And Now, Football Tranquilising Fans’ Interest

is that it is not just about football

Terry Pratchett

WE MAY NOT be interested to learn that in the Old Mesoamerican culture, about 3000 years ago, football involved two teams, and the captain of the losing team would be sacrificed to the gods. Yes, sacrificed to the gods! Nor may we be interested to learn that the game took place in China in the 3rd and 2nd Century BC under the name Cuju and later spread to Japan, and played at ceremonial occasions.

Nor, indeed, may we be bothered that the ‘ball’ the people of Ancient Greece used was made of shreds of leather filled with hair, and that it was from the 7th Century in the Roman Empire that we saw ‘balls’ filled with air.

When the Romans introduced football in England in the 12th Century, it was played in the meadows and roads, and it involved large numbers of people and it was generally violent, there being no rules to guide ‘the players’till 1835 football was played mostly in public schools, notably Rugby and Eton. The former with its form of playing with the hands was the genesis of American football (Rugby) and the latter with the form of playing with the feet was called soccer � ‘the dribbling game’ till 1863 when the first football association was formed in England. Some people would ask, ‘so what?’

The British colonialists would carry the game to the colonies, and half a century later Accra Hearts of Oak was formed: that was 1911, Kotoko was formed in 1935, under Kwasi Kumah and L. Y. Asamoah from the Ashanti United Football Club to Kumasi Titanics, then Mighty Atoms, of course, permission had to be sought from the Asantehene Nana Sir Osei Agyemang Prempeh for the name ‘Kotoko’. The King of Asante became the first life patron of Kotoko. Kotoko’s emblem of the Porcupine displays an arsenal of sharp spice to ward off enemies.

Hearts of Oak and Kotoko have between them shared many laurels and these two glamorous teams in Ghana have held sway over the various cups at stake in competitive matches. So what? Some people would ask.

There is no gainsaying the fact that football is the passion of the nation � just as it is the passion of many a country Kotoko, like Hearts of Oak, has had a chequered history, and now that Kotoko have entered the money zone, the ‘Fabu’ spirit appears to be coming back, freshly revived. After 11 years in the wilderness, the slogan: ‘Wokum a apem a, apem beba’ (If you kill a thousand, a thousand more will come) is being heard again but where is the gong gong beater? The stadium was quite quiet at the initial stages of the last match till the first goal was scored in the dying minutes of the first half.

In the midst of a mournful state with the nation sitting on the edge of a precipice � a whole nation of almost 30 million people swindled by a 36-year-old crook, with the nomenclature of NAM 1; a nation grieving over the cold-blooded murder of an up-and-coming journalist, dubbed Anas’s boy; a nation moaning over the unprovoked grisly and spine-chilling murder of the Public Affairs lady of the Ghana Ports and Habours Authority, Tema � the Kotoko win soothed and assuaged the nation by the 2-1 defeat of Coton Sport of Garoua, Cameroon.

The older folks may recall with fond memories the halcyon days of James Adjei, Asebi Boakye, Mfum, Adarkwa, Dan Oppong and also Baba Yara and Aggrey Fynn, both of the Black Stars. Those were the days when fans could rely on ‘Kotoko-finishing’, that is, ensuring a win at the end of the battle of the leather. Those were the days when the fans would kick away their ‘fufu’ supper because Kotoko had lost a match.

The match of last Sunday was very soul-stirringbut one thing grieves our hearts. The Kotoko executives and those who had bought VIP tickets could not have noticed it; they could not have cared. Those of us, the ‘mmoborowa’ thousands of fans who were locked out of the Stadium because the tickets had got finished! So, to ensure accountability, only 30,000 tickets were issued, and we were in a queue expecting some more from the top men � and we hear the Baba Yara Stadium has the capacity for 40,000! That was 2:30pm. And look at the attitude of those who came to lock the gates: not a soothing nor comforting word for the numerous fans.

Gate-locker: Hei, give way we’re coming to lock the gate. The tickets are all finished. No more tickets are coming. A questioner-fan: So, what should we do? Answer: Did I bring you here? Fan: You wait, you’ll see how we’ll treat you in subsequent matches. In a nonchalant manner, one of the gate-lockers just brushed off all criticisms, and went ahead to lock the gates at the ‘Green End’.

We, the mmoborowa, crestfallen, and with a melancholic heart, walked away from the Stadium for fear of ticket racketeering. Nana Yaw Owusu, a former Kotoko management member had suggested: The time has come for the management of Kotoko to sell advance tickets through popular radio stations, in Kumasi and Accra and also use the banks (as sales points) ahead of big matches to ensure that all tickets are well accounted for. Nana Yaw Owusu knows what he is talking about � from player to manager and working with Simms Mensah, Ofori Nuako, Yaw Bawuah at various stages, he is the person to consult for advice. But what do the Circles say? The Circles are expected to serve the interest of the fans, they constitute the heads of the supporters’ unions and their opinions matter very much.

Perhaps the Kotoko authorities will do us the favour of letting us know how much money was bagged. Could some of the money be lent to the National Sports Council or any other body responsible for running the Baba Yara Stadium to put the washrooms into shape? It is simply a national disgrace to have such washroomsand the seatswho keeps them neat? Or is it that nobody cares?

The fans constitute a crucial group in present-day football administration. In the last match, some fans had come from far-flung places like Sunyani, Sefwi, Ho, Tamale, Takoradi, Axim, Accra, Koforidua, Goaso, Debiso, et cetera. Dr. Kyei, please listen, we beg. Meanwhile, kudos to your boys. We meet Al-Hilal of Sudan, Nkana FC of Zambia and Zesco also of Zambia. Give us the composure to support Kotoko to the final.

Who says we shall not agree with Bill Shanky when he intimates, Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.

Source: Modern Ghana