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African Cup Of Nations

Hon. Woyome addresses Parliament on the Black Stars’ Afcon 2023 debacle

Full statement by Hon. Kobena Mensah Woyome, Member of Parliament for South Tongu constituency and Ranking Member for Youth, Sports and Culture Committee on a chronicle of the poor performances of the Ghana Black Stars and their inability to go beyond group stage in consecutive Afcon tournaments:

Mr. Speaker, my heart aches as I make this statement in expressing our collective
extreme disappointment and shock once again at the poor performance of Ghana’s
Black Stars leading to another unprecedented early exit at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) championship.

The Ghana Black Stars, one of the top teams on the continent of Africa once again, did not live up to the expectations of many across the continent, the rest of the
world and in particular Ghanaians at the just ended African continental football
championship in Abidjan. The consistent failure of the Black Stars of Ghana
to go beyond the group stages raises serious concerns.

The Black Stars were knocked out at the first hurdle of consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments

Mr. Speaker, the history of the performances of the Black Stars shows that, the first time they exited the AFCON tournament in the first stage was in 1980 in Nigeria with 3 points as defending champions; then in 1984 in Ivory Coast, they exited also with 3 point as defending champions; in 1998 in Burkina Faso, they
exited with 3 points and in Egypt in 2006 once again an early exit with 3 points.

This is the first time in the history of Ghana Black Stars that they exited at the
group stage of the AFCON tournaments consecutively (Cameroon and Ivory Coast) with one and two points respectively signifying the bad state of the Black
Stars’ participation in the elite continental competition.

Mr. Speaker, this disappointing trend can only be attributed to poor management
of the team right from coach selection, player selection, and poor coordination of
pre-tournament preparations. Therefore, the poor performance on the field of play
such as player coordination, in-fighting, technical deficiencies and confusion can
only be attributed to poor management decisions by the leadership of the Ghana Football Association and Government; lack of proper sports development structures and inadequate investments in domestic football, particularly juvenile also known as
colts within the communities; School sports initiatives such as the Milo and Valco sponsored regional and national championships among various second cycle schools that help identify, and groom talents to feed the various national teams
and domestic clubs are militating against victory in tournaments even though football in Ghana particularly the Black Stars have been the most funded among
all sports.

The entire technical team of the Black Stars, including head coach Chris Hughton were dismissed by the Ghana Football Association after the Afcon 2023 debacle

Mr. Speaker, a re-look at Ghana’s performances show that the nation has won the Afcon on four (4) occasions (1963, 1965, 1978 & 1982). The Black Stars have equally been five (5) times runners-up in (1968, 1970, 1992, 2010 & 2015). Their impressive performance at the 2006 World Cup in Germany raised the brand of Ghana football globally and attracted support and admiration from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. In my opinion, it was this powerful brand enhancement from the successes in Germany, that added value to Ghana towards the successes chalked in the hosting of CAN 2008.

Is it that we have not learnt any critical lessons in order to make a mark at least if not win the tournament; what is preventing us from building on our past legacies?

Mr. Speaker, it is not only the Black Stars’ performances that keep dwindling on
the international arena in recent times. Ghana’s performance and fortunes in
various sport competitions keep dwindling as seen in the 2023 participation in
various international competitions. For example, the 13 boxers that Ghana took
to the Africa Olympic Boxing qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal in September 2023 all
lost out on qualification slot to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games to be held in
France in July and August 2024; albeit they have other opportunities on the global stage to qualify.

Also, the national athletics team’s participation at the 2023 world
championship was a disaster for Team Ghana as none of the members could make it past the preliminary stages. As we speak now, no Ghanaian athlete or discipline has qualified for the competition with six months to go, but hope the upcoming African Games would be used as the means to qualify as many as possible of our sportsmen and women to the global elite sport fiesta.

Also, the performance of various national football teams at the age group competitions like the U-17, U-20, U-23 (male and female) and the local Black Stars is nothing to write home
about. But I hereby congratulate our elite female national team, the Black
Queens for qualifying once again to the 2024 Women Africa Cup of Nations
to be held in Morrocco and the national U-20 female team, the Black Princesses for qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup to be held in Colombia later this year.

Mr. Speaker, Ghana is beginning to lose her shine as one of the top teams on the
African continent due to these recent poor performances and scandals such as
the Anas Aremeyaw Anas’s investigation which was released in 2018, highlighting the level of corruption among football administrators and referees in Ghana. It revealed how match officials openly negotiated and took bribes to help teams win matches. This negative revelation unmasked the poor leadership at the helm of Ghana football at the time. These remain a visible scar on Ghana’s football administration.

