Monday, July 21, 2014
Folks, news reports indicate that footballers who made good impressions at the World Cup in Brazil are set to reap a windfall. Where do our Ghanaian players lie?
It is beyond question that professional football (soccer, I mean) involves more than meet the eyes. Apart from seeking to entertain lovers of the game with their dazzling skills, professional footballers aim at maximizing material benefits and getting the best out of their talents whenever they feature in any tournament.
As a footballer myself (having been a goalkeeper many years ago), I truly admire the game and wish I could go back to pick the pieces. Alas, Nature has had its toll, and I can’t do so. I can only sit back to watch others play it and cherish what they have to offer. As a veritable pastime, soccer is a game of chance that any true lover of the game should appreciate as such. No need for violence or malpractice as such.
Those to whom soccer is a profession (meaning that they regard it as the source of income for them to realize their aspirations in life) will see things differently. To them, it is a do-and-die affair. That is why the game is regulated at various levels in all countries worldwide. Investments made in the sector are huge and scouts roaming the world for recruits have added a new complexion to the matter.
No doubt, local, regional, national, and international tournaments continue to be held in soccer to celebrate the game’s prominence. It is beyond debate that soccer is the most patronized game. It may come across as a tool for building friendships at the level of amateurism (symbolized by the Olympic Games) or professionalism (symbolized by all competitive appearances that culminate in the World Cup).
This year’s World Cup tournament in Brazil stands out as well patronized and highly successful despite the initial hiccups raised by disenchanted Brazilians opposing the hosting of the tournament by their country for various reasons. All said and done, Brazil 2014 is over and Germany has come to notice as the winners of the World Cup for the 4th time, a feat well accomplished. On the flip side, Brazil suffered its worst defeat in any appearance and should lick its wounds without involving any other country in the spectacle.
Beyond all, though, is the fallout for individual talented players. We have already said that participation in such high-stakes tournaments holds more promises for individual players than imagined. Thus, all players were motivated to put up their best so as to attract the highest bidder. At the end of the tournament, those who caught the eyes of those bidders should be smiling all the way to the bank. Here is what has emerged so far:
· Real Madrid got their man—the signature of World Cup star and golden boot winner—Colombia’s James Rodriguez, who will join World Cup winner Toni Kroos who completed a 30 million euro move from German Champions Bayern Munich on a six-year contract.
· A four-month ban from all football-related activity for yet another biting episode didn’t put Barcelona off paying Liverpool 81 million euros for controversial Uruguay striker Luis Suarez.
· From the English capital to the French capital, centre-back David Luiz joined Paris Saint Germain from Chelsea for 49.5 million euros. As Luiz leaves Stamford Bridge, Brazilian-born Spaniard Diego Costa arrives. The 25–year-old striker joined from Atletico Madrid on a five-year deal worth an estimated 40 million euros.
· Chile’s World Cup star Alexis Sanchez has joined Arsenal from Barcelona. He joined the Gunners on a long-term contract for a reported fee of around 44 million euros.
· It’s not just players moving about – last week Juventus appointed former Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri as coach to replace Antonio Conte who surprised all by stepping down last week from Italian champions with a year left on his contract.
· Manchester United look set to beat Monaco, and Liverpool in the race to sign Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria. Argentina’s World Cup star carries a minimum price tag of 40 million euros.
· World Cup-winning midfielder Sami Khedira is at the centre of a tug-of-war between Chelsea and Arsenal. The Blues however look most likely to bag the Real Madrid man despite his €250,000-a-week wage demands.
· He has become the world’s most wanted goalkeeper—Keylor Navas’s performances between the sticks for Costa Rica at the World Cup has earned him an expected move to Real Madrid from Levante.
· He cost Chelsea 58,5 million euros but now the Londoners are looking to offload under-performing Spaniard Fernando Torres for around 16 million to his former club Atletico Madrid, who feel that price is too high.
· Another possible move that would thrill the Chelsea faithful comes in the form of club hero and free agent Didier Drogba, who could be on his way back to Stamford Bridge after a one year contract was put on the table.
The high-profile transfers are not just within Europe. There are some players who, in the twilight of their careers, have decided to leave the ‘old continent’ seeking new adventures and better salaries in the United States.
· Kaka head’s stateside. The former Brazil international has signed for Major League Soccer debutants Orlando City for three and a half years, but before March’s season opener the former ‘world player of the year’ will be loaned out to Sao Paulo.
· After 13 years at Chelsea—where he’s the club’s all-time leading goal scorer, former England captain Frank Lampard joins Kaka across the pond after penning a deal to play with Middle League Soccer newcomers New York City FC. Lampard joins Spain’s all-time leading goal-scorer David Villa who signed with the MLS team for three years. Both players will link up in Australia with Melbourne for a ten-game loan spell in the A-League before continuing their careers in the ‘Big Apple’.
· New York are also set to sign Barcelona midfielder, Xavi Alonsi.
Within this context, one may want to wonder what has become of the Ghanaian players. Which of them has had a good fortune or lost one as a result of participation in this World Cup tournament? I haven’t heard anything to prove that any has profited beyond the appearance fees that the Ghana Government paid, which itself remains a source of controversy. Probably scared of their future, they pulled strings for our government to charter an aircraft to airlift over 3 million Dollars to them before they played the crucial match against Portugal, which they lost ignominiously.
We see from the aftermath of the Brazil 2014 how individual players are benefiting from their sterling performances. They are being recruited for big sums and are likely to shed some off to support the needy in their home countries. We have also heard of players donating their World Cup earnings to support good causes. Not so for the Ghanaian players. Some individual players may be initiating and supporting public spirited projects; but their impact is minimal. So, what is the benefit to Ghana if our government continues to pump money/resources into soccer development?
Meantime, we are still waiting to know how the government intends going about probing the affairs of the Ministry of Youth and Sports under Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah and Joseph Yammin as well as the Ghana Football Association led by Nyantakyi. Not until something concrete emerges to paint the right picture, tongues will continue to wag. And the government will suffer the negative backlash. Another own-goal being scored here too?
I shall return…
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