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03.09.2003 Sports News

SOCCER TALK: Soccer's Ugly Face

By Soccer Express
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"To err is human, but when the eraser wears out ahead of the pencil, you’re overdoing it. - J. Jenkins

The past week recorded the ugliest scenes in our football ever since the season kicked off some months ago. The FA’s display of inconsistency, through to bad officiating and to the brutish behaviour exhibited by some fans at the Accra Stadium were some of the highlights of the shameful events that were recorded last week.

It started with the FA’s unpopular unilateral decision of postponing the 17th week matches at the last minute without any acceptable reason. After being subjected to a series of queries and pressure by the clubs, the FA, in a very chameleonic fashion, reviewed their earlier decision and fixed the matches for Thursday.

I wasn’t surprised at the behaviour of the FA last week because they have long proven that their only area of specialty is inconsistency. This unilateral decision by the FA last week raises a lot of questions as to whether Sylvester Mensah and his men are really in control of the premiership at the Professional League Board (PLB). Being the body tasked to administer the running of the premiership, one would have thought that any decision concerning the premiership, particularly that of the fixture amendments would not be done by any unauthorised persons. But Ben Koufie at his interfering best made sure that the responsibilities of Sylvester and his men were taken away from them.

How could Ben Koufie have taken the decision before informing the PLB? Being the FA capo does not guarantee that he can dabble in other people’s jobs at will. I don’t believe for a minute that such childish decisions would have been taken if those behind it had taken into consideration the fact that R.T.U. would have to make a long journey down south and back within 24 hours. Also, King Faisal had to adjust their travelling schedule at a very short notice to be able to make the trip to Accra and back to Kumasi and I believe all the teams that played away from home last Thursday found themselves in similar situations.

This kind of indecent postponements and indecisions by the FA puts extra financial burden on the clubs particularly the pride of the north, R.T.U. Ben Koufie and his outfit should leave the clubs in peace and not swell their bills through their incompetence.

For the members of the PLB, all I have for them is that, the board they are serving has lost reverence among Ghanaian soccer fans and they will have to do a lot to convince some of us that they are really in charge of the premiership.

After this farce on Wednesday came another display of comedy on Friday at the Accra Stadium when Okwawu United hosted the Nokia Boys. This time the leading comedian was not the FA/PLB but referee Gyan Otoo, the man at the centre of the match.

Gyan Otoo’s antics that day would certainly have won him the Key Soap concert party comedian of the year if he were taking part in the popular comedy show. On a Friday afternoon where less tension was at the stadium, thanks to a few fans who trooped to the stadium (majority of them were rooting for the Nokia Boys), referee Otoo performed abysmally as if he was officiating his debut match as a referee.

Otoo’s decisions on the afternoon were comical to say the least as he overlooked the laid-down rules of the game and implored his own concocted, weird interpretations of the game. Fans at the stadium were even more surprised when they learnt that the referee-turned-comedian was to handle the epic encounter between Hearts and Kotoko in just a matter of 48 hours. I was the least surprised to hear his withdrawal from the big match and I believe everyone who watched the Okwawu/Faisal match expected Gyan Otoo’s withdrawal.

Instead of showing the Okwawu player the yellow card for simulating, Gyan Otoo rather chose to dash Okwawu one goal by giving them a weird penalty. The referee had prior to the fake penalty ignored two glaring penalties against Okwawu. I can only describe Gyan Otoo’s performance in one word, awful.

The shameful week for football ended last Sunday with the most bizarre of all the incidents at the Accra stadium. A doubtful 90 minutes, a controversial goal as a result of poor officiating and a replica of what preceded the May 9th tragedy were some of the nasty incidents that sent the nation’s football into further disrepute last Sunday. The man on the lip of every Ghanaian after Sunday’s match was Essel Walker of Cape Coast. Once again, officiating was very questionable in this titanic encounter particularly in the last twenty minutes of the match. Watching the game on Ghana television a few hours after the match, I realised referee Essel Walker wasn’t a complete failure but also lost concentration from the time the equaliser was scored. Referee Walker’s loss of concentration almost spelt another disaster for this country.

I was very amazed to see the referee in a state of indecision minutes after the goal was scored. What prevented him from either whistling for a goal or a foul is something I am still struggling to come to terms with. That short moment of indecision by Essel Walker certainly sent a signal to the fans that the goal was a doubtful goal.

Another moment of incompetence demonstrated by Essel Walker was his decision to end the match on the 91st minute although his controversial decisions held up play for more than seven minutes. Other injury situations in addition to the long hold-up would have necessitated a stoppage time of not less than eight minutes.

Even though deciding how long stoppage time travels is at the discretion of the referee, that should not in anyway have influenced the referee to end proceedings with much time left to play in such a big match. Until Essel Walker tells the whole world that he simply wanted the match to end in a draw, I would not begrudge anyone who reads meanings into his decision to end the match prematurely. As for the belief of many that the match was too big for the referee, I totally disagree. This was a referee who showed so much promise in the first half and took firm control in most parts of the game but only decided to change colours in the last quarter of the match.

Most of the referees who perform abysmally at the various stadia are well abreast with the rules of the game but only decide to employ their own set of rules to achieve their mischievous objectives. The ugliest of all the week’s incidents was the ripping of chairs at the May 9th stand. Under no circumstances should the fans have taken the law into their own hands to exhibit such brutish behaviour. The performance of Referee Walker was no doubt questionable, but that certainly should not have given any group of supporters the license to mar the beauty of the game. I wonder whether any lessons have been learnt from the May 9th tragedy that claimed the lives of our dear ones under similar circumstances. Events that unfolded last Sunday suggest that both the referees and the fans have not learnt any lessons from the tragic May 9th incident. The Police Service is the only body among the three groups (referees and fans) that seem to have learnt some useful lessons from the 9th May tragedy. Although there were one or two displays of madness by some unscrupulous supporters, I believe ASP Kofi Boakye and his men did a yeoman’s job and should be congratulated. For referees like Essel Walker, Kwarteng and Gyan Otoo, all I have for them is that they should continue to display their antics if they enjoy seeing deaths, injuries and destruction of state property due to their shameful decisions.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think it again.

I’ll most definitely be back on Friday. INSHA ALLAH.

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