Star Power: A proud Ghana fan shows his colors by lifting a replica jersey of Black Stars midfielder Salis Abdul Samad during a spirited match at Felix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium

Mr. Speaker, with every tournament that comes around, millions of Dollars are
pumped into the team, with the justification being that they market Ghana, bring the nation together, and provide pride, patriotism, and purpose that can’t be
quantified. Undoubtedly so, but not sacrifice the call to be prudent with
expenditure particularly when the time in which the county finds itself in
negotiations with IMF and other bilateral partners to restructure its debt and get
finance of budget deficit underway.

In 2019, the government reportedly blew $4.5 million (after budgeting over $6
million) on the team’s participation, which ended at the 1/16th stage. The prize
money from CAF for winners of the tournament at that time was $4.5 million,
and the Black Stars had managed to spend as much despite coming nowhere
near the trophy in Egypt..

Before this 2023 Afcon in Ivory Coast, the budget was shrouded in secrecy (not officially declared), a glaring insult to the intelligence of fans. But an idea
of how inflated it was would be revealed when the Ghana Football Association
(GFA) displayed what many considered an incredible and unbridled extravagance.

Mr. Speaker, as things stand now, I want to side with Amos Safo a Development and Communications Manager and a Social Justice Advocate in his write up on ‘Black Stars’ fiasco and our national psyche’ that sports, especially football, may be one of the major failures of the Akufo-Addo –
Bawumia Administration.

Aerial tussle between the Black Stars of Ghana and the Pharaohs of Egypt during their 2-2 Group B draw at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations 18/07/2024

The decline in Ghana’s football is more painful because, it is the taxpayers’ money that is used to finance sports under the poor supervision of the current National Sports Authority and Ghana Football Association management.

Again Mr. Speaker, the current practice
of club owners managing football according to some experts in the industry,
but may be subjective, promotes conflict of interest, corruption and nepotism, as they tend to favour their own players over better skilled, positional players.

For us to see some positive turn around in Ghana football, and given the central
role of sports in national development and fostering unity, there is the need for
the government as a matter of urgency to initiate a process for a holistic sport
development agenda that adopts short, medium to long term approaches in order
to restore sports and Ghana football in particular from the grassroots to the top
(clubs, Black Stars and Black Queens) at the global stage, as was suggested by
the flagbearer of the NDC.

There is also the need for the formulation of a prudent national policy document
for Ghana sports (including football) detailing short-, medium- and long-term
plans and the de-politicisation of our football and sports in general.

George Lamptey (left) with Olympic bronze medallist, Samuel Takyi and Coach Ofori Asare at Tokyo 2020

Mr. Speaker, there is the need to rethink of the quality of the investments being made in sports today. For instance, the use of our rather scarce resources to build sub-standard community pitches that do not meet international standards and cannot be used for league matches.

The poor state of the NSA managed sports facilities such as our various stadia, namely Essipong, Cape Coast and Tamale, deteriorate, in spite of huge costs of periodic maintenance according to the NSA, is most worrying. The mismanagement of some of these sports facilities in the name of revenue generation is also worth mentioning.

We need to remind the National Sports Authority (NSA) of section 3 of Act 934 which indicates the following:

1. Provision of necessary facilities required for building national teams and not
sub-standard facilities.
2. The need for the submission of proposals on matters relating to the
development and maintenance of national teams.
3. Transparency and accountability in the development and management of
national teams.
4. That all moneys received by law of sponsorship, gifts and any other benefits
for national teams are properly accounted for.
5. The organisation of biannual sports congress to review sports development for
the period and map out strategies for sports development for the future.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, enough of the pain and disgrace to our national brand.
I hope and pray that this will not be just a statement made on the floor of this
august House, but that which should push us to work to re-clothe Ghana with the
pride of having formidable teams capable of raising high again the flag of Mother
Ghana in any tournament.

Ghana’s misery was Ivory Coast’s gain as the Elephants went all the way to lift the trophy after squeezing through to the knockout rounds only after the Black Stars faltered against Mozambique

Let me use this opportunity to congratulate Ivory Coast for hosting and fighting through to win the cup, making their nation
proud, but for Nigeria, better luck next time.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.

Credit: Hon. Kobena Mensah Woyome (MP for South Tongu)

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