The GFA's failure to develop the Black Queens is more serious than you think

Women's football in Ghana has been on the peripheries for years and the treatment of the Black Queens highlights just how unfortunate the current situation is, writes Esther Owusua Appiah-Fei...

How the GFA has failed the Black Queens

The Ghana Football Association (GFA) showed how unscrupulous they can be after they blacklisted Elizabeth Addo for making legitimate claims.

The Black Queens captain only wanted more friendlies for herself and her teammates which would give them that exposure and necessary metrics to rate their performances with other teams. This GFA who is predominantly male, with a bruised ego, asked her to apologize because she didn’t use “legitimate” means in addressing her concerns. Since making that claim in 2021, Ama Pele hasn’t received a national team call-up again.

What happened to democracy? This clearly erodes the whole fabric and concept of free speech. Making speculations isn’t my favorite card to play, but I would have loved to see how all this rolled out if it were a Black Stars player. Failing to realize that social media, Twitter for that matter, is a popular advocacy tool makes me question how up-to-date this GFA staff is?

How Did We Get Here…?

Here lay in ruins the blood and sweat of the early Queens shattered all across this gloomy patch. Their shadows and the echoes of their lament can be heard intermittently highlighting how once fruitful football was for women in Ghana.

In 1991, Ghana joined the early pioneers of football during the maiden edition of the African Women’s cup of nations. Alberta Sackey, Genevieve Clottey, and Adwoa Bayor have for so long held the torch which has been perceived as the beacon of hope for Ghana women’s football.

The national women’s team was built with ambitious goals which were eventually met when we qualified for the 1999 World Cup after knocking on its doors 2 consecutive times (1991, 1995). This was the first time the team had qualified for the world cup and that made them the first National team in the country to do so.

It was an ecstatic moment for every Ghanaian and the Black Queens at the time had given a new perspective to football in Ghana. People were writing to Graphic Sports commending the team and giving suggestions on how to bolster the squad. This level of interest was the ultimate peak of women’s football in Ghana.

The team made three consecutive appearances in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999, 2003, and 2007. Suddenly like every momentum on an upward curve, the team hit a massive recession. The thing about curves here is the fact that though it hits major slumps, its ascendancy, depends solely on extreme effort- and the GFA failed them woefully on that account.

The baffling thing is how this has been allowed to fester, so much so that the Queens have lost the incredible rhythm they had in Africa. Oh, how endearing those glory days were. We used to be up there with West African neighbors, Nigeria as a force to reckon with in football. The foundation the past Queens built for football in Ghana hasn’t seen any worthy contractor [GFA] build on it. It is either they are clueless as to how to go about it or they just don’t care.

Dear reader, we don’t want to draw any speculations here but all was well till the Black Stars qualified for the FIFA World cup in 2006. It will be quite a stretch when I sit behind this critiquing desk and say I wasn't elated when that happened- the exuberance spread like wildfire across the country and it was a big deal. But having lived in the shadows of their male counterparts for years despite their incredible feats, the shift in attention from the Queens to the Stars was stark.

How the Queens managed to miss out on the 2011 World Cup can be played out in many ways. The big question here is how were we unable to replicate the fine record the Queens were on since 1999? It only goes to show how the GFA turned a blind eye to the development and progress of the Queens. The issue went unnoticed again and like how job applications are swept and abandoned in cabinets at the HR’s office the once gallant Queens were neglected.

Circling back to 2010, where we look at the genesis of the problem, it is clear that to qualify for the World Cup excelling in the African Women’s cup of nations is a must. Till today, Africa was given only two berths at the World Cup- it used to be one. The pressure to qualify their nation for the World cup was rough on each player. Why? Because this crop of players had the unwarranted responsibility to prove to their respective governments and nations that believing in women’s football isn’t a hoax.

The problem here is that unlike the newbies in football, the Queens had proven beyond measure that Ghanaian women and girls are talented enough to be trophy contenders for the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) and the World Cup. However, when they hit a hiccup, that was it- the “little” care and support from the GFA just vanished into thin air. You might ask yourself, where are we moving to as a nation for women’s football? What plans do we have for women in Ghana? for women in sports and how best are we collectively tackling these issues?.

We bowed out of the AWCON 2011 during the group stages for the second time in 20 years. In the 2012 edition, the Queens yet again hit another slump and it was much worse than the previous edition. Right from the qualification stages, we were knocked out by the indomitable lionesses of Cameroon after an eventful penalty shootout in the second round.

2014 saw us knocked out at the group stages yet again. 2016? In 2016 we came close to the glory days but got eliminated in the semifinals by Cameroon and 2018 was just another replication of 2014.

