Players of the Black Queens were out on the streets to demonstrate over their unpaid bonuses.
But they are not alone; the nation’s continued show of total disregard for the Black Princesses, the Black Maidens and women’s football in general has become an absurdity.
And finally that day came. Not just any day, but a day when a fragment of Ghana football was at its lowest ebb. Women’s football made a huge statement. It was always coming: the signs of a revolt from this sort of oppression were always on the cards. Having been neglected and dejected for so long, the “women” decided to fight for what is due them. But this was not supposed to happen this way. It has been a long walk down this path, pleading and coercing stake holders to no avail.
The Black Queens have always kept their worries to themselves, they have watched their junior colleagues go through the pain of being ignored and, they have waited for far too long for the right things to be done. Unfortunately, it appears the more they wait, the more it becomes conspicuously clear that their worth goes unnoticed.
Ghana is fortunate – very, very fortunate – to be blessed with abundant talent to feature in the women’s game – and the National Women’s League is testament to that. Although the league is currently without a sponsor, there are over 15 teams participating in two zones across the country. That typifies how the interest in the women’s game has shot up. This could have been an opportunity for Ghana to capitalize on to take women’s football to the next level. But the nation’s attitude towards them – and we call them “the girls” – has been nothing short of inadvertence, abstention and laxity. And with the latest treatment meted out to the Black Queens, it has become clear that women’s football is on the dark side of Ghana’s sporting priorities.
These are ladies who have decided to take football seriously, yet their efforts are being thwarted by the nation’s lethargic attitude towards them. Fake promises, delayed bonuses and no appreciation: so for how long will women’s football continue to lag behind this way? What crime have these ladies committed to warrant such neglectful treatment?
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And so when pictures started to flood social media with Black Queens players out on a demonstration, it was not all too surprising. They had earlier threatened to do it but, as usual, they were never taken serious. With their placards, they marched straight to the headquarters of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and then to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to make known their plights. Not that their plights were not already known, but this was a classical case of grabbing the bull by the horn and pulling it. Placards with inscriptions like “we need our money”, “equal treatment”, “honour your heroes” et al were held sky-high not to spite anyone, but to drum home the displeasures of the players.
After all, they have watched their male counterparts always have it their way. Anytime the Black Stars cough, their problems are immediately attended to. So why is it so different with the women’s national teams? One placard actually read: “stop discrimination” – and it was bang on! As draconian as that may look, the Black Queens were right. And it reflects the current state of women’s football in Ghana. Nobody cares about them; they are always used as the sacrificial lambs while their male counterparts – the Black Stars – enjoy all the privileges, hype and rewards. Is that not discrimination?
That is why even when the Black Queens came back home with a bronze medal from the just ended Africa Women’s Championships; they were still welcomed like royals destitute of thrones, treated like warriors without families, and sidelined like orphans on the street. For a team that had even struggled to raise money to participate in the tournament, 3rd place was a remarkable achievement. But to their country – Ghana, the so called “sporting nation” – that feat was worth nothing, and does not fit to be counted as a national success.
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So is it a case of disregard or disinterest for women’s football in the country?
Two years ago when the Black Stars placed second at the Africa Cup of nations they were treated like kings. They were hailed and rewarded like they had won the world cup. The players and technical team were all given Jeep Grand Cherokee cars as well as $25,000 each. All that for winning silver at the Afcon. Two years earlier when the Black Stars completely lost it at the World Cup in Brazil, they still made away with $100,000 each as appearance fees – and they still enjoy such privileges. The nation embarrassingly airlifted $3 million, in cash, to Brazil because the Black Stars threatened to boycott their last group game against Portugal.
The Black Queens – and the other women’s national teams – are not requesting to enjoy same privileges. All they want is to be given what is due them; their salaries, their bonuses and a little bit of appreciation that they so much deserve. But that looks like asking for too much from the nation. The country they went to Cameroon to defend has again turned her back on them. This was not the first time, and they just couldn’t take it any more.
And that is why on a day when the players of the Black Queens should be walking gallantly to the FlagStaff House to get a resounding handshake from the President of the Republic, they are rather on the streets trying to win public sympathy to force the hands of government and the Ghana Football Association to do what is right. This is not how they wanted it to be, but they could just not endure anymore. They wanted it resolved amicably but all their cries and pleas fell on deaf ears, so they had no other option than to hit the streets.
‘This has gone on for too long’, they must have thought – and rightly so. They have been toiled with for far too long and it was about time they hit the streets to make a statement.
The Black Princesses were left wandering and wondering on when their bonuses would be paid after they played in the 2014 U-20 world cup in Canada. Eventually when their agitations got to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, part of the money was paid to them. Two years down the line and it was still the same story after the Black Princesses participated in the world cup in Papua New Guinea.
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The Black Maidens – Ghana’s U-17 women’s team – went through same treatment, if not worse. After their impeccable run to the quarter-finals of the world cup in Jordan, the team was left to fend for themselves. On arrival at the airport, the team was not met by any delegation from the Sports Ministry and had to lodge in a hotel for weeks waiting for their bonuses to be paid.
"It is sad the situation we went through. We qualified for this tournament in March but were neglected by the Ministry since that time. We were not supported to play any friendly match. At the tournament too we were made to feel like strangers," coach of the Black Queens, Evans Adotey lamented on Happy FM in October after returning from the World Cup.
"Each member of the team including the players was entitled to a $100 per diem but we never received anything. Qualification bonus for the tournament since March has not been paid and qualification bonus from the group stage too, same."
The refusal to pay the bonuses of the female national teams has gradually become the norm. And that is why the situation has deteriorated to a point where the teams have to demonstrate to get the attention of government. After all, their colleagues in other jurisdictions do it all the time. The doctors, nurses, teachers and even the judiciary services have all staged demonstrations over the course of the year to lay their grievances to government. So why can’t the Black Princesses also do same when they are being denied what is rightfully due them?
Last week the Minister of Youth and Sports, Nii Lante Vnaderpuije reportedly said in an interview with Nhyira Fm that "President Mahama has asked the Finance ministry to pay monies owed the female national teams before January 7th 2017."
But nothing more has been heard since then, and it is obvious no efforts have been made to remedy the situation. The demonstration by the Black Queens was not just any demonstration; it was actually a day when women’s football rose up to register its discontent over several unattended issues. The Black Queens are bruised, the Black Princesses are reeling in discomfort and the Black Maidens are wallowing in agony. Women’s football has reached its nadir and the demonstration was the latest low-point..
But in all these occurrences, what has become increasingly clear is that the country’s position on women’s football is that of total disregard and disrespect.