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11.07.2003 Feature Article

Letter from The President (IX)

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Countrymen and women, times have changed. Indeed, everything seems to have taken a turn for the worse and we seem incapable of even ensuring our qualification to the African Cup of Nations. In fact, the failure of Burkhard Ziese and his useless Black Stars bunch to qualify for the next continental football fiesta next year, has put me in a very foul mood, which nearly marred my meeting with the Bushman. How can genocide-ravaged Rwanda qualify for the Cup of Nations at our expense? Even though the Black Stars performed abysmally in the football match in Kigali, it is gratifying to note that their compatriots back home are playing the ‘blame-game’ extremely well. As the Chief Executive of the country, I am glad that the stars’ failure to qualify for the Cup of Nation’s has taken people’s minds off the most pressing issues confronting the country. For me, that is a major reprieve and I am more than happy to join in the search for a scapegoat or a group of scapegoats. The first people to blame for our failure to qualify for the cup of nations is the people of Rwanda. They prepared too much for the qualifying series. Was it because they needed something to cheer themselves up and unite the main Hutu and Tutsi tribes as they struggle to overcome the genocide? I have noticed that whenever these small countries (the football minnows) are playing Ghana, they squeeze their bums so hard and play with all their hearts, making it impossible for us to strategise effectively and play efficiently. So if you are looking for someone to blame for Ghana’s inability to qualify for the Cup of Nations, please, first lay the blame right at the doorstep of Rwanda, which is rated 119th on the list of the world’s best soccer nations. We did our inefficient best and the Rwandans squeezed their bums so hard that we could not beat them. Who else can we blame? Errrrrrm… I think we should blame the coach. First, he is too ‘something’. At least, that’s what I hear the players say – that he is too much of disciplinarian and he talks too much. Apparently, Burkhard, does not allow the players to leave camp to go to town to chase girls. He also refuses to accept their presents, which are meant to influence the coach to field them even if they fail to show up regularly for training. I believe that if Burkhard had backed down a bit and softened his ‘hard’ stance a little by allowing the players to sow their wild seeds in Kigali and taken their presents, the players would have tried a little harder to win the game in Kigali to qualify us for next year’s tournament. Burkhard should have realized that the type of hardline leadership he used to send the Black Stars to the Cup of Nations in Senegal in 1992 – after a ten-year absence – does not work any more in this country. Simply put, Burkhard’s principled stance took us to the Cup of Nations after a ten-year absence and the same stance took us out of the tournament for the first time in fourteen years. For being so principled, I think Burkhard should be sacked. After begging us to give him the job, how dare he try to instill discipline in our players, our tiny gods on the football pitch, who earn much more in a week than he could ever dream earning in a month? My next scapegoat is the man who officiated the match in Kigali. You see, he is from Burundi, which shares some strong historical links with Rwanda. In fact, had it not been for the white man’s mad scramble for Africa, Rwanda and Burundi would have been one and the same country. The main ethnic groups in Rwanda and Burundi are the Hutus and Tutsis. As his contribution to the effort to unite the Hutus and the Tutsis for the first time in decades, the referee did all he could to steal the game for his Rwandan brethren. He succeeded. I pray that the ghosts of Kwame Nkrumah, JB Danquah, Santo and the soccer fans who died in the May 9 tragedy will haunt him until his dying day. In our search for people to blame for Black Stars’ failure to qualify for the Nations’ Cup, I think we can conveniently mention the sports journalists who kept criticizing the FA and highlighting the loopholes in the country’s qualifying bid. Those journalists, as I keep saying, talk too much and sometimes I think their endless talk distracts us from the business at hand. Take the issue of the non-payment of players’ bonuses for example. The sports journalists kept talking about the fact that the bonuses were not being paid and demoralized the players. Even though they were not receiving their bonuses, the players didn’t care much because the issue was tucked away in the files of the football association. When the media started publishing stories about the fact that their bonuses were not being paid, the players thought that their friends will perceive them as some ‘sankwas’ men who work for nothing and they started playing anyhow. So that’s how we failed to qualify for the cup of nations. Ghanaians now have to look for another country to support, either collectively or individually, when the tournament kicks off next year. Well, we are not going to the Cup of Nations next year (oops, sorry for reminding you) but we could use it to our advantage, you know. The only problem is that we have to work on so many assumptions – using the all-too-Ghanaian ‘if theory’. If we concentrate all our efforts on the qualifying series for the next world cup, we could get there, especially now that we don’t have to worry our heads about winning an African cup – that cup really is not so useful. We won it four times and what did we get in return? Nothing! Except that it made our opponents (the minnows, especially) to perceive us as a football powerhouse in Africa. You and I know that we are not that strong. If we also sack Burkhard and bring in a Ghanaian whose balls can be easily beaten into pulp by both players and officials of the FA, we might get somewhere. In fact, Burkhard’s strategy is ‘too new’ for our players and they cannot adjust – how very professional of them. The Excellent One, J. A. Fukuor

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2003

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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