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01.07.2010 Feature Article

What Do We Owe Our Gallant Black Stars?

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The Senior National team is set to play the Uruguayans in the quarter finals of the current World Cup competition at South Africa. The Black Stars made the entire African continent and especially Ghana proud as the only African nation to go past the first round. The road to the quarter finals have not been easy, it began with trail matches against the Netherlands which they lost by 4-1.They went on to beat Latvia by a slim margin before walloping Ethikwini Soccer Academy of South Africa by 4-0. The results of these matches was received with mixed feelings by Ghanaians, Whiles some people wrote them off and started criticizing the coach for his selections, others still stood by the coach and his technical team. The issue of indiscipline that cropped up in camp and nearly scuttled the dream of the team was handled professionally and resolved amicably. Thanks to the management team, things are going according to plan.

The Black Stars made us proud by winning one match and drawing in another to qualify for the second round. Although some people attributed their qualification to luck, I thought it was through. The Black Stars wouldn't have qualified if they had lost the match against Serbia. By dint of hard work they beat Serbia and drew with Australia. The Stars did well by repeating their 2006 feat in Germany over the United States of America to qualify for the one sixteenth stages. The qualification was a relief to Africa and the African cause which till then was almost nonexistent at this stage of the competition. Due to the poor performances of the other five teams in the first round. The whole of Africa is now looking for redemption, and that redemption is coming from Ghana, The hope of Africa. With the hosting of the 80th World Cup on African soil, the dream of the entire continent is for the cup to stay in Africa.

Thanks to the Black Stars, for the few weeks that this World Cup started, Ghanaians from all the Political divide have come together to throw their weight behind the team. Each victory is celebrated by children, women and men regardless of their political affiliation. I am particularly thrilled with the kind of atmosphere that the World Cup has generated. Thank God I wake up from bed, tune on my radio and I am spared of our own form of “vuvuzelas” (Serial Callers) who ceased our airwaves and spew out half truths, propaganda and lies to the general populace. I tune on my radio and I hear football analyst and Ghanaians talking football. There are no insults, no foul languages and no shouting. I wish this tempo would still remain after the World Cup season. This experience has really thought us all that what unites us is more than what divides us. It is also a call to our politicians and our leaders to see to it that they always seek the greater good of the citizenry, rather than leaving the ordinary people to their fate.

The teams' performance so far is as a result of adequate preparations outside and on the field of play. The Ministry of Sports, the Ghana Football Association and the various sponsors of the team should all be credited with the current development in the Black Stars camp. The quest by the players to die a little for their country and the seriousness on the faces of these gentlemen any time the national anthem is been played is enough to tell Ghanaians how battle ready they are and the part they are playing in our nation building process.

One issue that keeps a team going is winning bonuses and other motivational packages from the authorities. With FIFA's $ 420 million being the total prize money set aside for this tournament, it is the wish of every country to take home the cash prize of $30 million with the cup. The Stars have already bagged $9 million for getting to the one sixteenth stages. It is our hope and prayer that they get to the final and win the Cup. So far nothing concrete has been put forth by the government, with the exception of the winning bonus that was announced earlier before the commencement of the tournament. My wish and the wish of all Ghanaians are for the Black Stars to win the ultimate for the continent. As a nation have we thought of what we can give to these gentlemen after that feat or even when they manage to reach the semi finals?

My reason for asking such a question is as a result of the reward we give to our sportsmen and women after competitions like this. Let me admit here that with the exception of our footballers, the other sports which we have termed as “lesser sports” has not generated a lot of euphoria and attention, this has resulted in our victorious footballers gaining much prominence and attention from government. I am sure the government and corporate bodies have planned a wonderful package for these gallant men in South Africa. It is good to reward people who sacrifice for this country, but my question is should it always be cash prizes, after the huge winning bonuses that we give to these players? What happened to our cherished adage of “good name is better than riches”? Most of these players are top class footballers earning huge wages at their club sides in overseas with the exception of the few who ply their skills in the Ghanaian league.

If we are rewarding our footballers with juicy packages, then that should also go for the other sports that we have termed “lesser sports”. These so called “lesser sports” can also generate the same financial windfall that football is generating for this country currently. As a country we have shifted all our focus on football and to some extent boxing leaving the other sports which abounds with talents to die natural deaths.

I was very much impressed with the package that was given to the satellites team who won Gold in Egypt. The brand new cars and investment packages presented to these players was a step in the right direction. These young lads would be financially secured in the future provided they manage this investment well.

In 2006, the Black Stars team who made their maiden appearance at the World stage were rewarded with national medals; this did not go down well with a section of Ghanaians who thought the Black Stars could have been rewarded with other things rather than the national medals. The argument by a section of Ghanaians was that, what would the government give another team that goes beyond the first round? Fortunately with have the current Black Stars going pass the first round in South Africa 2010. Is the government going to reward them with the same medals or this time around the government would go a little bit higher? It is up to us to wait and see. We are all watching.

I am of the opinion that our sportsmen and women have every right to enjoy the huge winning bonuses and other cash rewards that the government spends on them, any time they make our nation proud. My little suggestion to the government is to also use part of this money to build schools, hospitals, good roads or provide any other developmental project in a community chosen by the team. This project can be named after the team. Facilities such as a hospital or school in their name would benefit the entire community and the wonderful Ghanaians who supported them during the tournament. Their relations can be given preference in time they use such facilities. Generations unborn would be would be thankful to them, if a project of such nature is carried out in their name with part of the cash rewards that comes with their achievement.

Mustapha Jimah
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Mustapha Jimah
Mustapha Jimah, © 2010

The author has 25 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: MustaphaJimah

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