Sports News of Saturday, 5 August 2017
The only recognised venue for Division One, MTN FA Cup and possibly Premier League matches in the Upper East Region – Bolga Stadium – is no longer recognised by the GFA Licensing Committee because “it’s a grassless pitch which is no longer accepted for modern football at the highest level of football.”
For those who don’t know, clubs like Tanga FC and Japan Stars collapsed because of the demand by the powers that be that they use either Tamale or Wa as home grounds due to the lack of a grass park in the whole of the Upper East Region! How can you continue to travel 32 times playing matches at the Tamale stadium or Utrecht park at a cost of, at least, GH¢800.00 beside other expenses (transport, food and drinks, health etc) without supporters and survive?
You must also pay the players’ monthly salaries, among other expenses. No wonder the management of Bolga All Stars had to change hands and the club, though bearing an Upper East name – Bolga AllStars, is now based in Tamale and play matches there! In fact, it may never return to the region of its birth; a region that produced the likes of Abedi Pele and his sons, Kwame Ayew, David Atanga, etc.
Not long ago, my own club, Wiaga United, hosted ‘almighty’ Asante Kotoko at the same venue in the 2013 MTN FA Cup second round; Bolga AllStars hosted Berekum Chelsea and Crocodile Stars also hosted Asante Kotoko there too but not anymore! Even FA Cup matches involving clubs from the region are now played in Tamale as it happened this year!
The GFA is behaving as if the clubs from the region are responsible for putting up green grass pitches, hence ought to be punished for the unavailability of such standard pitches in the Upper East Region. However, the GFA, the National Sports Authority (NSA) and government, which are collectively responsible for the growth and development of sports and always take credit for the successes chalked up by individuals and national teams must rather be blamed for the poor state of sports infrastructure in some regions like ours!
The region is not as fortunate as other regions where money bags are involved in football and therefore pump lots of money into clubs and academies; the contrast is the case in this region as only ordinary and poor people are into the game! If clubs like Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko do not have their own stadia, how do you expect people like us who use open school parks and get virtually nothing from the game to put up grass parks?
Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, the then owner of Bolga All Stars and RFA chairman, Salifu Shaibu Zida, and sports persons such as players, coaches and ordinary persons did their best by getting loamy soil to the Bolga Stadium as part of efforts to grass the sakora park but lack of support brought the effort to an end.
I weep for the Upper East Region because, instead of a little green grass, green trees are now growing on the field!
The effect of this is already being felt, as besides division one clubs, many second division clubs have also withdrawn from participating in this year’s league. As one of the withdrawing clubs asked me: “Even if you are playing, where will you go from there and how will you survive if you qualify? “
The future of football and other sports in the region is very bleak! In fact, football in the Upper East Region is dying gradually and, if something is not done, the region will soon be erased from the football map. How sad!