19.10.2003 Sports News

The finger pointing must stop for reconciliation to begin

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(A GNA feature by Cecil Adom)

Accra, Oct. 19, GNA - For sometime now, the local soccer scene has seen some uneasy calm as the league took a month's break to facilitate the preparations of the national teams for international assignment. But beneath this uneasy calm, are simmering undercurrents that are not far from bubbling up; and if not checked could bring our beautiful game into disrepute.

Supporters of the two leading clubs - Hearts and Kotoko - have raised legitimate concerns about the way the Ghana Football Association has been handling issues affecting the two.

The times are truly worrying for some of us, for, there is growing perception by supporters that our game is being polarised politically, by either football administrators or politicians to satisfy their own ends. This issue was epitomised when supporters of Accra Hearts of Oak threatened to go on demonstration in protest of an alleged unfair treatment by the GFA.

The intended demonstration, which never was, brought guns blazing from the GFA and civil society, who challenged the need for such an action.

As usual, the GFA tried to dodge the substantial issues - which include an alleged deliberate attempt to ignore protest file by Hearts - by trying to sweep the matter under the carpet and shifting blame. But in doing so, what the GFA is failing to realise is that, its inability to address issues is playing straight into the hands of extremists of the two teams, whose voices overshadow that of the moderates.

It is important for the GFA and other stakeholders to realise that "floating" supporters turn to believe red flags being hoisted by these extremists when things are not going well and could easily galvanise them to foment trouble.

More disturbing is the claim from the Hearts' camp that seeks to portray the Police as bias against the backdrop of the manner four of the club's fans were arrested and jailed for four years after they were caught ripping off plastic chairs at the May 9 Stands and throwing them unto the tartan tracks. To them, the way and manner the police moved swiftly to punish the fans whilst supporters of Kotoko were let off the hook for similar crime during the infamous May 9 Disaster, smacks of injustice.

When such perceptions fester in the thoughts of such vociferous fans, making them see the Police as bias against them, then it becomes very difficult for them to have trust and respect for a force they consider as enemies.

The signs are truly distressing because the moment these allegations start sipping down into minds of supporters, things could easily degenerate at the least provocation.

The disturbing aspect of the situation is that it is not only supporters of Hearts who are crying foul about the perceived injustice. Fans of Kotoko are also bemoaning the way they are sometimes mistreated. For example, they claim their club was short-changed by the GFA in the infamous Charles Taylor saga and have demanded that a penalty of 850 million cedis imposed on both Kotoko and Taylor be refunded, following a ruling by the GFA that Hearts should refund the money.

But Hearts have proved recalcitrant, saying they would not refund the money as requested by the GFA and have dared both Kotoko and Charles Taylor to take them to court. This is quite disturbing.

Sometimes, I wonder if the GFA is really alive to these developments. We should have it at the back of our minds that conflicts in all flash points, do not start in a vacuum but through small-unresolved issues that are swept under the carpet. For now, it might seem that nothing could happen because, after all, the two big clubs will not play each again in this season's league. But we should all remember that conflicts could be sparked by what might seem irrelevant matter.

For now, I am not seeing any effort by the GFA to try and allay our fears and this is what I am worried about. We should not forget that these allegations and resentments could gradually be building blocks, which in the end could stoke a blaze.

So, it is very important that the GFA sets up a machinery to deal with these issues before they snowball into something that gets out of control and casts another slur on our game. For now, it might seem to everybody that the waters are calm as the soccer scene is quiet but with the league only seven matches away, what lies ahead is unpredictable. Let's all pause for a moment and try to find a solution to this polarisation once and for all, since pointing accusing fingers at one another will not solve the issue. It is incumbent on all who love the game and those who love peace to do all in their power to ensure that the prevailing peace is not jeopardised.

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