The big task ahead of new GFA president Kurt Okraku

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After a bittersweet reign under former Ghana Football Association(GFA) President Kwesi Nyantakyi. A time that started splendidly but ended in topsy-turvy. His time as president saw the rise of the Black Stars and the fall in the local league. Ghana for the first time in 2006 qualified for the FIFA World Cup, which was held in Germany. Ghana again qualified for the subsequent 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Ghana in 2006 beat then 2nd placed team on FIFA ranking Czech Republic by 2-0 after losing by similar results to Italy on her World Cup debut. Ghana sealed a place in the Round of 16 after beating USA 2-1. The fantasy ended when Ghana was beaten 3-0 by then world champions Brazil. Ghana in 2010 marched her success in 2006 by qualifying for the knock out stage after finishing second behind Germany in a group with Australia and Serbia. Ghana marched on to beat USA 2-1 in the round of 16 and became only the second team to qualify for the Quarter finals of the World Cup after Cameroon. Ghana was seconds away from eclipsing Cameroon’s record by becoming the first and only African team to play in the World Cup Semi final when Luiz Suarez handled a ball that was goal bound in the dying embers of second extra. Luiz Suarez was sent off and Ghana was awarded a penalty. Asamoah Gyan stepped up and missed the penalty. Ghana went on to lose 4-2 on penalties after the game ended 1-1. It is a thing not to remember when Ghana was crushed out in the group stage in 2014 after losing 2-1 to USA, drawing 2-2 against Germany and losing 2-1 to Portugal in the final group game. Ghana failed to qualify for 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The Ghana U-20 football team won Africa’s first and only U-20 World Cup also during his stewardship in 2009. During this time, the country produced good players that shone on the global market, these include the likes of Micheal Essien, Sulley Muntari, Stephen Appiah, Richard Kingson, Asamoah Gyan etc. January 2005, which was months before his appointment became the last time Ghana had a representative for a CAF champions league or Confederations cup final.

The relationship between Kwesi Nyantakyi and Ghana football came to an abrupt ending in June 2018 when he was accused of match fixing and engaging in some fraudulent activity using the name of the President. Since then Ghana football has moved on, the country has moved onto a new direction and a new adventure begins. A different man is at the realm, a different man is at the wheel, his name Kurt Edwin Simon Okraku.

His name already rings a bell in the history of Ghana football, he was once the Communications and Marketing Director of Accra Hearts of Oak and the Executive Chairman of Dreams Football Club and it feeder clubs. He also served on various executive committees of the Ghana Football Association as well as the national team, Ghana Black Stars. He’s the brain behind the miraculous rise of Dreams football club from the lowest division of Ghana football to the Premier league. It is in no doubt ludicrous for anyone to question the footballing sense of this man, but he now faces the greatest test of his life as GFA president. He now faces a big test of succeeding a man who rose from GFA President to Vice President of CAF and a FIFA Executive Council member. He’s tasked to bring back the glory days of Ghana football, to bring back the love the nation once had for football, which evidently is his motto “Bring back the love”. He’s entrusted to bring the glory days of Ghanaian clubs in Africa, those days when the country sold out in Africa.

A throw back to 2004 when Ghana had two clubs playing in the CAF Confederations cup final, it was unprecedented. It was the first time in history two clubs from the same country on the continent were playing in the finals of any CAF competition. Every part of the country was painted with either the colors of Accra Hearts of Oak or Kumasi Asante Kotoko. You wouldn’t want to miss this game for any reason, even as a young boy I had no reason to miss it, who actually wants to miss watching the likes of Francis Bossman, Dan Quaye, Prince Tagoe, Adjah Tetteh, Louis Agyemang Ronaldo, Amankwah Mireku, Stephen Oduro, Issah Ahmed, Yussif Chibsah, Micheal Asante, Nana Arhin Duah, Micheal “ember power” Osei, the brilliant Bernard Dada Don Bortey and the skilled Charles “the terror” tailor? Not forgetting the dexterous Sani Mohammed and the vexatious George Owu. Who wants to miss watching the late Cecil Jones Attuquayefio on the touchline? Our own version of Sir Alex Ferguson, May his gentle soul Rest In Peace. Who wants to miss the antics and the cheer from the fans? Who wants to miss Kwabena Yeboah’s scintillating commentary on TV, a commentary spiced up with the “Holoaaaaaaaaa” “Hudabaaaaaaa” exclamations? Who wants to miss listening to Dan Kweku Yeboah and Kofi Asare Brako Abatey’s inch-perfect and exceptional commentary on Peace fm? Even Jon Champion and Jim Beglin will bow at the mention of these names. All these excitement and pleasure you wouldn’t get from the two clubs and from the indigenous league anymore, it’s even more disheartening when you watch the state of the two big clubs in the country. What happened? What changed in this short while? Why can’t Hearts and Kotoko compete with the Al Ahly’s, the Esperance’s and the Tp Mazembe’s anymore? How are clubs from even Tanzania soaring up high as the top teams here in Ghana continue to decline? How are clubs from Tanzania able to attract our players? What’s hindering the progress of clubs here? Can someone take me back to the early 2000’s when football in this country was enthralling?

Now the local league has waned to it lowest level, empty stadiums at match venues, players earning low wages, poor officiating, poor pitches, no sponsorship, bribery and corruption etc. All these has contributed much to the waning of the beautiful game in this country.

Kurt Okraku now faces a big task, which is to eliminate all these factors that has contributed to the waning of Ghana football. To get the national teams back firing and the league back to where it belongs. To get the two big clubs in the country back where they belong. To bring colts/juvenile football which is the bedrock of the county’s football back to live and also to make Women football more exciting.

