They are sometimes referred to as “movers and shakers.” Someone even once adduced the popular expression in Akan, “asaasewura, mo na mo we niema” [to wit, owners of the earth, you make things happen] to them.
With all the major leagues now on break for the summer, footballers who were able to make it out of the hell hole of the local terrain are returning. In fact, a number of them are already back home. This is the time they come to see their families, friends, get married, and come to face again, the hell hole they left behind.
Truly, when our footballers return from their bases abroad, they shake the foundation of Ghana. Inquire about that customized car or bike that just zoomed past you, it will likely be one of them. Heard about the latest party in town? You will see them there. They will be at events. You will proudly spot them in the front rows, with all the grace of a celeb.
In fact, they have a way of announcing their presence. And oh yes, they have a way of making the entertainment industry come alive. They have a wonderful way of making news- news of donations, to marriages, to wife beatings to divorces. They say, when they arrive, scandals soar. Regardless, a good number of young talents aspire to be like them, especially for their fame and fortune. They are just biding their time.
A scouting tour of the regions of Ghana will undeniably present you with awesome footballers across the nation. You shall be presented with strikers, midfielders and defenders who will stun you with breathtaking football display. It would make you wonder why we have not seen such players in the limelight.
I knew of a guy in the Ashanti Region who was a shot stopper. They called him “Okrathe Cat” because of his agility. Boy was that good! They say he could stop any ball coming into his net and could catch five penalties out of seven taken. He didn’t make it to the top because he didn’t have help. Such stories litter every ‘sakora’ park and all coast to coast teams in the country.
Our country lacks infrastructure that helps in building talents; this problem is not only in football though. In other parts of the world, there are community centres where wanna-be-sportsmen and women go to play. Such centres have basketball and tennis courts, football pitches, etc. Ghanaians, who want to make it in football, however have to make do with kicking a ball in muddy places, gravel, on pavements or anywhere they can find space. Nevertheless, some eventually get to the top amidst the renowned rigged selection processes.
Today we have great football names that are not only known in Ghana but all over the world. These players went through a system they would admit was not ideal. Tony Baffoe, the General Coordinator of the Professional Footballers Association of Ghana, has been consistent with his calls on corporate bodies to support the development of football infrastructure in the country.
How are such players helping with football infrastructure? They do complain unceasingly about how difficult it was for them to make it, but do they make any moves to make it easier for subsequent footballers to make it? There is this unspoken practice where people who make it to the top assume that there is no point in changing the status quo because they assume that it is the crooked path they plowed that made them what they are, so it would be better if the children go through same.
A farmer who had to use a watering can to water his farm is less likely to encourage his children to use irrigation methods because they believe it is ‘tradition’ and it made them what they are today. This has encouraged backwardness and stagnation in many aspects of the country.
How does the football community benefit from one of their own who has seen the light? Marseille Desailly is known to have spearheaded the setting up of his sport complex, Lizzy’s Sports Complex around East Legon. This is a direct benefit for the footballing community. Yes, some have sunk boreholes in communities, helped in reconstructing roads leading to their own villas, donated foodstuffs to the needy. It is all well and good. However, how have they contributed to the building of football related infrastructure?
It was in this regard, I congratulated Asamoah Gyan in this column last year when he initiated the construction of an artificial football pitch for his former school, Accra Academy. The project, which includes tartan tracks, changing rooms, stands and flood lights, is expected to be inaugurated.
Until the next football season begins, we will be here with our football celebs. You will see them at your favourite “sakora” park proudly exhibiting their skills on the grassless pitches, with all career-threatening pride. It is very likely you may ignore some of them when they are not flaunting their wealth, for some are very modest. But you are also likely to ignore some because of their dress sense, even at formal functions.
Whatever impressions they leave behind, whatever they may be, people will have their own impressions of them too.
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