Frankly, I do not know what is wrong, but the atmosphere has changed.
There was not the usual excitement during the recent African Cup matches. Normally when the Black Stars are playing in a major match, I leave the television to save the old heart from great tension by taking a book to bed.
But I quickly go down to put the television on to watch the replay when the national team scores.But how did I know that the Stars had scored a goal? It is simple. There were then yells and deafening shouts of joy from “Palm Wine Junction” to “Wireless” at La where I live. Taxis and even sedate cars sounded their horns. The excitement was usually great and widespread.
Nothing of the sort, however, happened when the Stars played for the championship of Africa recently. My area was quiet. There was no indication that we had qualified for the semi-finals. There appeared to be some disenchantment with football.
Even the press seemed to share in the yawning on football. But was it the game the people appeared to be tired of or were those involved in its administration and promotion found ineffective and disappointing?
The public disenchantment appeared to have affected the Ghanaian team. The second goal scored by Cameroun to deny the Stars firmly going into the finals was farcical. The Ghanaians were naturally applying great pressure for an equaliser. But was that a reason for ignoring the defence? The chasing of the Camerounian with the ball by two Ghanaians was funny. The Ghanaians appeared tired and aimless.If not, how could they not overtake the Camerounian who was naturally slowed down by controlling the ball? And more importantly, why was there no defence?
And why did the Black Stars fail to score after so much pressure? It appeared they had only one plan - get the ball to one or two strikers.
There were no attempts to try long shots through the many openings in the opponents’ defence; and the headings from the many good corners were not that good. The Stars appeared to have been affected by the displeasure of many Ghanaians.
Instead of being heroes in waiting, they were regarded as money. Grabbers at a time when corruption appeared to be rife in the country. It was rumoured they asked for executive allowances to represent their country and had to climb down after some pressure.
But can we blame the Stars? They were subjected to so much haggling about allowances and other payments during the World Cup competition in Brazil. There appeared to be so much time-consuming arguments and confusion that eventually a plane had to be hired to carry allowances and other payments from Ghana to Brazil in this day and age of electronic transfers. We became the laughing stock of the world!
Those who administer football in Ghana have, together with those who play, brought the game to a low ebb in Ghana. We must get rid of the bad administrators and restore the image of football. It is still the most popular game in Ghana and as we promote sports in general, we should not forget the pivotal role of football.
We should restore football as the most popular game played by the youth. It is good for them in many ways. In the bad old days, a housemaster at Achimota College had to coach his house team in football, hockey and cricket. He could ask colleagues who were not housemasters to help but he would do well to read, study and play the game so that he could coach his house team.
Of course as a teacher, you learn about the importance of games and sports in physical and mental development. We should vigorously promote the inter-school and college games of old. Facilities for other games should be provided to usefully engage our boys and girls at school. In particular, there should be grounds and parks at schools and in the country for games.
In my youth, we had many open fields in which to play football. An open space, four heaps of stone for goal posts and a tennis ball and you were game for football. Today, it is more expensive to play even football. You need boots, goal posts, footballs and marked fields.
In my youth, practically all you needed was open space and there were many of them. Where can the young play today? We build anywhere, anyhow and have no parks, open places of leisure let alone football parks.
I am afraid without parks, football will go into decline. Not long ago, Germany dominated the field of tennis with Boris Becker as the leading star. At a meeting in Hanover, I asked a German friend how they produced so many good tennis players. He said he would talk to me about the matter after the afternoon session.
He took me round after the session and without any comments simply called my attention to the many tennis courts practically on every street. It was clear you could not create great tennis players if there were no tennis courts. Likewise, we cannot create great strikers, midfielders and the like if there are no football parks. Incidentally, we practically have no tennis courts in Accra apart from the apology of a couple of courts at Ridge. In my youth, people such as Paa Dove had extensive tennis courts at home at Tudu.
So let us put a stop to the rampant development of towns without football and other parks. We must keep the young healthy. Camping children on the sixth floor of a conurbation will not help. The youth must be up and around to maintain and promote health and wellbeing. We cannot develop good footballers without parks and facilities for enjoyment.
What is wrong with football in Ghana is more serious than the lack and search for expert foreign coaches and trainers and the provision of adequate money for players. What we need is to provide facilities so that we can tap talent throughout the country and imprint our character and style on the game.
Football is not merely a game to be watched and in which to promote teams and in which to place bets. It is to be enjoyed. In my youth, we were excited not only by the number of goals scored by our side but by the dribbling delight of players. We were thrilled not by “strikers” but by those who displayed “Amε” (dribbles).
Football has moved on and we should follow development. We should express our national character while we win matches. The Brazilians do not play football like the British who took the game over there. What is wrong with football is not the temporary disenchantment. We should make facilities available, especially parks. It should be a crime to build on every available piece of land.