black Stars will always be exposed at major tournaments as it happened in Egypt. If, indeed, what we witnessed in Egypt is our very best at the moment, then it's obvious that more work needs to be done, especially at the base.

I totally differ from the view that some heads should roll simply because the Black Stars' second round exit was their worst AFCON performance since Egypt 2006. Incidentally, Ghana's painful first round exit in that tournament also happened in Ismailia.

Since independence, heads have been rolling anytime we fail to achieve some expected results as a nation, we don't seem to be making any meaningful headway. If not, how could politicians repeat the same mistakes which made us a laughing stock to the whole world at the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup.

What happened after the removal of the then Sports Minister, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, was the institution of the Dzamefe Presidential Commission to probe into what transpired in Brazil. The rest is history as the commission's laudable report is merely gathering dust on the shelves in the Attorney General's office.

Five years on, the same mistakes are being repeated at the expense of the taxpayer. in my last article, I stated emphatically that money is not enough to win us the AFCON when I realised government's determination to invest every pesewa to ensure the Stars break the 37-year AFCON drought.

Again, I was right in my prediction that the government might fly many people to Egypt. Politics don't cease to amaze me. As a leopard can hardly shed its spots, so is it difficult for politicians to be unpredictable.

So, instead of removing people from office simply because Ghana failed to win the AFCON, let's rather learn the hard lessons from this year's campaign and vow to avoid the negatives and build upon the positives going forward.

Upon a sober reflection, I hope the Sports Minister, Isaac Asiamah, might have learnt his lessons by now after being carried away in Egypt by a sheer youthful exuberance. Before the Stars campaign, the minister was on course in his effort to help provide sports infrastructure for the youth in the various regions to build their capacity. That is a vision he should be given the chance to pursue to the letter.

Beyond that, he should prepare to account for every pesewa of the taxpayers money that was invested in the AFCON campaign in Egypt. For now, Asiamah will go down in history as the first minister to supervise the payment of appearance fee to the Black Stars to any AFCON in recent memory.

Hitherto, the Black Stars were paid appearance fee for only the FIFA World Cup because FIFA provides funds to cater for that. However, CAF has no such arrangement for the AFCON, hence the non-payment of appearance fee for the continental competition.

Besides, we could have maintained the $5,000 winning bonus recommended by the White Paper on the Dzamefe Commission to save the nation some good money instead of succumbing to the dictates of these over-pampered players who cannot translate the huge financial incentives splashed on them into the required results on the pitch.

If I may ask, is the State going to get back the alleged Gh¢80,000 appearance fee paid to the players after failing to deliver on their promise to win the trophy? The government should never make the mistake of playing into the hands of these players again to avoid a repeat of the Brazil drama. The truth is that the players need the nation more than the nation needs them.

I hope by now our officials have n up from whatever hallucination that deceived them into believing that they could use just six months to win the AFCON whose expansion has made it much more difficult to win. I believe it is time to stop the frivolous spending on the Black Stars and rather use the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) money to build the right structures from the bottom up.

The FA needs to take a critical look at youth development at this stage to secure the future of Ghana Football. It is now obvious that the over-concentration on the Black Stars won't take us anywhere.

Another vital lesson learnt from Egypt 2019 is that politicians can no longer pretend to know football more than football administrators who have gained the necessary expertise through their active involvement in the game over the years.

The earlier politicians hand over the national teams to the football people to manage while regulating them, the better it will be for all of us.

To be continued