The Ghana Premier League starts this weekend after what looks like an eternity of absence. The 2018 edition was abondoned after the hurricane that was Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ Number 12 exposé hit. The adhoc Normalisation Committee organized a competition to basically keep football alive and award winners. The 2019/2020 season kicked off with so many much promise and considerable enthusiasm. Then came coronavirus and the world of football went on leave.
Now, restrictions have been eased and formal football is set to take off, in the form of the Premier League. Fact is, even long before Anas’ exposé the local league had been in tatters, an entity that lacked shine and lived on past glory. FA President Kurt Okraku came by and promised to “bring back the love”. It’s a mantra that’s soft and easy on the tongue but will take some doing.
If coming events cast their shadows, then it’s fair to say Kurt and co mean business and are off to a great start. With days to kickoff, the league still doesn’t have a headline sponsor, a drawback that is not just starting. The publicised engagement with Kasapreko should yield desired results. Before then though, partnerships have been struck with sports kit firm Macron for 5000 match balls and 1500 bibs. Retail giants Melcom are on board with Nasco electronic products and TV sensation Startimes are sure to telecast matches live. State Transport Cooperation, STC, being brought in to aid travel by match officials is a masterstroke.
There is worry elsewhere however. League matches will be honoured at venues that are yet to meet standards set by the Club Licensing Regulations. A look at the report gives one a sullen face. Of the 18 match venues, 8 are conditionally approved and 10 require reinspection. This smacks of failure given our quest to relaunch the league on a new footing. Adequate infrastructure is a prerequisite for a smooth operation of any venture, and the case of football cannot be overemphasized.
The quality of play in the local league has been a major reason for the lack of sponsorship. This could trace part of it’s roots from the quality of coaching and especially player exodus. The new kid on the block always has a penchant for being on the available flight abroad, irrespective of the destination once a zero or two is added to his earnings. This further depletes the already worn-out player quality of our league and robs fans of a side attraction to go to the stadium. That’s why the patronage at league centers has been very poor.
This season is crucial in many ways. It must see us depart from the very devils that held us back, as exposed by Number 12. It must kick us off in our bid reclaim our spot in Africa club football. Our league used to be the talk of town in the continent. It’s a far cry today. The GPL is now resigned to only 2 spots in CAF club competitions; winner for the Champions League and runner-up for the Confederations Cup. This is down to it losing coefficient points in rankings because of poor state.
This season starts with an appreciable number of foreign imports. Players from Mali, Niger, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Liberia and Brazil will feature for various clubs. That’s a big step to competing with other leagues and bridging the gap opened by them. With Kotoko and Hearts (109 years old today) no longer enjoying duopoly, a new winner could emerge, yet again. Winners and runners-up will have their coaches undergo attachment with clubs abroad. At stake is Ghc250,000 and 40 gold medals. May the best club win.
Yours in the beautiful game