In the 1970s, when I was growing up in Prestea, my father, who was chairman of the Prestea Mine Stars Football Club, took me to the local stadium on several occasions to watch the team play.
But however much I tried, I could not fall in love with the spectacle of 22 adult men kicking an inflated piece of leather around, with a referee in the middle armed with a whistle and trying to keep order, and a delirious, baying crowd in the background.
The current Black Stars Coach, Kwasi Appiah, lived briefly in our home when he played for the Mine Stars. So did the late Coach E.K Afranie, who coached the team at a point. It did not help. I do watch major matches Ghana is involved in but that is more out of love for country than love for the game per se. Maybe the passion behind ‘the beautiful game’ is just not meant to be understood.
afcon 2019 and the balance sheet
After a 37-year AFCON drought, it would have been nice to clinch the trophy at the just-ended tournament. A win would have done great wonders to the morale and cohesiveness of the nation and boosted its feel-good factor.
So I could understand the pain and humiliation when Tunisia booted us out, and the subsequent vitriolic analysis by millions of overnight armchair coaches and master football strategists on social media from the comfort of their phones and laptops.
If only we held our political leaders at all levels to the same rigorous standards of behaviour and expectation as we did of our national football team.
But perhaps what drove people into the stratospheric realms of annoyance was the revelation by the Minister of Youth and Sports that we had expended $4.5m on the AFCON adventure, with a full breakdown to be submitted later.
The detail provided was enough fodder to trigger a bout of forensic auditing on social media, with the 2014 Brazil World Cup debacle in mind.
dissolve the black stars?
I have two simple questions. If we had won the title, would Ghanaians, bathed in unbridled euphoria, have noticed our eye-popping financial outlay involved in the tournament? The suggestion by some that the money expended was disproportionate to how far we had progressed at AFCON 2019 gave me the impression that a win would have dwarfed interest in the cost element.
My other question is probably blasphemous to football lovers. In line with the standard Ghanaian practice of using crumbling hospitals, dilapidated schools, poor roads, etc.
as our fundamental and probably only benchmark of the legitimacy of any government expenditure outside these, and given our inability to make any serious headway in major tournaments, is it not sensible to dissolve the Black Stars altogether and use the money for these bread and butter issues to improve our lives in a more tangible manner?
I put this ‘dangerous’ question to my two younger football-loving brothers, Tony and David, over the weekend.
I suggested I might order just that if I ever became President. They both looked at me as if I had lost my mind and explained to me gently that if I were President, my advisors would simply translate my crazy idea into the number of votes my party would haemorrhage at the next election.
Would I want the opposition to say that it was under my presidency that Ghanaians were deliberately denied the simple pleasure of watching their national team participate in international tournaments, and thereby tag me a killjoy?
I balked at the vote-losing implications of such a policy, and I abandoned it immediately.
Clearly, juxtaposing the national passion against bread and butter issues was a non-starter.
the camel milk issue
It is important that we all keep an eye on the financial aspect of the tournament and demand that not a dime more than necessary was spent during AFCON 2019.
We shall all be putting on our magnifying glasses to scrutinise the detailed financial statement when it comes out. We ought to ask hard questions on how our money was spent and on who it was spent.
In all of this, with the ludicrous price tag of $20 per coconut during Brazil 2014 still dancing in my mind, all I want from the Sports Ministry is a simple piece of information. How much was spent per calabash of fresh camel milk for the team in the Land of the Pharaohs and Pyramids?
Source: Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng Writer’s E-mail: [email protected]
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