With a few days to the start of the much-anticipated 2019/2020 football season, I wish to remind the so-called football people of one of the most important lessons I picked from Dr Mahmoud Bawumia's speech at last Friday's exquisite launch at the Accra Stadium.
For me, there could not have a better admonition to the stakeholders of Ghana Football at this critical period than this particular advice given by the Vice-President on that occasion which was monitored by all who matter in the local game.
Without mincing words, Dr Bawumia said: “If the GFA (and football) is to win back the confidence and trust of the people, some of these negatives which derailed the progress of the league should be curbed. It is refreshing and commendable to note that the GFA has taken steps towards repairing some of these defects of the league by organising series of workshops for key stakeholders, including an integrity seminar for referees.”
The sage was, however, quick to add that though referees were often crucified for taking bribe to put the game into disrepute, there was no way the knights of the whistle could be singled out for this canker. As they say, 'it takes two to tango."
Obviously, the second gentleman of the land was speaking in parables in direct reference to the role played by club owners, football administrators, supporters and other stakeholders when it comes to bribery and corruption.
It is an open secret that club officials especially are the most guilty when it comes to corruption in the game in general. No wonder they have openly admitted this negative practice time and again on different platforms in the past.
Apart from bribing match officials to influence the result of matches, some of these same club officials were also guilty of negotiating the outcome of matches ahead of time to satisfy their whims and caprices. This, they did, for fun as if the league was a cooperative society of a sort and didn't see anything wrong with it.
The result of that irresponsible behaviour was the low attendance at the various stadia. For how on earth could any soccer fan who is in his right senses spend time and money to go the stadium to watch a game which had already been pre-determined.
The rampant bribery and match-fixing ultimately affected the credibility of the league and effectively kept the fans out of the stadium!
These were some of the negatives which derailed the progress of the league, which I believe the Vice-President was advising football people to curb in order to win back the confidence and trust of Ghanaians. This means that merely paying lip-service to the main issues under the cover of the #Bringbackthelove mantra wont take us anywhere. The GFA must take the bull by the horn!
I daresay that the love will never come if Ghanaians don't see any serious changes in the way we do things as football people. If we do things right, the love for the game will naturally return and we will begin to see soccer fans in the stands again. Fact is, Ghanaians still love their football!
Unlike referees who need some occasional integrity seminars to maintain the sanctity of the game, club owners and administrators should be better off without any such training. The onus is on them to be good examples as they will end up as the losers if their investment goes bad.
Contrary to the view often shared by football people that they were an empire within an empire and could, therefore, please themselves as and when they wished, Dr Bawumia made it clear that the misdeeds in Ghana Football had a far-reaching consequence on the society at large.
“The absence of an organised league in the country for nearly two years had its dire socio-economic consequences to everyone connected to the league. Many livelihoods, especially footballers, coaches and vendors who sell at the various stadia on match days, depend largely on football for survival, and I can only imagine the difficulties some of these people went through when their main source of livelihood was cut off,” he noted.
I hope this comment by the Vice-President will prompt the football people to think twice anytime they are tempted to go back to their old ways. As we welcome competitive football back after a two-year hiatus, let us all resolve to say no to all the enemies of FIFA's Fair Play slogan.
I want to see more commitment on the part of the GFA to clean the game of all the crooks who parade in the corridors of Ghana Football as gentlemen but are actually the real devils in the game. It will surprise you to know that some of these elements are even serving in the current GFA Executive Council.
If they don't change, time will expose them. Mark my words!
I also believe the clubs will give Dr Bawumia's advice to go digital a thought to help maximise their income and weed out any waste.
As the new season kickstarts this weekend, I wish all the clubs a good season and hope that the best teams emerge tops in all fairness to bring back the love from sponsors and soccer fans alike.
My other wish for the clubs in 2020 is to see the government agreeing to slash down the 17.5 per cent VAT as requested by the GFA president, Kurt Okraku, last Friday.
May the novelty incentive package for the six top teams in the 18-club Premier League at the end of the season (as announced by the GFA President) inject new life into the competition to the pleasure of all lovers of Ghana Football.
I wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.