In just a little over two months time Ghana would play host to the rest of Africa for the CAN 2008, to be witnessed by Africa and the rest of the world. For us in Ghana, both football lovers and officialdom cannot wait long enough to see this major continental soccer fiesta take place in the country.
The event promises to focus world attention here in Ghana and normally it is expected that it would bring immense benefits to various sectors of the economy and the people. Apart from the benefits of infrastructure developments that would accrue, economic activities like tourism, trade and investment are also expected to receive a maximum boost. Mention must also be made of the cultural relationship that would exist between the people of Ghana and the rest of the African continent and the world.
These benefits cannot just be wished away into place or existence. They must be worked for. There must therefore be an orchestrated and consistent planning, calculation and tactical implementation of all that is a prerequisite towards the realization of those goals.
Suffice to mention that with the adequate scientific planning, South Korea just managed to break even and derived some benefits from the Japan-Korea FIFA World cup in 2002. Some of the benefits included the sole hosting of the just ended FIFA U-17 World Cup where Ghana participated and finished fourth.
During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the whole 'German machinery' of organisation was deployed to enable the host gain from the tournament. And this entails putting in place, the necessary linkages between sectors of the economy and the society. There was excellent coordination between ministries such as the Interior, Sports, Tourism and the general body politic to effect to ensure what became a successful German World Cup.
Similar direction is being made by South Africa towards the 2010 World Cup, the first to be hosted on the soils of the African continent. It must be emphasised that Ghana 2008 (CAN 2008) is expected therefore to be a prelude to the World Cup in South Africa in terms of its organisation and how well we organise the needed reception as the host of such an event and to make it a memorable one.
Ghana's success would therefore showcase Africa's ability to organise since it would also focus attention by CAF and FIFA here in Africa.
It must be clear to all that one common denominator of all successful hosting of international competitions is the extent to which the host country maximizes its benefits by creating the necessary euphoria among its own people. Or even to what extent to which the nation can generate much interest among the people for the success of the competition.
This fundamental principle, if not adhered to would lead to a "dry" competition, which might be costly to the nation and of no benefit to its citizens. It is also important for the necessary linkages to be established between the various responsible ministries and other sectors of development-both in sports and others such as the Metropolitan Assemblies of the host cities.
The soccer fiesta would also go a long way to showcasing the nation in the right perspectives with documentaries on major tourist sites such as the Kakum National Park in the Central Region, the Monkey Sanctuaries in the Western and Brong Ahafo Regions, the Boti Falls in the Eastern Region, Kente weavers in the Ashanti and Volta Regions as well as the Golden Stool in Kumasi.
Other eye-pleasing sites should include the site of the friendly Paga crocodiles, the Tongo 'Whispering Rocks, the beautiful traditional architectural designs of the people of the Kassena-Nankana District all in the Upper East Region as well as the Paga and Salaga Slave markets, the Gambaga and Yendi witches camps, the Damongo Mole Game Reserve and the historical Mosque and Mystic stone at Larabanga all in the Northern Region, just to mention but a few of the beautiful serene atmosphere that are dotted across the length and breath of the country to be a regular fixture to our august visitors to be carried live on our Television screens.
The event should be an occasion that would open one of the avenues of showcasing our diverse beautiful cultural prowess and 'ready made' hospitality so that the country can benefit from the fruits of the CAN 2008. In about 90 days, CAN 2008 would kick-off in Ghana and some basic questions must be posed even if there are no ready answers to them for now.
Questions that might come to mind might include to what extent has the Local Organising Committee (LOC) done its cost benefit analysis of the competition? To what extent are the people being carried along? Is there any form of anxiety of the competition among the Ghanaian citizens? What has been the input of the sector ministry, Ministry of Tourism, Interior, Academia, and football loving fans as well as the general society?
These questions must be answered by the LOC before the kick-off. It is unfortunate that few weeks to the competition, most people are yet to see the completion of external works at some of the venues for the tournament. Advertisements on television stations are largely insufficient.
The fewer ones that are run are even boring and difficult to move a fan to sacrifice part of his or her money to pay and witness the events. No neon signs or billboards depicting the event have so far been erected on our major streets and communities to galvanize the people.
It would not be out of place if one asks that billboards should be mounted on major streets and at vantage places reminding the populace of such great soccer heroes like as Abedi Pele Ayew, Reverend Osei Kofi, Mohammed Polo, Tony Yeboah and other outstanding African players such as Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah, John Mensah, Samuel E'to, Didier Drogba, Alhaj Diof, Nwankwo Kanu, Mido and the Hassan brothers and others who may be participating in the CAN 2008 and the previous African Cup of Nations. Outstanding current players should also not be left out of the euphoria.
This would go a long in drawing the people's interest in participating in the competition by patronising most of the games to witness their favourite teams or players in action at any of the venues so that we do not record low turn-outs.
Another area of making the tournament affordable to spectators and other visitors is for the organisers to rehabilitate the Tamale Airport to become a temporal second international arrival base for the use of nearby countries such as those from North African and Mali, Cote d'Ivoire Senegal, Sudan, Nigeria or even Cameron could fly direct to Tamale in case after the draw they placed within the northern venue.
Immigration and CEPS officials should revamp their offices at the Tamale Airport to facilitate the easy entry of all manner of visitors. This would go a long way in making the Ghana CAN 2008 to become more outstanding and memorable than previous ones.
Additionally, pre-competition seminars, friendly tournaments and other social activities need to be organised to usher in the main competition. It is apparent that in effect, the necessary fever for the competition is lacking and is yet to be generated and have a bearing on the people. It would be crucial therefore for the LOC to take criticisms in good faith, make the necessary corrections on time and see the gold in them to as to rise to the occasion as quickly as possible if they want the country to gain positively from the competition.
Two months may seem to be too late but much can be achieved if the LOC acts with dispatch and pep up the local people with various aspects of the event to the soccer-crazy Ghanaian football fans that cuts across political, cultural ethnic or social leanings since the love of the game of football has created a united force in the country and would be needed again lift high the flag of Ghana across the African continent at the Ghana Can 2008.
Source: A GNA Sports feature by Caesar Abagali