I have wondered how come there are two associations when it comes to former players of the national soccer team – the Black Stars. The older is the Retired National Footballers Association of Ghana (RENFAG) and the other is the Professional Footballers Association of Ghana (PFAG). One quite obvious difference between the first and the second is that PFAG has membership of even current footballers. Admittedly, the difference is also tangent on one group perceived to be made up of ex-Black Star players, who enjoyed their club football outside the shores of Ghana while the other has the architects of the nation’s pride of the four continental titles. Can it be that there are different breeds of Black Stars players? Yes, in my opinion.
There are the locally based players and there are the foreign-based ones. More often than not, the foreign-based ones have a delusion of being better than their locally-based counterparts. Apparently, Ghana is no exception to major African countries facing a similar stratification. In countries like Nigeria, Cameroon and La Cote d’Ivoire, for example, locally-based footballers always feel hard done by as their sometimes inactive foreign-based players get the nod when it comes to national team selection. The continent’s football governing body at some point in time admitted this stratification and introduced a tournament, Championship for African Nations(CHAN), to pacify the numerous disenchanted locally-based players. Aside the CHAN, the Confederation of African Football also divided the flagship awards of its best player into two: a locally-based one and an overall one.
But what players should know is that a team does not win with brilliance of individual players. A winning team emerges as a result of unity among players whether foreign-based or locally-based. The Black Stars may never have qualified for a world cup if the sort of segregation that had characterized squads prior to the Stephen Appiah era was still existent. Stephen Appiah came to break that bane of segregation to instill a marginal level of unity within the Black Stars. No wonder under his captainship, Ghana qualified to the world cup twice. Now that Stephen Appiah has retired from the team, that bane is rearing its ugly head again and the earlier the authorities staunched it, the better for us all.
Emerging third breed
Having mentioned the already two established breeds of Black Stars, there seems to be a third breed emerging. This breed constitutes players, who did not grow up in Ghana, but have family connections to the country. In other words, these are players who want to switch nationality and play for Ghana. This breed of players have surged up as a result of modifications to FIFA’s nationality switch rules in 2004. Previously, when a young player represents one country, that player is completely tied to that country and cannot in anyway switch to a different country. Moreso, if a player even features for a nation in a friendly match, the player gets permanently tethered to that nation. Indeed, that rule caused lots of players with dual citizenship severe headache when it came to the country to represent. In the case of players with Ghanaian ties, Ghana came first or second depending on their intuition. Players like Tony Baffoe, Eric Addo, and Otto Addo put Ghana first while the likes of Gerald Asamoah, George Boateng and Eric Akoto, inasmuch as they wanted to play for Ghana, went the other direction.
Nonetheless, FIFA’s new rules have given member associations, who possess adequate documents, the right to file for a player’s nationality switch. As a result, players like Quincy Owusu Abeyie, Kevin Prince Boateng, Adam Larsen Kwarasey, Charles Takyi and Jeffrey Schlupp have found their way into the Black Stars as the third breed. The orientation of these players may differ from the usual breeds in many areas. They are Ghanaians by documents but European by nature and actions and that Ghanaians should put up with their ‘foreign’ attitudes. Indeed, it also offers the Black Stars Management Committee, and indeed a local coach, a re-strategizing. A new form of treatment, which must uphold the unity of the team, should be meted out. After all, the unity of the team is what will bring the laurels.
But when they retire one day, where will they belong, RENFAG or PFAG or they will found a different association? Well, I suggest this name for them “Professional Retired Expatriate Players Association of Ghana.”