30 July 2017

FEATURE: Welcome to the Upper East Region of Ghana, Bolga – where football is crawling in suffocation

The Bolga Park after soccer enthusiasts filled it with black soil, turns to a grazing field

In December 2016, I toured the three northern regions of Ghana to conduct a research into the development of football in the north. I was hugely disappointed and kept asking if the three northern regions are part of Ghana. It was fairly good in the Northern Region, Tamale and the Upper West Region, Wa.

But the game was weeping to crawl, not to even stand and walk, in the Upper East Region. There was no single football pitch in the REGIONAL CAPITAL which was up to international standard. All the pitches in the Bolga were grassless and dusty. That is how far the region has developed in terms of football.

This piece is just my observation of the enzymes and catalysts for the development of the game in the Upper East Region. The findings of the research I conducted will be released soon.

The only recognized venue for Division One, MTN FA Cup and possibly Premier League matches in the UPPER EAST REGION is no longer recognized by the GFA Club Licensing Board because it’s a grassless pitch which is no longer accepted for modern football.

For those who don’t know, clubs like Tanga FC and Japan Stars collapsed because of the demand by the powers that be that they use either Tamale or Wa as home grounds due to the lack of a Green turf or an AstroTurf in the whole Upper East Region.

These clubs will, therefore, have to travel 3 hours to play a home game away from home and 3 hours back – 6 hours in all. That is just for home games and not an away game by default.

These clubs will have to travel 32 times every season and also pay for playing matches at the Tamale Stadium or Utrecht park at a cost not less than GHC800.00. Adding other expenses like transportation or fuel, feeding, accommodation and some medical expenditure, it becomes extremely difficult for a club to survive in the region.

You must also pay the players monthly among other expenses!  No wonder, management of Bolga All Stars had to change hands and the club, though bearing an Upper East name-Bolga, it’s now based in Tamale and play their matches there!  In fact, it may never return to the region of its birth; a region that produced the likes of Abedi Pele and his sons, Kwame Ayew, David Atanga, among others.

In 2013, Wiaga United hosted Asante Kotoko FC at the Bolga Sports Stadium in an MTN FA Cup. Bolga All Stars hosted Berekum Chelsea and Paga Crocodile Stars also hosted Asante Kotoko in recent times at the Bolga Stadium but not anymore. Even FA Cup matches involving clubs from the region are now ordered to be played in Tamale as it happened this year.

Despite being the least populated region in the country, the Upper East Region contributes over 4% in determining who the president for Ghana becomes during elections. The region is also one of the deprived and less developed. Football is capable of turning the fortunes of the people of the Upper East Region is well developed. Perhaps, this is why the ‘One Constituency, One AstroTurf’ project by Wembley Sports Complex must be given all the support it deserves.

The GFA, National Sports Authority and the Sports Ministry are collectively responsible for the growth and development of sports; particularly football and always take credit for the successes chalked by individuals and national sports teams and must be blamed for the poor state of sports infrastructure in some regions, especially the Upper East Region.

The region is not as fortunate as other regions where money bags are involved in football and pump lots of money into clubs and academies; the contrast is the case in this region as only ordinary and poor people are into the game!

If clubs like Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko do not have their own stadia, how do you expect the low income earners of the Upper East Region to own their facilities?

One major observation I made was that the football clubs used open school parks for their games and get completely nothing from the gates to improve the pitches?

If properly harnessed and developed, football alone can alleviate the level of poverty in the region. Mathematically, with over 20 football clubs in the regional capital alone, the youth will be given massive employment opportunities if football is developed in the region well. Physiotherapists, doctors, coaches, cleaners, pitch managers, ticket sellers and checkers, vendors, etc will all be offered employment if football is developed in the region.

I observed that the then owner of Bolga All Stars and RFA Chairman, Salifu Shaibu Zida and other sports personalities such as players, coaches and ordinary people did their best by getting loamy soil to the Bolga Stadium as part of efforts to grass the grassless pitch but lack of support from the powers that be means the project has come to stand still.

The Bolga Sports Stadium has now turned into a grazing field for cows and the future of football in the region look bleak. Individuals can support but a greater art of the responsibility lies on the shoulder of government to develop the game in the region as the people deserve a fair share of the national cake since they pay taxes and also contribute to national development.

Bolga All Stars, the first club to have made it to the elite division in Ghana from the region is no more there, Tanga FC pulled out of the Division One League, Real Builsa United, Navrongo FC, Bolga Mighty Rocks, Real Bolga United and Catholic Cardinals have all pulled out of the Regional Division Two League.

Even if the clubs keep playing, where will they go from their divisions and how will they survive if they even qualify for the DOL or GHPL?

The future of football and other sports in the region is very bleak.

In fact football in the region is suffocating and will pass out soon without the necessary planning and development policies.

Please, I am a FOOTBALL WRITER/RESEARCHER hence my overconcentration on the sport that moves the nation and not any other.

By: Sheikh Tophic Sienu @desheikh1 on twitter


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