Not forgetting to end the long Black Stars trophy drought. The last time the Black Stars won a major trophy was in 1982, and also not forgetting the country’s penalty woes, another hurdle he’s expected to surmount. Only this year, 3 of Ghana’s national teams (Black Stars, Local Black Stars and Black Meteors) were knocked out of the CAF African cup, WAFU cup and Under-23 CAF African cup on penalties respectively. The Black Meteors failed to book a place in next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

WHAT KURT OKRAKU HAS PROMISED

The GFA president has promised to ensure transparency, accountability, gender quality, professionalism, innovation, corporate governance and investment in his reign.

“For me, transparency can play a huge part in ensuring financial discipline, managing risk, reducing and eliminating opportunities for malfeasance and the perception of corruption of association,” Mr Okraku said

He has promised to work hand in hand with the media by making information available to reduce rumors and misinterpretation. Mr Kurt also promised a revival of colts football which is the spine of Ghana football.

The GFA president in his manifesto said he and his team have a Revenue creation model that will lead to the setting up of Central, Medical, Club Support and Special World Cup Benefit funds.

The Central fund will support activities of juvenile/colts football and women’s football.

The Medical Fund will cater for serious injuries to players. Clubs won’t be left to solely cover costs on players who are seriously injured.

The Club Support Fund will be established specifically to support clubs in the payment of lucrative and attractive wages to players.

Premier League clubs, Division One League clubs, Ghana League Clubs and all Ghana footballing associations will benefit from the Special World Cup Benefit Fund. This includes Women’s Football and Juvenile/Colts Football

The GFA President also revealed that his ultimate vision is to make the Ghana Premier League autonomous with the GFA retaining a special interest in the elite league. Progressively, he will ensure the same with the Division One League.

Not leaving women football out, he promised to provide infrastructure and logistical support for clubs in the topmost division.

For now, All is there to prove that Kurt Okraku can reach these targets. All is there to prove that he’s the man, he’s indeed the game changer he’s aspiring to be. He has so far made some good appointments in integral aspects of the game. The new GFA president once blamed the dwindling nature of Ghana football on the appointments of sports ministers. He stressed on that people with no history of the sport and with no connection to the sport have recently being appointed, he stated that those appointed come and in the end make “Kindergarten decisions”, and that has been the bane of the sport. On that account, the appointments he makes is a thing that needs to be watched closely, he has so far shone in this field. He has appointed Mark Addo as Vice President and Wilson Arthur as Fa cup chairman.

Being a man who has great interest in colts/juvenile football, he has also named eight-member Juvenile Committee of the FA, with himself as Chairman. Samuel Anim Addo is the Vice Chairman of the Committee. Other members are: Mensah Agbovor, Eugene Gyaquaye, Amidu Abdulai, Michael Fiaduse, Kasim Abubakar and Daniel Boateng.

This is one aspect or field of the country’s football that needs to be well managed since it is the spine of the nation’s football. The Juvenile Committee will be responsible for formulating policies for the development, control, promotion, management, organisation and administration of juvenile football in the country. It will also aim at igniting passion in colts/juvenile football.

There has also been some good appointments in women football. Madam Hilary Boateng was named as the Chairperson of a seven-member committee for the Women’s Premier League, with Mrs Rosalind Amoh has Vice-Chairperson. Other members of the Committee are; broadcast journalist Ms Nana Aba Anamoah, Madam Cleaopatria Nsia, Nana Poku Fosu Geabour II, Mr Christian Isaac Mensah and Mr Jerry Dogbatse.

Earlier this month, GFA declared that officiating fees of all division one clubs have been absorbed. No club will be allowed to pay officiating fees or whatsoever.

In bid to improve officiating, which constituted almost 90% of the problems in Anas’s Number-12. The GFA launched a 4 day referees integrity seminar for more than 300 referees from all parts of the country. The workshop went on from 10th – 13th of December. The FA called on the officials to help paint a new picture. The FA also revealed that the performances of all referees will be assessed. The referees will go through a fitness test, training on match fixing, applying the laws of the game and decision making.

The GFA this week held a day coaching workshop for all Premier, Division One and Women’s Premier League coaches in Accra. The workshop aimed at capacity building, match day conduct and other essential areas of the game ahead of the upcoming season. The organization has promised to organize more of such seminars.

The maiden congress under the leadership of Kurt Okraku will take place on the 19th of December. The agenda of the congress is to appoint independent Committees members for a 4 year mandate as required by the GFA Statutes: Ethics Committee, Disciplinary Committee, Appeals Committee, Elections Committee. The election of final member from the Regional Football Association (RFA) between Central regional RFA chairman, Robert Duncan and the Upper East RFA chairman, Salifu Zida will also take place on that day…

The new Ghana Premier League season will commence on the weekend of 27th – 28th December. Division One and Women’s League will also follow the same schedule. The season is targeted to end in July 2020 and synchronize with European Football. 

Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko will clash at the Kumasi Sports stadium on the 22nd of December for the President cup. A game which is much more like a curtain raiser for the new Premier league season. The GFA will formally launch the 2019/2020 football season on Friday 20th December 2019 at the Accra Sports Stadium at 5pm.

Indeed the game charger is much expected to change the game and bring back the love. It is again not as easy as ABCD to replace a man who rose from GFA president to Vice President of CAF and a FIFA Executive Council member. I believe he has the qualities to reach that level and even superpass it and i pray he does that. All the best to him….

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