“I’ll engage the FA to consider a certain number for local players during Black Stars call ups,” these were the words of the Sports Minister designate, Hon. Isaac Asiamah during his vetting on Tuesday afternoon. Very satisfying and soothing but is it practicable? Yes it is.
However, this will meet some level of opposition as the GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi ahead of the Black Stars trip to Dubai to prepare for the AFCON unequivocally told Ghanaians that the Black Stars is not a district assembly where people are chosen based on electoral areas, rather players must be selected on merit.
The President’s position is clear on this issue but as democratic and open as I know him to be, the FA can resolve to add three local players to the normal call up for them to benefit from the camping. So any normal call up will have the 18 players the coach already relies on and an extra 3 slots for locals to make it 21. When it’s 23, then we have three slots for locals each time and when they impress, bingo!
Over the years, I have been a great advocate for a quota system in our senior national team call ups as I have always argued that limiting the call ups to the current format will always leave our local players out of the Black Stars.
Realistically, every coach would want to invite the best players into the national team since they will bring results but reasonably, some of the brilliant players on the local scene ought to be invited into the team for reasons I will enumerate soon.
In the first place, we all accept the fact that football has grown from the era of passion and pleasure to the era of business and marketing. That is how come Athletico Madrid and Barcelona will have the name of Azerbaijan in front of their jerseys at the cost of millions of dollars to the country. The exposure will surely thread with it business and marketing as the positive rippling effect.
The Ghana Premier League is not the best on the Africa continent and it is not the worse either. But there must be conscious efforts by the Ghana Football Association and the Premier League Board to ensure the league is rated among the best three on the continent and one of the efforts is to use the Black Stars.
Before I proceed, let me ask this question. How many local players were part of the Black Stars at the recent Afcon? Well, it was only Richard Ofori. When Ofori was used in the third-place game against the Stallions of Burkina Faso, the commentator kept highlighting the fact that he is a local player. Do you know what it means for the local league? That was a big platform for us to sell our league.
In my opinion, if players in the local league are given the opportunity to be part of the Black Stars, it doesn’t only serve the purpose of motivating players playing in the league but it gives the league a unique sense of recognition on the international scene. Let me be quick to say that, regardless of fighting for a quota system for players in the local league, it doesn’t mean the local players are bad when compared to their foreign counterparts.
That is why I indicated earlier that realistically, they will be ignored by any coach because those outside the country are exposed to better pitches, training facilities, better environments, are well motivated and above all get international exposure. So obviously, they will be better than the locals but regardless of that, the outstanding ones in the local league must be given the chance.
As I indicated earlier, the inclusion of local players in the Black Stars is a great marketing tool which increases the value of the local league in terms of sponsorship acquisition. If we have local players in the Black Stars, obviously, we can use that as a bargaining tool to woo investors to do more in the local league.
I have already said that anyone who will raise the issue of the foreign-based players being better than the locals limiting call ups to merit will win the argument but let’s ask ourselves if all the foreign-based players play when they come? Obviously no. In that case, I will argue that instead of selecting the likes of Edwin Gyimah, Bernard Terkpetey and Andy Yiadom who were recently selected for the Afcon, the opportunity could have been given to locals like Kwasi Donsu, Latif Blessing and Amos Frimpong to replace those players respectively.
When this is done, it will surely give our league a facelift. You can’t disagree with this. Will you?
The yet-to-be-confirmed Sports Minister put the icing on the cake by saying he will moot for that and I can assure him that he has my support.
I keep saying that 23 players are invited for the national team for tournaments but not all will play. My argument for the quota system has always been that out of that number, let’s reserve at least four slots for the most outstanding players in the league; a goalkeeper, one defender, one midfielder and one striker at least, and I don’t think this will be bad. Remember, it will market our league, give it a massive facelift and serve as bait for sponsorships.
The rest of the slots can therefore be contested for by players within the Africa continent and the rest of the world. This in my opinion is not a bad suggestion.
Over the last seven years, we have suffered massive drain of players to the rest of the Africa continent and the world after every league season; the promising ones leave for better offers outside leaving the league in a raw state where new players have to evolve.
The reason is not limited to only money but also the recognition of playing for the Black Stars. We have had situations where players have been overlooked for the Black Stars but just as they move outside the country, they get call ups to play. I believe that if a quota is given to our local players, it will also provide us with a strategy of mitigating the movement of players. At least it will be limited.
As an ambassador of the local league, I’ll support the minister to table the suggestion to the GFA for consideration and am hopeful that it will be accepted to serve the reasons I have enumerated.
My Speaker, Ghana football will not die.