Feature: Kwesi Nyantakyi - the dilemma of a corporate-type football administrator
By: Abdallah Salisu
Is the 2014 World Cup the last of this generation of the current glory days of Ghana football?
The answer to this question is closely tied to how the Ghana Football Association (GFA) is run at the moment – thus, among other issues, Mr. Nyantakyi’s leadership style.
A Nyantakyi leadership of the GFA and for this matter, the Black Stars is like that of a corporate entity who’s CEO has his eyes firmly on the profit side of the business at the expense of bringing through talent to ensure the company’s long term future is not in jeopardy.
Normally, one would argue that on the one side it is good to bring home the financial profit, thus with personnel recruited and trained by his predecessors.
Consequently, such a CEO is good for the short term and the financial profit but he is clearly not good in the long run as a pool of talent will required to carry on in his absence.
However, Ghana’s situation in this debate is more worrying than that because one is under current circumstance, forced to conclude that even the focus on the financial aspect is useless because the funds clearly does not trickle down the appropriate socio-economic channels to benefit ordinary people, neither in the sporting arena nor elsewhere in society.
This assertion might sound straight forward, critical and maybe harsh, but it is the fact, and there are all sorts of evidence to support it if you look at the number of current young breading the country has and consider the corners from which they emerge.
The focus of the FA president is too restricted to the area of the senior level where there is clear visibility and mainstream attention.
What his office however, fails to take into consideration is the fact that for consistency and continuity to be guaranteed, his attention has to be on the local players and juvenile levels as much as he spends time with the professional and foreign based players.
There is no denial that there are measures being introduced here and there but the issue here is, are they enough to guarantee the flow of talent to feed the senior side of the system? Are they concrete enough to serve their purposes?
These are questions that Mr. Nyantekyi can definitely not answer with a clear yes except to point out few initiatives here and there for his own defence.
All readers of this article will agree with me that our focus as a nation is too much on European football and as such it trickles down into the national football habit, whether we like it or not.
This draws attention away from our own leagues. The nations leagues are not prioritised, adding to the fact that the FA initiatives for juvenile football are not something one can take seriously.
This takes it clearly into a deep recession in terms of future talent production. Thanks to a Northern Irish and other foreign initiatives within the borders of our nation, we could be sustained for a while but in the long run, we do not seem to have a clearly worked-out plan.
Owusu Bempah, on 4 April 2014 speaking on ASEMPA FM gave a clear picture of the situation. He gave an example of when he was analyst for GTV during the 2002 World Cup when Senegal impressed.
He said on ASEMPA FM that during that World Cup, he analyzed the Senegal situation and saw that clear succession plans are always lacking in most football-crazed African nations this is one of the main reasons why our consistency at the world stage is always lacking.
Abedi Pele, the Maestro himself, recently touched on this issue. But coming from an angle where some people feel he should be siting in that position, and the fact that two of his sons are integrally in the squad (thanks to his former club Marseille), there is every reason for him to choose his words carefully.
However, I can understand that Abedi sees issues that could affect the future of this footballing nation that everyone in the world is hoping would do Africa an honour of soon surpassing the semi final ‘curse’.
As such, Abedi briefly mentioned his concern about the state of generating youth talent in the nation. He rightly pointed out that most of the current crops are already in their prime and to be honest, some of them have already past their prime.
A clear example is the fact that Ghana is currently finding it difficult to line up a solid central defence that have no injury or fitness problems.
Similarly, the number one goalkeeper the country is supposed to rely on cannot command a starting position at club level.
We cannot even start with our long reeling striker shortage reliability on Asamoah Gyan, but maybe Waris could save us. Normally, the technical knowledge and details in a football nation like should make possible for to turn even goalkeepers into strikers but the focus on commercial and profit side is eating away the responsible persons’ attention.
Football administrators like Alhaji Jawula, Nyaho Tamakloe, the late Alhaji Sly Tetteh and Harry Zakour in their times, had their eyes firmly fixed on the football – both club and national side cooperated for Ghana’s sake.
We might not have gone to World Cup but that to my knowledge, was attributed more to the European dominance of the game and former FIFA president Joao Havelange’s inability to introduce the kind of measures that his successor Sepp Blatter introduced to open the game to the world.
Today, the production line of youth talent in the country has been left in the care of business men funded by European football scouts and Reality TV producers.
The situation of the local league attests to the dilemma; patronage is at all time low, sponsorship money measly and managers are recruited from unlikely sources, putting Ghana’s reputation as one of Africa’s football managers producers for its neighbouring countries in danger.
Potential sponsors are backing away from tempting to put their money into the league, which makes sense because they know they will get more value if they sponsor an English League viewing centre in Accra, than to put their money in Ghana FA.
In addition to all these come the issues of lack of clear lines of accountability known to the public with regards to the affairs of the FA. In no country known to be a footballing nation is politics so close to football as the case is in Ghana.
Sports Ministry has become closer to the business side of football because it has become a criteria for deciding the fate of governing parties, and FIFA financial incentives or hand-outs.
This has not just left the plight of youth football alone in a miserable state but also the plight all other sports. For example, boxing used to be high up with football and with attentions taken to focus on foreign recruitment, the fans that used to troop the Accra Sports Stadium for both boxing and football have ceased coming because the tradition was football in the afternoon and boxing in the evening.
So in a situation where the day-time football fans have moved to watch English League and the stadium cannot even guarantee electricity for boxing fans in the evenings, what is left of Accra Stadium as the hub of Ghana Football in particular and sports in general?
As mentioned above, though Mr. Blatter has done his part to open it up for Africa, the systemic injustices against African nations on the world stage are not scaling down at the velocity they normally should.
Instead of clear policies for football to benefit the world, FIFA and it subsidiaries continue to operate with old rules in terms of allocation of places to teams from various parts of the world while trying to force Eurocentric political and cultural correctness on the rest of the footballing world.
On the back of all these, we are not doing ourselves favours by focusing all-out on feeding European leagues with our talents and our love for the game for the sake the financial enemies for the elites whiles neglecting the juvenile development of our sportsmen of the future, leaving them in the hands of reality TV show producers.
We could mange somehow this time but what about the future, the next four years down the line?