11th African Cup of Nations (Ghana, 1978) was my first intimate encounter with Ghana soccer. As a young boy whose understanding of the dynamics of the game did not extend beyond the tournament's Euphoria and hero worshipping of key players (like “Golden Boy” Abdul-Razak, ”Mathematical” Odegbami, Opoku Afriyie and Okala to mention few), I have come to appreciate the valor and dedication of those players whose primary motivation at the time, was honor and extreme love of the game. While there were some glorious moments, (culminating in the crowning of Ghana as four-time African Champions) the tendency to forget Ghana's invincible past is excusable.
The once beacon of African soccer saw its world rankings plummeting year after year and all antidote administered by various Football Administration (FA) proved inefficacious. Ghana's inability to qualify for 2004 African Cup of Nations can be euphemistically described as the “Ghana's soccer Tsunami”. The extra security detail accorded the then Head Coach, Burkhad Ziese (in a country where football coaches can be equated to kings") underscores the intensity of the frustration.
For a country that can boast of an exceptional individual talent (as evidenced by the high ratings of Ghanaian Players in major Leagues around the world) but consistently failed to effectively harness them into a formidable and fearsome team, begs the question “What is wrong with Ghana Soccer”? There is no simple answer to this question, but Soccer Pundits however they differ will agree on one count: unless something radically change in the planning and management of Ghana Soccer, it will continue to hang on “life support”
Like the State Owned Enterprise (SOE), the National team needs to transform its operations and management into a business venture that should be accountable to its stakeholders in terms of its viability .This point of view may be deem by some as impracticable, but given the success of some of the privatized SOEs, it may not be an overstatement. The following highlights the above postulation (assuming the national team as a corporate entity)
Take Government out soccer for the same reason you will want Government out of Ashanti Goldfields. Although it may sound radical but in a broader sense, it make sense for the divestiture of State Own Enterprises (SOE) to be extended to the National team. In other words, performance should be the yardstick for evaluating soccer administrators of the country not their political affiliations. The Chief Executive Officer (GFA Chairman) and the Chief Operating Officer (National Coach) should do the day-to-day administration of the team not the board (Ministry of Youth and Sports). A change in Government should have zero impact on the tenure of soccer administration except for its inability to promote “shareholder value”
2. Soccer Management
Let's equate soccer administration to management of a company. If the CEO of a corporation and his team failed to meet certain corporate objectives and the stakeholders did not get their money's worth, the board will be calling for the blood of the executives. In the same vein, if the FA for lack of vision and planning cannot take the National team to African Cup or the World cup tournament especially, the entire FA must abdicate to avoid “shareholder revolt” or summary dismissals by the Board of Governors.
3. Human Resource Management
"Think globally, Act Locally"-If National Team is a Ghanaian company that need to compete globally, we will be talking about effectively using local raw materials, promoting local industries ,perhaps through tax break and ultimately providing jobs to Ghanaians .How is this relevant to Soccer in Ghana? Well you cannot build a strong National team in Ghana without the local players .We will have to "act locally" by grooming the local players to form the core of the National team and act "globally" by inviting foreign players on strategic basis. In other words, evaluating the local team, see where their weaknesses are, and then invite foreign players to augment local talents. This is the same way a local company will form a strategic alliance with a foreign company in order to compete in the global market.
4. Brand Recognition.
Like any product, brand recognition is crucial to business expansion. There is the European Brand of soccer, the South American brand, what is our brand? The importation of foreign brand of football without local touch is as good as Western Democracy without customization to meet local conditions and culture. For instance, integrating African dance moves into our brand of soccer may not be a bad idea. This will however require a CEO who has a vision and devise a strategy to attain it.
5. Capital Investment
Market capitalization is the key to global expansion for any company that operates locally and need to establish an international presence. So far our major source of funds for the National team is a “hand out” from the Government .We need some sort of diversification in funding to run the national team. Corporate sponsorship has been tried but not implemented aggressively. We need some marketing strategy here! The Black stars need to be branded and sold to all interested Ghanaian investors and in a limited way to a few multi-national corporations doing business in Ghana as an advertising vehicle to reach the local consumers.
6. Corporate Vision
A Company wishing to establish a strong international presence must definitely have a “corporate vision” that is compatible with international corporate culture and should indeed resonate with its strategy in product development and delivery in order to withstand competition. Everyone's dream (including mine) is to watch and hear the Ghana National Anthem being played in a men's world cup soccer, wherever it's being played. (Could be Mars or Jupiter.) This has been as elusive as the search for Osama Bin Laden in the Afghanistan's Caves. A savvy investor does not evaluate a company based on its product(s) but also its vision and prospects.
7. Good corporate Citizenship
(Yi bi ma?) Some of the revenue accrued from the various sources can be used to develop and promote soccer academies from the grassroots. We already have the structure in place. Most of the local clubs recruit their talents from colts teams, High schools and “area teams” .The national governing soccer body should be proactive in monitoring and supporting talents right from the early stages, instead of waiting for players to come to the limelight .This will be an opportunity to imbue in them a sense of nationalism right from the roots.
In conclusion, however ridiculous you find this idea, there is no gain saying that; the National team has had its share of turmoil and political interference, and like a SOE it is gauged by number of tournaments they played not by how many laurels they bring to the nation. In my opinion Ghana can assemble two World Cup squad, but given the lack of vision, favoritism and cronyism in planning and management we have not only lost the prestigious place we once occupied in African Soccer but also failed to translate the reservoir of individual talents as force to reckon with in World Soccer. It is time to do something different including running the National Team as a corporate venture.
Long Live Ghana, Long Live the Black Stars! Abdallah Ben Mohammed is a Techie “Mallam” in the Silicon Valley, California. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.