24.09.2003 Sports News

The evils of "off-the ball incidents in soccer".

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(A feature by William Dodzi Ezah, GNA Sports Desk)

Accra, July 4,GNA--Off-the-ball, in football language can be described as infringement on a player at the blind side of the referee and his two assistant who have the sole responsibility of ensuring fair play in the beautiful game of football. This has been identified as one of the evils of the global game and advanced countries such as England, Holland, Germany and others have devised effective ways of controlling it and this has exposed a lot of indiscipline players.

However in our part of the world, that is Africa and Ghana in particular, the menace seems to be generating into something else as players go scot free after engaging in theses acts of indiscipline which sometimes end the flourishing careers of their fellow footballers. While others stay off the pitch for a very long time and lose their winning bonuses as well as other means of survival in their chosen profession.

In an anniversary special challenge match between Accra Hearts of Oak and Great Olympics this year, a player of the latter Micheal Ocansey stamped on the ankle of Dan Oppong at the blind side of the officials, while Okwawu United goalkeeper Fatau Dauda attacked Charles Benson of Berekum Arsenals violently in the abdomen after he had scored the winning goal, in their sixth week league match played at the Berekum Park.

Again, former national goalie, Owusu Banahene, is now suffering from a hip injury he sustained in a league match between Liberty Professionals and Kumasi Asante Kotoko as a result of a clash with Nana Arhin Duah in the first week league match of the 2002 soccer season.

The keeper has since then not made any appearance for his club as well as the nation, while a similar incident happened to Stanley Aborah in the semi finals match in Senegal between Ghana and Nigeria when he received a hard knock on his head from Matiu Adepoju without the referee or his assistants seeing it.

In a league between Stay Cool Professionals and Hearts Of Oak, a player of Stay Cool, Wisdom Tamakloe hit Amankwah Mireku with the sole of his boot on the chest after the two had engaged in a tussle for a ball. It would be recalled that England captain David Beckham was not lucky enough in their 1998 World Cup match against Argentina when he hit Diego Simeon with little knowledge that the referee would see him. Beckham was unfortunately seen by the referee, who, gave him a march off orders and he was singularly blamed for the exit of England in that competition at that stage.

The list is endless in this ungentlemanly brutal act, but there is a way out to deal with the issue since other countries have done it and the problem has been reduced drastically and the careers of many players have been saved.

It is based on this that the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Professional League Board (PLB), Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA) and all stakeholders must take serious steps to bring the evil to an end.

Ghanaian players would be prevented from falling victims to these acts both on the local and the international scene if organisers of football in the country would take a serious look at the issue and find better ways of addressing it.

The weekly highlights of the league matches on Television by GTV on Mondays and TV3 on every Tuesday is one avenue to control the problem as the attack on Benson was shown TV3 for all to see but the authorities took no action against the culprit.

However this is not enough and it is the responsibility of the PLB to set up a committee to critically study videotapes of matches especially the controversial ones to identify and bring to book perpetrators such acts.

Also the setting up an independent body, to observe all league matches is another way of exposing these indiscipline players. These independent observers must be people of integrity who can give fair judgments in such cases.

Club officials, can also play key roles in bringing to the public notice these players, by making complaints to the disciplinary committees, while match commissioners must also be extra vigilant in their duties and not just limiting their reports to a certain scope. The situation where nothing is done about incidents which are not captured in the report of the match officials, must also be given a second look because elsewhere TV cameras are used after matches to take certain decisions.

Therefore the FA must apply sanctions on players after watching videotapes though the incident might be captured in the match commissioners' report of that of the referees.

In all, applying severe sanctions on players who engage in these acts would be one of the best ways to deter them from engaging themselves in any form unnecessary attack on their colleagues on the pitch.

These would also force club officials to advise their players to desist from the act.

Our deteriorated game would witnessed a massive improvement in terms of player discipline on and off the pitch if these measures together with other policies, are implemented.

Other countries have succeeded and there is no reason why Ghana cannot do so when it comes to football development.

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