This is a comment from a former national table tennis champion and sports administrator on my recent write up calling for collaboration of the mass media and sports administrators, particularly football.
He wrote “Well said but sportswriters should not demand patronage from sports authorities. You are institutions of commanding authority so stop the condescending posture you have adopted over the years. Without you sports is nothing. Start calling the shots”.
I am happy to report to my dear friend that my colleagues in the sports media have already started calling the shots. I say this following the very enlightening rapport my colleagues had with new Black Stars coach
Chris Houghton at his introductory press conference in Kumasi on Monday. In my view the guys asked all the pertinent questions you can think of and the coach equally impressed with extremely knowledgeable answers.
It is said that you cannot have a second chance to make a first impression. Houghton really made a huge first impression and you could sense he has a firm grip of the terrain he would be operating from.
You may say he has learnt a lot from his attachment with the Black Stars during the recent FIFA World Cup. Yes, but as a local proverb translates “not everybody knows when to enter a room to avoid the rain”.
This new coach who is about the 10th in the recent past, knows what’s he is about. He must surely understand what the whole business is about when he mentions, short term, medium term and long term (development).
Houghton realises he has a few days to a crucial Afcon match against Angola at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi. He admits so well that a good coach is the one who wins matches. And he is not going to fool around.
Personally, I am a bit surprised that the organisers are not making much fanfare of this match that coincides with the national heritage month aggressively being promoted by the electronic media. Incidentally, the match also coincides with the 41st anniversary of the Black Stars last Afcon triumph in Libyan1982, the historic 4th at a time when Egypt and Cameroon the current pacesetters, were far behind us. For the locals in the Garden City, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Asante Kotoko’s African Cup triumph at the expense of Old time rivals, El Ahly of Egypt.
On a sad note however it also marks the 60th anniversary when the celebrated King of wingers, Baba Yara of Asante Kotoko fame, had his illustrious football career cruelly cut short by a motor accident at Kpeve in the Volta Region on 24th March 1963. He was returning from a league match at Kpandu with his team Real Republikans, the model club, that played against Volta Heroes. He had a spine injury in the accident and remained in a wheel chair till he died in 1969.
The Kumasi Stadium, where he cut his teeth to become a football genius, was named after him in 2004 by the Kufuor administration.
You may call me conservative but when it comes to recalling the past, I keep mentioning Ohene Djan for his administrative skills that made you follow sports in general and, especially football with keen interest and passion.
The man raised the love for football to such a pedestal that even the captainship of the Black Stars became a whole ceremony by itself. For example, in 1965, there was a big ceremony at Nsawam to swear in Wilberforce Mfum as Black Stars captain. Ohene Djan described Nsawam as the “birth place of the Black Stars” so the players needed to be there for inspiration.
As fate would have it, Mfum missed Afcon 65 in Tunisia due to injury. Addo Odametey took over and led the Stars to retain the cup won in Accra in 1963.
At this juncture, I would like to mention a few FA heads who brought some novelty into the game.
Lt Col Brew Graves (1973-75) introduced the Guinness Gala that heralded the league season. It was a 15-minute game each half. The idea was to see how fast the game could be played. Fast and thrilling. You can’t beat that. The stadium electronic clock was working at the time and Francis Edzie of Hasaacas is on record with the fastest time of scoring in 11 seconds.
After Brew Graves the Gala was polluted, the essence of fast game changed into 30 minutes each half. Teams had to be given time to rest and all that eventually, the Gala fizzled out.
Sam Okyere in 1986 introduced a five penalty shootout for a bonus point in case of a league match draw. The idea was to improve penalty taking since both the national team and the clubs in general were missing penalties both at home and abroad. This novelty system obviously gave players the confidence to take penalties but the system went out with Sam Okyere.
There was a time when league clubs had reserve divisions that competed in curtain raisers. You could spend a whole afternoon watching teams like Auroras (Hearts), Komfo Anokye (Kotoko), Malavans (Hasaacas), Dade (Olympics) etc.
The second division clubs were later replaced with actual reserve sides comprising even regulars returning from injury. It all made the league interesting.
Now that we are making moves to get fans back to the stands, it may be worthwhile to return to some of these innovations that made the league tick.
In the meantime, all eyes should be focused on the upcoming Afcon matches.
The Baba Yara Stadium had in the not too distant past been the home of the Black Stars but nearly lost that status to Cape Coast.
It’s therefore a big home coming this week and I expect the fans to fill the stadium to its capacity.
As the English football fans would say “Football is coming home. Meet me there”.
Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.