Why Is Ghanaian Football Still In ‘Jail’?

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On March 15, 2020, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced suspension of all sporting activities due to the COVID 19 until further notice.

It’s been more than 161 days and yet still football hasn’t resumed in the country although the active cases of the coronavirus keeps dropping. It is also more than 80 days now since the government relaxed COVID 19 restrictions on aspects of the nation’s sports, specifically non-contact sports. It was a great move towards the gradual return of normalcy.

Again, it may have come as pleasant and joyous news to the football populace when the President on July 27 announced that the junior national teams that are Black Starlets (Male U-17), Black Satellites (Male U-20), Black Maidens (Female U-17) and Black Princesses (Female U-20) were free to resume camping and prepare for their respective international assignments.

That address made by the President were celebrated – even if on the quiet, by the game’s stakeholders, who were now convinced that on the President’s next engagement with the nation, football would be set free from this strange virus of COVID 19.

Wrong. That was not to be – albeit the GFA and Ministry of Youth and Sports had submitted to government comprehensive documents depicting the road-map to the restart of ‘safe football’.
Since mid-March, football has been in ‘jail’ because the pandemic struck the world cold, and sadly throwing the domestic season into tatters. Sadly, the pandemic came at a time the league was getting soo interesting and it was going full throttle.

As a matter of fact, pressure began to pour on the GFA and it had no choice but to cancel the 2019/20 Premier League season altogether as numbers of people suffering from COVID 19 continued to escalate dreadfully. This was the third year in a row our domestic football hasn’t gone in it’s full throttle due to the Anas Number 12 exposé tape, Liaison and Normalisation Committee taking over when we had no GFA and now COVID 19 hitting us.

Happily, we have come a long way now as the nation has made significant progress in it’s fight against the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, August 26, 2020 (11:31GMT) when this piece was being put together, Ghana had recorded 1,874 actives cases with 270 deaths of the confirmed 43,717 cases and 41,843 patients having recovered so far.

It is no wonder Ghana has been included in the list of countries safe to travel to amid coronavirus by the World Travel and Tourism Council 2020.

Clearly, the fight against the pandemic is being won gradually. It is a big credit to the government and the good people of Ghana. But do we still have any sufficient reason to keep football in the dark?
It would interest you to know that even clu tries that have recorded far more devastating fatalities, have their football back now – even if not fully with regard to crowd attendance.

Nothing stops us from trading that path, but the issue being raised is that our football clubs don’t have much financial capacity to cater for their playing and non-playing staffs if money from gate proceeds aren’t earned.

Ghana has one of the lowest casualty rated in the world, an indication of the fact that we are doing something right.

Countries worst hit by COVID 19 are USA with total cases of 5.9m with more than 182,000 deaths; Brazil (3.9m with over 116,000 deaths), Spain (over 423,000 cases woth over 28,900 deaths) and Italy (261,000 plus with over 35,400 deaths); among others. These countries, though, have some amazing recovery rates.

But more remarkable is the fact that the aforementioned countries have their football back long ago. In Africa, South Africa – the continent’s biggest hit with 613,017 cases and 13, 308 deaths with 520,381 recoveries, resumed football a couple of weeks ago.

The South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) resumed on August 8 with the aim of completing the 2019/20 season fixtures. Other African countries like Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Tanzania, Burundi, etc, have all come back into action with their football. Where is Ghana?

The Kurt Okraku-led FA is to pay out $270,000 to the Premier League season ahead of the new sea after it announced the disbursement of the FIFA/CAF COVID 19 relief funds last month.

Per the relief, the 18 Ghanaian top flight clubs will manage $15,000 each from the total financial package of $1.8m made available by FIFA and CAF.
Other beneficiaries of the relief fund include national teams, referees, match commissioners, GHALCA among others.

A week ago, GFA revised the allocation of the FIFA COVID 19 relief fund for the 48 Division One League clubs and the 72 Regional Women’s Division One League clubs.

Division One League clubs are expected to take $8000 each as part of their share of the fund. On the same score, the 72 Women’s Division One League clubs across will receive $1500 each.

Per data from the GFA, the nation’s football is said to employ about 70,000 footballers that feed into the socio-economic architecture of the country.

Most of these players, unquestionably are bread winners of their family. Failure to resume football soon would only mean more hardship for these beautiful hardworking footballers who depend on nothing but football for survival – not to talk about the shooting pain that club owners are going through at the moment to keep their teams together.

Perhaps, we need no one to tell the authorities concerned about the number of people that football employs outside the field. The food vendors, the pure water sellers, club paraphernalia dealers etc, all depend tremendously on football for survival.

On recommencement of football, one expects to see the authorities allowing a small number of fans to the stadium. Ghana could become the first country in the continent to do so, and that would be great.

If there is easing of restriction on mass gathering, any reason why it cannot be applied to football when its played for at least 2 hours? For how long can we keep our thirst for domestic football dry?
If we claim coronavirus has come to live with us, then let us make do with it. Much as we need to be cautious and adhere to safety protocols, let us not allow it to spoil the passion of the nation and filch our joy away. Indeed football is one of the nation’s biggest delight and passion and we desperately need it back now.

Let us free our football now from the mancles of COVID 19!

Let us not lose the plot. Indeed, if we fail to do anything quickly about the situation, our players would be very rusty and will file out like rats deserting a sinking ship – when our borders and ports are opened.

In the same vein, efforts must be made to get boxing and other contact sport disciplines back – just like other countries across the world.

We are only awaiting government’s green light to hit the ground running again. We pleading with the government to allow our football return now. Life Must Go On!

Writer – Kwabena Asante Marfo, KobbyKyeiSportsNews