What struck me the most in my first ever visit to the Accra Sports Stadium back in January 2020 wasn’t just its imposing edifice nor how much dust the seats at the centre line had gathered. But the simple realisation that the pitch was actually greener than on television, smoother and neatly ironed when seen with the curious human eye than through any electronic means.
Embarrassing nature of pitches across the country; a recurring problem that needs to be tackled
Several football pitches in Ghana are currently not in the best condition to host football matches…
As both Hearts and Kotoko players trickled out from the tunnel on to anointed grounds to warm up, the half-full stadium exploded with absolute delight. That game is a thrilling memory that lives with me to date. To witness the biggest club game within our shores in the flesh. To mix in with staunch, hardcore supporters of both set of clubs who continually evoked curses on players and yet rarely sang them praise throughout the game.
That engrossing Super Clash ended in a 2-1 victory for Kotoko. After watching the highlights on television back home later in the evening, it felt to me the game I had just watched at the stadium had in a way been distorted. The pitch didn’t look that flamboyant on TV, the wild emotions tamed, the actual action sapped of life and that vibrancy. Narrating all this is to say the game felt better watching in person than through a TV set.
And yet, if anyone had gone to witness Legon Cities play Asante Kotoko on Sunday afternoon at the Dawu Sports Stadium, it was possible for them to feel chagrined by the poor state of the turf just as much as those of us watching at home behind our television sets. Was this a kind of beach soccer played out as a Ghana Premier League game to sort of commemorate this festive month? If this wasn’t really any kind of beach soccer, then what was it?
The Dawu turf was in terrible condition. Here, the greenness of the grass had faded into brown and light chocolate, making it nearly impossible to catch sight of the ball at all times as it blended in with earth. How is it possible that a Ghana Premier League game is allowed to be played in such a distasteful condition?
What impression does this give about the local league? And if, indeed, the GFA wants the topflight to garner more eyeballs and viewership, how does broadcasting such a match to the masses who already have a crippling addiction for European football help aside strengthening their belief in what is foreign and making them deride that which is local? How is the number of match-going fans multiplied if the content and product shown on television isn’t enticing enough? And, additionally, how do clubs make more money from gate receipts if fans rarely swarm the stadium to capacity.
The condition of a football pitch is as vital to a professional football as food is to humans. There’s no denying a terrible pitch would impinge on the performance of even the finest and fittest of players: the awkward bounce of the ball, occasionally the wicked change in direction when it bounces off an undulated part of the pitch. Candidly, how do players cope?
And even to those passionate fans glued behind their TV sets, watching a game in which the grass isn’t actually green but brown essentially kills your basic drive to watch the game altogether. Because, after all, you really don’t see the point, the game doesn’t appeal to you enough. That same cognitive bias that makes you think an ugly person is potentially dangerous and evil, but an attractive person pure and holy. The very notion that what is ugly is bad and that which is beautiful good.
No matter the quality of football exhibited at a match, if the pitch looks unpalatable, if fans watching in the comfort of their homes have low quality images showing on their TV sets, the match would lose it basic appeal. One would prefer tuning in to watch the English Premier League game between Tottenham and Liverpool, between Wolves and Chelsea, than to watch a game where you’d have to occasionally squint just hard enough in search of where exactly the ball is flying to.
Meanwhile, the Accra Sports Stadium which is supposed to undergo vital maintenance work with the grass worked on, is presently hosting December events. Never mind the football. The brakes can be applied on it. Never mind the maintenance work, it can wait. What cannot wait, guess what, is the December events. Maybe we should get our priorities straight for once.
By Bright Antwi
Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf
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