“Black Queens orphaned!” was the screaming headline at the back page of Tuesday's Graphic Sports. Of course, it wasn't the period that one would expect such a story, especially when all eyes are on the FIFA World Cup, scheduled for Germany in June.
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,” is a line from one of the hit songs of the greatest Black American trumpeter of the 1950s and 1960s, Louis Armstrong. And this aptly describes the terrible situation in which Ghana's national women's soccer team, the Black Queens, finds itself.
Indeed, the team is like a “motherless child,” whose soccer destiny is in its own hands, as it prepares for the 2006 Confederation of African Football African Women's Championship.
Queens' coach Bashir Hayford, in his interview with the sports paper, said: “By my programme, we were supposed to have been in camp since January 15. But Winneba has refused to admit us because the GFA has not settled its indebtedness for a previous service.
“What is more worrying is that no one is talking to us. We've been left in limbo. We don't know when we will start playing the qualifiers, absolutely nothing. The Queens are being treated as if they are afterthoughts.”
The coach also expressed grave concern about the real date for the start of the tournament, which would choose the continent's representatives for the 2007 Women's World Cup in China.
Added he: “What is happening is unacceptable especially for a side that has twice played in the World Cup and is known to have a strong reputation on the continent.”
This is really a sad affair for a team whose prowess in world soccer has twice passed the test in women's world soccer fiesta, a feat yet to be achieved by the Black Stars.
Undoubtedly, men's soccer is the most patronised sporting discipline in the world and that is why the World Cup draws such a huge global audience. But, as a sporting nation that takes care of a number of national teams, the Black Queens also deserve to be equally treated like any other national team, preparing for national assignments.
It is for this reason that some of us strongly believe that the women's national soccer team is being given a raw deal. It is being treated like a “motherless child” by the Ghana Football Association, whose topmost priority has always been the Black Stars.
“They cannot continue to treat the team shabbily as is happening now and expect them to excel when they compete in international events,” coach Hayford told the sports paper.
One can honestly understand the frustration of the Queen's coach because he would ultimately be blamed if the team performs poorly in the African tourney and fail to qualify for next year's World Cup. His concerns must thus touch the heart of every sport loving Ghanaian.
Frankly, women's soccer has for far too long been neglected. Right from the local level, the FA has almost neglected the development and promotion of the sport. The organisers of women's soccer continue to face numerous problems but their complaints have always been ignored.
Indeed, what broke the camel's back recently was when the GFA deliberately sidelined the national women's soccer body when the new FA constitution was being drafted on the orders of the world soccer controlling body, FIFA.
The women's body had to protest fiercely against the utter discrimination perpetrated against them. But whether or not the protest had been adhered to is yet to be known.
Now, the time has come for the new FA, under the presidency of Kwasi Nyantakyi to offer women's soccer its share of the national sports cake. He must understand that the GFA is not there to promote only men's soccer, though the sport is predominantly played and enjoyed by men.
It amazes some of us that civil society organisations committed to women's issues always concentrate on issues political and social. Their neglect of women's sporting issues also amounts to some form of discrimination. They are thus hereby reminded that everything that concerns women must be their business.
This columnist wishes to urge the Ministry of Education and Sports to ensure that the approval for the Queens' programme for the continental tournament is strictly carried out. The team must go into the tournament adequately prepared to qualify for the 2007 World Cup. All hands must be on deck to help the ladies achieve their aim.
Let the GFA understand that Black Stars playing in the 2006 Germany World Cup is equally as important as the Black Queens qualifying for the 2007 women's World Cup in China. And that's why the Black Queens shouldn't be made to look like “Ghana's motherless children.”
Till next week, that's the way it is!