The Black Stars’ recent disappointment has brought my attention to the money - conscious efforts by successive governments over the years to champion the cause of the senior male national football team of Ghana in their quest to rule Africa again.
I have asked myself this question, is money the paramount motivational factor for success in sports?
I believe the answer is a yes at club level, but mostly a no in national team football, because I have witnessed teams with low pedigree become a powerhouse because money was injected into them. Examples are Manchester City, PSG etc.
However, national team football seems to have a different twist. National teams ride on dedication and commitment and the will to die for one’s country as the sense of motivation and it was evident from the just ended Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
One thing I realised in this year’s AFCON was that teams who demanded for huge appearances fees and bonuses before the start of the competition suffered early exit.
The likes of Cameroon and Zimbabwe nearly boycotted the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations because of bonus row. It reflected in their performance in the competition, because the Indomitable Lions, as the defending champions, failed to go past the round of 16 and the Warriors of Zimbabwe couldn’t also secure qualification from the group stages, even as one of the best four third-placed sides.
Another example worth noting is that Nigeria failed to win the trophy, despite being promised a fat bonus of $75,000 for every goal ahead of their semi-final clash against Algeria - they managed just a goal in that encounter and it wasn’t even from open play.
The Black Stars can’t be left out of teams who were at the centre stage of whopping appearance fees and winning bonuses before and during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
I was surprised when the Ministry for Youth and Sports failed to declare to the citizenry the bonus structure for Egypt 2019, despite appeals from various stakeholders, including the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana.
It was argued by the pro-Sports Ministry that the move was to avoid any backlash as the Black Stars head to the AFCON, in order to maintain team spirit and earn the support of the nation.
Failure on the part of the Sports Ministry to disclose the bonuses of the Black Stars to the people of Ghana whom they owe an obligation to do that led to rumours that the team received an appearance fees of $80,000, which was later reported as $23,000.
The decision not to declare the bonuses did more harm than good, because it gave journalists the opportunity to speculate and Ghanaians became indifferent towards the Black Stars, with some even wishing for the failure of the team.
Ghana’s bonus structure for competitions over the years are declared to the very people whose taxes are used to fund the Black Stars so why should it be kept as a secret this time around?
This confirms the suspicion of many people that the bonuses were out of proportion, so it was difficult to be defended by government.
I ask myself why should a problem which doesn’t exist be created?
I am compelled to believe the assertion by a section of Ghanaians that we sometimes tend to endorse and honour mediocrity.
If the appearance fees were paid for the Black Stars‘ participation in the AFCON were true, then it was definitely a wrong move.
Appearance fees for country’s participation in the FIFA World Cup is easy to defend, because countries receive huge funds to facilitate their participation, but that is not the case in the AFCON.
So, the question is why should an appearance fee be paid to the team?
The double standard attitude of the Sports Minister, Hon Isaac Asiamah, is indeed shocking because this was a minister who praised himself for reducing the winning bonus of the Black Stars from $10,000 to $5,000 ahead of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
It therefore beats my imagination that, under his own watch, the Black Stars‘ winning bonus in the 2019 AFCON was reinstated to $10,000 and it was reportedly further raised to $15,000.
The Black Stars players have benefitted financially than any other national team on the African continent but they have constantly failed to give Ghanaians the joy they have been looking for in the past 37 years.
Ghana remains the only former champions to be honoured after placing second in the AFCON. It would be recalled that a private company presented a Cherokee Jeep to each Black Stars player after they finished second in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
All other things being equal, the team should have been motivated to win the 2017 AFCON, after being honoured for a second-place finish in 2015 - but they could only settle for a fourth-place finish in the next tournament.
It is on record that countries who have recently won the Africa Cup of Nations weren’t the ones who received the biggest promises or given astonishing winning bonuses and appearance fees.
They were the ones who showed much dedication and the desire to clinch the trophy and set their eyes on success before the monetary gains.
In 2012, Ghana who placed second received a winning bonus of $65,000, while champions Zambia took home, $57,000 after the tournament.
The Nigerian government declared ‘take it or leave it’ when the Super Eagles’ bonuses were pegged at $5,000 dollars in 2013. Ghana at the time enjoyed a better winning bonus than their West African neigbours, yet Nigeria clinched the title.
Ivory Coast were not given any huge promise prior to winning the 2015 AFCON yet they overcame Ghana to win the trophy.
Cameroon, who had been at the centre of bonus row in the past, decided to put it behind them in 2017 and the benefit was an AFCON title, at a time that much wasn’t expected of them.
Algeria ended their 29 years of wait for a continental trophy in Egypt, despite heading into the tournament with civil unrest back home, after the Military took over the country.
With no huge promises, Algeria beat them all to rule the continent.
It’s high time those who should protect the national purse realised that money and mind-blowing promises are not the key to success.
There is more to it than just throwing monies around. Ghana should re-evaluate our means of motivating players in national team in subsequent competitions. We should give prominence to intrinsic motivation than the extrinsic ones. It should be a pride and honour to wear the national colours of the various national teams.
The players shouldn’t be the ones to dictate to the nation as to how much they will take for playing for the Black Stars.
Playing for the national team is not like running a business that the end results should be profit at all cost for the playing body. And it is because of the posture some of the players take that Ghanaians sometimes feel reluctant to offer them their support.
We should do a deeper reflection and take a cue from the Zambia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Algeria example and our Black Stars will reign again.