PHENOMENAL GESTURE BY ZAMALEK …that’s what sportsmanship is about

Football is gradually accepting social responsibility as an integral component. As a result, clubs, and football organizations at large, are now taking social responsibility more serious than before. For some European clubs, for example, social responsibility is an indispensable component as most of them have one programme or the other to correct a societal ill. Some of these clubs even traverse their ‘areas of jurisdiction’ to proffer corporate social responsibility in unfamiliar terrains just to bring smiles to distant destitute fans. Manchester United some years back reached to the under-privileged in East Africa for example. Also, before the end of the 2011-12 season, some Chelsea players, selected on purpose, visited and feted with wards in a London children’s hospital. These clubs sometimes even engage their former players in charity matches they have termed ‘legend games’.

Fifa’s social responsibility

Efforts of football-related bodies, and clubs for that matter, to hold social responsibility in high esteem derives from the world-governing body’s efforts to underline this sector. FIFA SERIOUSLY gave attention to social responsibility in 2002 in the run-up to the first World Cup held in Asia. Indeed, FIFA moved into 4th gear with social responsibility when one of the world’s poor continents, Africa, was selected to host the global showpiece. Then came in charity projects like One Goal Project, Win in Africa for Africa, 2010 Legacy and Football for Hope to mention but a few. Ghana has since been a foremost beneficiary of one or two of these projects.

GFA failure

Unfortunately, the Ghana Football Association has fallen short of this fast-growing component of the sport – social responsibility. And as it were, ‘followers’ of the country’s football governing body, the clubs, have also failed to be socially responsible. After receiving an email from the Confederation of African Football decreeing that member nations played a charity game to alleviate hunger in the Horn of Africa, I approached the GFA President, Kwesi Nyantakyi, on two different occasions, to know the plans of the Association to honour the decree, and in effect, help contribute to helping our brothers and sisters in that region see some sunshine. Nyantakyi did not give me any tangible answer though he confirmed having received a similar email. He mentioned that the busy schedule of the Black Stars MAY not allow such a match to happen. Disgracefully, Ghana’s captain, John Mensah, on the final day of qualifiers for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, read the solidarity message given him by organizers in Omdurman, Sudan. I knew it was part of protocol. Nonetheless, any concerned player would have further probed what his association had done or was doing that he, representing the entire playing body, was showing solidarity. It just was evidence of the wanton disregard of the Ghanaian football fraternity for charity. Let me quickly add that individually the Black Stars players are one of the most charitable on the African continent as every year most of them dole out to charity. And it remains individual.

Indeed, this wanton attitude has become a canker which has eaten deep into the country’s various clubs too. Umpteen times, concerned Ghanaian football fans have lamented the neglect of former Black Stars players, most of whom brought glory to the country without receiving a pesewa. Some have been left to die in squalor.

Quarshie and Black Stars

One of the players who brought glory to Ghana but languishing in this impecunious state is Emmanuel Quarshie. Surprising to hear though, Quarshie is the last captain of the Black Stars to have brought the Africa Cup of Nations to Ghana. He was even a member of the 1978-winning squad and also played a part during the 1980 Nations Cup. He has recently been severely battling with his health. He is suffering from throat cancer and his eyesight is also failing him. This sad news made rounds in the media about a year ago and it was regarded as one of the same old stories regarding former Black Stars players.

Zamalek gesture

But in their visit to Ghana to play Berekum Chelsea in a CAF Champions League match, Zamalek Sporting Club did not consider this news lightly and zoomed straight to offer a helping hand to Emmanuel Quarshie, who played for the Egyptian giants in their golden era of the 1980s. He played with the likes of current coach Hassan Shehata. After a lengthy interaction between club president Mamdouh Abbas and Quarshie, Zamalek announced to take the former Black Stars captain to Egypt to foot his entire medical bills and further take care of any relative who will accompany the Sekondi-based invalid to Cairo.

Emmanuel Quarshie in his Zamalek days

I would be surprised if clubs like Sekondi Hasaacas and even the country’s football-governing body, GFA, are not mortified by this gesture of Zamalek. Mr. Quarshie played for this club and featured three times for Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations winning two trophies but both club and country have sat unconcerned and left him derelict. That an Egyptian club has come to show them the way must be quite embarrassing. It just goes to show the long course the major Ghanaian clubs still have to chart in this social-responsibility-prone world of football. Sportsmanship is not always on the pitch. It is more beautiful when done outside the pitch. Honestly, the entire Ghanaian populace would not have been lamenting the neglect of their former stars if the various clubs they played for helped them in one way or the other. Well, for now, let’s congratulate and be grateful to five-time Africa Champions, Zamalek, for a kind gesture but bow our heads in shame. Social responsibility should be a key component in the affairs any professional club and any football-governing body.

By Kwame

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