In Ghana, Football is often clichéd to be the “passion” of the nation. Truly, football is a tool which unites a nation with diverse religious, political, ethnic, moral, and social backgrounds.
Underpinning this cruciality of football, and sports in a much bigger context, in fostering national integration and Unity, is the express provision of article 37 clause 5 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic, which enjoins the State to promote sports to foster national integration, promote health and self-disciple as well as international friendship and understanding.
Past Governments, pre and post-Colonial Ghana have in various ways promoted football and sports in general, via the provision of sporting facilities and the provision of financial support to athletes and sportsmen and women from the country. National teams have been supported in various forms in a bid to promote sports in the country.
Unequivocally, the promotion of football as a sporting discipline, is to promote national integration and Unity, rather than for financial gains. It is therefore safe to say that the stakeholders of the game, the Ministry of Youth And Sports, the managers of the National Football teams, The Ghana Football Association, and the footballers themselves, who represent the country, offer themselves for service with the motivation of contributing their quota to nation building via sports.
Great Footballers, such as Akwasi Owusu, Rev. Osei Kofi, Mohammed Polo, the late Emmanuel Quarshie, Ibrahim Sunday, Abdul Razak, Abedi Ayew, just to mention but a few, including all the legends of the cup winning 1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982 squads have all served the nation selflessly with pride and with the sole motivation of honoring the country of their birth. It is an understatement to say that some of these legends, based on their unique soccer techniques and contributions to the nation deserved millions of cedis for their services. Yet, in a spirit of patriotism, and in line with the main object of representing the country in sports, these legends never debated nor agitated for unreasonable bonuses or any form of financial motivation before putting their legs and heads on the line for three points for the country. They trained, played, created, scored, and won matches and tournaments without unreasonably holding the country to ransom.
Many keen observers of Ghana football, with scholarship in the history of the national teams must have been left puzzled and absolutely perplexed with the drama that has engulfed the senior national team, Black Stars, in recent years. The threats and despicable disregard for authority that summed up the poor performance of the Black Stars in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, culminating in a first round exit from the competition, necessitating the setting up of a Presidential Commission of Enquiry, down to the recent debate about the quantum of money to be paid as bonus to the Stars, has left many Ghanaians bewildered and disappointed.
The Ghana Football Association, which is itself bedeviled with a lot of problems, has been accused of failing in its managerial duty. The GFA has been accused of instigating what many Ghanaians see as unreasonable demands by the players of the senior national team. The GFA is generally perceived as a corrupt body, which has failed to make its own domestic calendar work. The GFA is therefore seen as not having the capacity to orient the players of the senior national team to realize that playing for the national team is simply playing for honor and nothing more. The revelations by the President of the FA, Mr. Kwasi Nyantakyi, regarding honorarium paid to management committee members of the Black Stars at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, with the infamous “co-efficient” theory, is a testament to the fact that the GFA cannot be trusted to imbibe the much-needed sense of discipline and patriotism in the players of the senior national team.
When Andre Dede Ayew stated that “they were just doing their jobs” and therefore deserved to be paid whatever amount they thought was proportionate to their efforts for the national team, many Ghanaians realized that there was no need to lose sleep over the national team again.
Andre Ayew “is just doing his job” by playing for the national team. He ought to be paid for “doing his job.” The question I asked myself was “what is my job?” Is “my job” to pray for someone to get paid $10,000 while I cannot get good drinking water? Is “the job” of Ghanaians to worry for someone to get paid $10,000 when many cannot afford basic health care? Must someone who lives on $1 pray for someone to get $10,000? The answer to these questions is very simple; Let them play for the money, we will pray for our families.
If the players and the GFA cannot be patriotic enough to sacrifice for the country, why must Ghanaians, under the slogan of patriotism lose sleep when someone is just “doing his job?”
The pretenses must stop. The mysteries must be demystified. The reality must be appreciated. The Black Stars players don’t play for Ghanaians anymore. They play for themselves. They “do their jobs” to get paid. Until a clear and manifest change in attitude is seen, Ghanaians must concentrate on “doing their jobs too.” Let the players play for the money, we will pray for our families.