In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States, it was sport, and not speeches, that was used to raise confidence and build the nation back on its feet.
Almost two decades on from the chaos caused by the terrorist group al-Qaeda, the world is facing another demon, this time a global health crisis which threatens to be more devastating than first feared.
In the nine months since the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began spreading, it has rendered many jobless, affected businesses and dealt a major blow to the sport industry.
And while some advanced countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas are gradually getting back on their feet with regards to sport, third-world nations like Ghana, Nigeria and others are still undecided.
In Ghana, football has not been played since March, when President Akufo-Addo placed a ban on all public gatherings. While the restriction on gatherings has since been lifted, the return of football is still not a foregone conclusion.
Currently, the Ghana Premier League, FA Cup, Women’s Premier League and all other football activities are on a COVID-19-enforced suspension.
The last six months have particularly been very arduous for many clubs, who have had to pay their players despite no football activities taking place. Some players have also been forced to take pay cuts due to the situation.
But when President Akufo-Addo stood to address the nation on Ghana’s COVID-19 status on Sunday, he all but confirmed that it will take some time before football returns.
Delivering his 16th national address on the pandemic, he announced that only non-contact sports are permitted to take place in the country.
“As a known lover of football, I know how devastating its absence has been, and it is my hope that very soon we will all have the pleasure of playing and watching the beautiful game again,” Akufo-Addo said.
“Until then, non-contact sports are the only sporting events permitted to take place. The beaches, pubs, cinemas and nightclubs are still to remain closed until further notice.”
Many Ghanaians, especially lovers of football, have expressed disappointment in the President’s decision, especially as he also announced that the airports will be reopened to international traffic from September 1, 2020.
The concerns raised by football fans are genuine, but the fact is that the President was just looking out for the safety of his citizens, which includes players, coaches and fans.
Yes, it was sport, and not speeches, that was used to raise confidence and build America back on its feet after the September 11 attacks but, in Ghana’s case, the President’s speech is exactly what we needed to hear.
Countries like England, Spain and France may have proven that football can be played despite the pandemic, but Ghana doesn’t have the resources to tow the same line. To give some perspective, how many Ghana Premier League sides can afford consistent COVID-19 tests for their players and staff?
The situation becomes even more complicated when you consider the fact that clubs will have to test their players at least twice in a week. We may be yearning for football to return, but rushing it could be perilous to everyone involved.
The signs of what could happen were clear after the President gave the all-clear for the Black Maidens and Black Princesses to return to camp to prepare for their respective CAF assignments.
The result was that seven out of the 61 players that were invited were found to have contracted COVID-19. Government and the Ghana Football Association (GFA) have made some gains in the dormant period since March.
The FA has begun preparations on how to successfully kickstart the 2020/21 football season. Among the measures being planned is ensuring all male and female footballers take COVID-19 tests before the next season begins.
Also, the Executive Council of the FA has proposed that the 18 teams be divided into two Zones; that is Northern Zone and Southern Zone. This is in a bid to cut down transportation costs and avoid too much movement for the teams, in the wake of the pandemic.
With all these plans being put in place to ensure that football returns in the most conducive way, why then undo all the work by rushing to restore football activities.
We at Pulse.com.gh, therefore, call on all football loving Ghanaians to be patient and allow the GFA and government to work things out.
We love our football and we yearn for it to return. But life is more important than sport and there’s currently a pandemic to take care of.
Just like the September 11 attacks, sport will help us rebuild our nation after the COVID-19 pandemic. But things must be done right, and doing “right” means playing the waiting game.
For it’s all worth it.
Pulse Editorial is the opinion of the editorial team of Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the organization Pulse.