As pioneers of football, we spent the last decade achieving literally nothing. We failed to evolve with the game and somehow, SOMEHOW, we’re stuck in the land of nostalgia thinking the players can magically conjure prerequisite skills to win trophies. Depending on their innate football abilities was the worst mistake the GFA could have ever done.

The GFA failed to provide an enabling environment for the Queens to develop. The new school of players who popped up in the 2010s was slapped with treachery because the belief the Ghana Football Association had in the team was sparse and demoralizing. Their wages were not paid on time and to this day, many if not some are yet to be settled. Countries are investing in their technical teams, equipment, physiotherapists, and psychologists just to mention a few and we still live in the 90s land of perception which says “talent is enough''- a ticking time bomb…

Which has gone off in the early stages of this decade already. As the GFA failed to see its mistake and continue to wallow in the bliss of their oafish ignorance, we as a country are paying for it. Talent is a raw material and it is up to the GFA, Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the presidency to effect the change we need now.

Is Mercy Tagoe the Right Person for the Queens at the Moment?

The million-dollar question however continues to linger around, is Mercy Tagoe the right fit for the Black Queens?.

I’ll leave that question for you to answer and while I still stand by my “no speculation rule”, I believe football has gone beyond the allegiance and alliance era where we feel we owe it to veteran players to be appointed as head coaches of their national teams. While choosing a woman coach for the Black Queens is a great precedent, it doesn’t guarantee trophies and for a nation whose status in women’s football hangs by a thin thread, radical moves on the chessboard are required.

Mercy Tagoe without a doubt has been a kingpin in the development of football in Ghana for women. She has seen it all, from player to referee to coaching- a daring woman who has broken barriers. While she deserves all her flowers and more, it is without a doubt that she has underperformed on the job. Appointed back in 2020 after Kuuku Dadzie, Yussif Basigi and Didi Dramani failed to make lemonade out of lemons, Mercy Tagoe might be trying her best but for some unforeseen reason, nothing is sticking. 2 years at the helm of affairs with Corona putting the world at a standstill, some might say, she should be extended some grace. The question here is: How much will “Grace '' cost us? Another wasted decade without a major trophy?.

Our technical team is clearly in shambles. Mercy Tagoe is just a minuscule piece of the whole problem. Most of the technical team staff are working two jobs. This goes to say most aren’t compensated well. And it all boils down to the investment bit. Maybe if the GFA are being intentional with investing well in the technical team, losing to a young Morocco side would have never happened in our history.

The culture for underperforming coaches in the Black Stars is cutthroat and there’s no room for mistakes. The same attitude isn’t meted out to the coaching staff in the Queens and that has to change. More Checks translate to more accountability and meeting deliverables on the job.

It is without a doubt that since their last showing at the World cup in China 2007, the focal point has been on the Black Stars. Investments have been heavy on them and to whom much is given, much is expected. The Queens haven’t seen a quarter of such investment hence the GFA view them as a charity case- where they expect these players to be happy and grateful that they’ve been given the “rare” chance of playing. You might be wondering what the motive is behind such a sense of entitlement?.

The answer is simple, “it’s an African thing”. One thing that has been a constant over the years is the GFA remains precedent-averse. The management is literally scared to be the first to heavily invest in their Women National team. They have been reluctant to see the women grow ahead of their precious boys- the Black Stars. Despite the fact that they’ve made it 3 consecutive times to the World Cup and have been a great force in the AWCON as well. - A classic tale of negligence.

No Love For the Queens…

Bring back the love? Yet the Black queens are last on the investment chain. These women, can’t make a decent living out of their careers on the Ghanaian football scene. This love can best be described as none other than pure hatred. No appreciation whatsoever, no celebration of their feats, nothing to make them feel appreciated for the blood and sweat they have poured on the green pastures for the country. It takes “belief” to bring out the best in a woman, especially in a world where most of them feel inadequate. When constantly treated like second-hand goods, how will the love and patriotism for the Queens be restored?. If I say this campaign was more of channeling love to the Black Stars, you might disagree but nothing shows their dedication to restoring the glory days of the Queens.

If you still don’t believe the GFA just loathes to see women thrive in sports, then

Exhibit A: The Black Stars were invited to the presidency after qualifying for the World cup yet the Princesses were neglected. It took the intervention of Ghanaian triple jumper Nadia Eke who spoke up to see a reaction from the government. These Princesses are the next in line to assume the place of the Black Queens and they are seeing how unappreciative the government and the GFA are to women in sports.

We can go on and on about the litanies on how to develop football for our Queens but it takes belief and the purest form of love to bring out the best in these athletes. A sense of urgency in restoring the glory days of the Black Queens will go a long way in making them Great in Africa again.

The GFA is not the problem. It has and will always be the officials. GFA contains them.

More from category