The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has come under strong criticisms from a renowned football administrator, Dominic Asabia, for the woes confronting the Bolga All Stars and the sudden ‘change’ of the Bolgatanga Stadium into a ‘donkey market’.
In what baffled observers and upset residents of the Upper East region also have described as a huge blot on the landscape, a strange litter of donkey droppings, estimated in tons, has engulfed the stadium.
The arena was too horrible to watch as of the time Starr News visited the facility Wednesday in the regional capital. A carpet of donkey waste, clustered and scattered all over, stretched several metres wide with a heap of assorted garbage tipped around a supposed dressing-room structure that stood in ruins.
A growing demand for the donkey leather by some Chinese businessmen in Bolgatanga is said to have in recent times triggered the importation of donkeys from Burkina Faso Ghana through the border towns in the region. The importers purportedly take the animals in their thousands across the border a day before each market day in the regional capital and, taking advantage of the damaged gates to the stadium, do assemble them inside the sports facility for sale to the Chinese leather dealers.
“It is the responsibility of the [National] Sports Authority. I have been there to warn them to make sure that thing was stopped and the owners of the donkeys arrested. And I asked that this could also be announced on air- that any donkey found in the stadium would be impounded by the council,” Mr. Asabia, who is also the Chairman of the Bolgatanga Stadium Rehabilitation Committee, told Starr News.
Players use bus as dressing room
The Bolgatanga Stadium, for the lack of the usual features stadia generally have, is a mere playfield separated by old walls from the surrounding streets.
A building meant to be a dressing-room block has been standing without a roof and showing a band of rusted iron rods pointing at the sky since the stadium was constructed many decades ago. Wearing or removal of jerseys, even when crucial points are at stake, is mostly done inside the same buses used in conveying players for high-profile matches. That supposed dressing room building reportedly has become one of the structures some faceless persons love for answering to the call of nature during the day and for dating and romance at nighttime.
The gates have collapsed, there are no floodlights and there is no grass on the field. When nature calls, the players and the technical crews disgracefully respond in a bush inside the stadium. Spectators stand at the mercies of all kinds of weather as the few plastic chairs inside the main bowl of the stadium continue to either get damaged or find their way into the yards of some individuals. These conditions have made it impossible for the region’s only club in the Premier League, Bolga All Stars, to honour its home matches in the region.
“Bolga All Stars has now made it to the national league. And I think it should have been of concern to the GFA. The GFA should be proud of the efforts made by the region to now make the premier division a national league. They should have done everything to assist Bolga All Stars to honour their matches in Bolga. We only need a grass field. We only need a few rooms as changing rooms. Is this something beyond the power of the GFA to do when they know the participation of Bolga All Stars now makes them a complete GFA?
“The GFA does not need any letter to know it ought to help a region that has been deprived of a place in the premier league for a number of years to satisfy the people. I’m so disappointed,” said Mr. Asabia, who is credited for mentoring such Ghanaian-born soccer stars as Samuel Inkoom, Eric Donkor, and Michael Anaba.
Following the historic qualification of the Bolga All Stars for the premier league, the former Upper East Regional Minister, Albert Abongo, reportedly set up the Bolgatanga Stadium Rehabilitation Committee and tasked each of the region’s 13 municipal and district assemblies to raise Gh₵10,000 to help complete the dressing-room structure, to construct spectators’ stands and to grow grass on the field.
But only two assemblies- Bolgatanga and Nabdam- are said to have responded positively, raising just Gh₵1,000 each. The committee, according to Mr. Asabia, so far has drilled three boreholes at the stadium, secured some timbers to roof the dressing-room building, tipped 90 tips of top soil on the field for the purposes of growing grass and contracted the Department of Parks and Gardens to purchase and convey some grass from the Brongo Ahafo region.
“We have as a committee identified Abedi Pele and the sons as people who know the importance of football in Ghana. They come from this region and we thought Abedi Pele could assist us to provide the important facilities required at the Bolgatanga Stadium to qualify the team for home matches.
“Up to now, we have not heard from him. As the chairman, I made sure the letters were sent to Accra. I hope he has received the letters. We want him to help us assist the Bolga All Stars honour their matches in Bolga so that the people of his region can watch Kotoko, Hearts and the other great clubs play in Bolga. We are still waiting and expecting to hear from him,” the committee’s chair added.
We’ve started cleanup of mess- National Sports Authority
Moments after Starr News had taken shots of the mess at the stadium, the Upper East Regional Administrative Officer at the National Sports Authority (NSA), Clothilda Assah, said “labourers” were at the facility, clearing the droppings.
“The labourers are there working. They are picking them. Because the main gate is spoilt, that is where they (donkey dealers) pass through. This afternoon, they (the labourers) came to the office. I asked them and they said they were from the stadium, picking the donkey faeces. I told them tomorrow I would go and inspect it. They are working on the gate, too. They are going to fix it,” she stressed.
The unlikeable spectacle at the facility has drawn damning comments from the public with many calling on government not to hold anything back on the widely anticipated renovation of the stadium.
“I am a stranger here on a visit. I will leave Bolga today. I heard of a certain stadium and decided to take a stroll. What I have seen is not what I was imagining in my mind. I know how stadiums look. And this is definitely not one of them. I don’t even know the right words to use. A stadium should not be for animal droppings. It’s not a good thing to look at,” Inusah Fuseini, a professional footballer with the Asokwa Deportivo Football Club in the Ashanti Region, remarked when Starr News caught up with him at stadium.