Opinion: Brazil 2014 – What are Ghana’s priorities?

Black Stars vs Egypt

Black Stars vs Egypt

Ghana will be among the 32 countries that will be competing for honors in Brazil starting from Thursday, June 12, 2014. For a country that cherishes football more than any other sport, Ghana’s participation in this year’s Copa  M undial has been received with all the euphoria and ecstasy in the country it deserves. If not for anything at all, the one-month period within which the competition would take place would at least reduce the political cacophony on our airwaves. However, with a day to the commencement of the festival, has Ghana gotten its priorities right as far as the competition is concerned?

After all 32 teams had qualified for the tournament, the processes leading to the World Cup finals started with the World Cup Draw in the beautiful Costa do Sauípe near the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. This is the stage where the 32 countries were by way of random sampling divided into 8 groups of 4 countries each. The draw was just about an hour’s event that took place on December 6, 2013. FIFA had given accreditation to 3 people from each country to attend the event. Most countries were represented at the event by their coach and president or representative from their respective football associations. Ghana, however attended the event with a 17-member delegation including the Chief of Staff, Sports Minister, selected politicians and journalists. What were they going to do? They purportedly were there to establish contacts and draw investments into the country, WITHIN ONE HOUR! However absurd this might sound, it actually happened. Thankfully, there were a few amongst that list, who allowed their conscience to speak to them and as such declined the offer to embark on such a frivolous adventure. Kwabena Yeboah, the ace sports broadcaster and Mr. Isaac Asiamah, Member of Parliament for the Atwima Mponua Constituency and a member of the parliamentary select committee on sports were among the dignified few.

President John Mahama with the Black Stars
As part of our preparations towards the World Cup, there were reports in the media that the team’s psychologist, Professor Mintah had sent a proposal to the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to allow players to bring their wives and girlfriends to camp in Brazil. This sparked a protracted debate within the media with even the GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi joining. He is on record saying that he needs ‘to be convinced’ as to the importance of such a move, as Ghana had already gone to two previous finals and performed creditably well without players bringing their wives and girlfriends to camp. Reverend Osei Kofi, himself a former Black Stars player and a member of the 1968 African Cup winning squad rubbished the idea and said we were not serious as a country. Former Black Stars captain Stephen Appiah seemed to agree with the proposal from the team’s psychologist but public outburst and backlash ensured that he and the professor belonged to the subdued minority, and the idea never saw the light of day.

Stephen Appiah
Kwesi Nyantakyi In preparation for the World Cup, the Ministry for Youth and Sports set up six committees, each comprising of at least five people to oversee Ghana’s participation. The committees were: Protocol and Supporters headed by Kojo Adu Asare (former member of parliament), Events and Logistics headed by Horace Ankrah, Marketing headed by Joel Nettey, Media and Communications headed by Ackah Anthony, Trade, Tourism and Arts headed by Elizabeth Agyare and Health, Sanitation, Safety and Security headed by Alhaji Saeed Lartey. What the mandate of these committees were and what they have achieved so far is yet to be known, but it gives you an indication of how serious we are about this tournament in Brazil, especially when the local organizing committee responsible for the organization of the entire program in Brazil consists of only six people. If only Brazil had the vision of Ghana, they would have be done with preparations far ahead of schedule.

As part of our preparations, the GFA had to submit a budget proposal to government for the tournament. The contents of the budget became Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) classified information in this country. The spokesperson for the GFA, Mr. Ibrahim Sani Dara had said on countless times in the media that he did not know the contents of the budget. The media started speculating figures ranging from $20m to $25m. When the government came out finally with an approved budget of 19.5m, the focus of the debate in the media shifted to what constituted that amount. There were allocations for laundry, local food and money for the ‘cheif drummer’. The media were relentless in dissecting the issues. We were purportedly spending in excess of $10,000 to buy local food like ‘koobi’, ‘dawadawa’, ‘amane’, ‘akyεkε′ to Brazil. When the media interrogated the allocation of $5,000 for the chief drummer, Mr. Joseph Langabell (Ghana’s ‘Chief Drummer’) responded by saying ‘Ghanaian journalists are sentimental bombolastic popcorns’. Whatever that means, I don’t know. When he had the opportunity to discuss the budget on national television, Mr. Sani Dara said he wasn’t going into the details of the budget since it had been declared a ‘state secret’ by the Chief of Staff. Really? The budget for the entire country wasn’t a state secret, the budget for the sports ministry itself was not a state secret but the budget for the World Cup was a state secret? Very informative!

Kwesi Appiah at a press conference
To show how serious we are as a country concerning Ghana’s participation in the soccer showpiece event, the Sports Ministry appointed 15 celebrities as World Cup Ambassadors. The list cut across musicians, actors/actresses, former footballers and boxing icons. This is Ghana’s third consecutive participation in this prestigious competition and the idea of ‘World Cup Ambassadors’ is a novelty. This prompted people to ask questions as to what the role of these ‘ambassadors’ were. The Minister explained that these ambassadors are to represent Ghana in and out of the country and sell out our culture. They are also supposed to grant interviews in the media and raise awareness about Brazil 2014. But more importantly, since the country was for the first time in its finals participation history, not going to send fans to the tournament due to financial constraints, these ambassadors were supposed to appeal to ‘Corporate Ghana’ in order to raise funds to enable government send supporters to Brazil. All these and many more were contained in the ‘appointment letters’ given to these ambassadors, which the minister read out to the press. Shortly after his appointment as one of the ambassadors, the self-acclaimed Dancehall King of Ghana, Shatta Wale declared that he was going to raise £2m for the government, and he would do that through photo shoots with his fans, starting from the Accra Mall, then to Kumasi and Sunyani. How much the Dancehall King has been able to raise so far is still unknown. We just woke up to the news a couple of days ago, that the government was sponsoring these ambassadors to Brazil, taking care of their first class business tickets, accommodation, feeding and ‘gift’ $20,000 each.

The government was also sending 500 supporters (as of the time the minister was speaking) to Brazil. How the funding will be done is also unknown. Maybe, a philanthropist is taking care of that just as Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome did in 2010. The composition of the actors and actresses, who are part of the ambassadorial team, consists of only those who act using the English language. The local movie industry (Kumawood) was left out and this incurred their displeasure. Their agitations paid off and word has it that Kumawood actors like Wayosi, Ras Neeni, Akua Attaa Kyeiwaa and Kwaku Manu have been added as ambassadors. Probably taking cue from the Kumawood actors, the leader of commercial sex workers in Takoradi, Maame Esi, was also in the media yesterday appealing to government to give her group some slots on the entourage to Brazil. She promised they were going to reduce their prices and offer the Ghanaian fans in Brazil the better services than their counterparts in Brazil cannot match. Maame Esi is known for price reduction anyway. The first time I heard her was when she clashed with her counterpart in Kumasi, Auntie Felicia in the media prior to the Black Stars’ match with Egypt in Kumasi. Auntie Felicia had warned Maame Esi and her group from Takoradi to stay clear off Kumasi since that was her territory.

I do not know what Ghana’s priorities for this World Cup are, but what I know is that football is nowhere near the top of that list. Cry, the beloved country.


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