You may not be a woman. You may be too young to have a wife. You may not have a daughter or a girlfriend. But if you are old enough to read this, you may have a sister or female classmate. So you should understand what I’m about to say.
Once every month, most girls and women go through hell. For some, menstrual cramps are so serious that they end up in the hospital.
This means if you have a football team made up of young ladies preparing and playing a tournament over a period of one month, you are sure to have each one of them undergoing their menstrual cycle in the process. So when you see those ladies in jerseys straining every muscle and prepared to break every limb to hold aloft the flag of the nation, you need to think beyond the game.
Beyond the smiles and jubilation that come with victory and the pain and anguish that come with defeat is excruciating pain borne with peerless stoicism. That is the spirit of resilience of the so-called ‘weaker sex’. And that is the untold story of female athletes and sportswomen such as the senior national female soccer team of Ghana, the Black Queens.
That is the untold story of the ladies who hoisted the flag of Ghana and won gold at the just-ended the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville despite their menstrual cramps. When they got home we denied them their crumbs. Yes, what we promised them were crumbs when compared to what we offer their male counterparts. And we denied them when they returned. Until that breaking news came.
Yes, on Tuesday evening there was breaking news. It was news that that was not supposed to be news in the first place. Someone’s incompetence forced it into being. And we broke it.
What was this news?
President of the Republic of Ghana and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed forces sent an order from New York, where he is attending the General Assembly of the United Nations. His message was simple: pay the Black Queens $5000 so that they could leave the M-Plaza Hotel, where they have been staying since they arrived from Congo Brazzaville.
The Black Queens had won gold at the tournament. Each player was supposed to receive $5,000 each as winning bonus per the arrangement they reportedly had with the ministry of Youth and Sports prior to the tournament. When they returned, they were handed only $2000.
And what did they do? They rejected this demeaning offer, that paltry sum of insulting reward from the Ministry and vowed to remain at the M-Plaza Hotel until they received their payment. After many discussions and meetings, we were told the players would leave if they got their $5000 each. But the Ministry would not budge. In response, the ministry stopped paying for their stay at the hotel. We are told the hotel refused them food and the coach of the team had to go to Nima to buy wayside waakye for the players. The Ghana Football Association led by Kwesi Nyantakyi, stepped in, promised to take care of the bills when the Ministry stopped paying. The GFA further started serious talks with the ministry to resolve what has become a national disgrace until the President stepped in.
Reports say the president was very upset at the treatment of the Black Queens. “Do I have to personally get involved in order to resolve every issue?” President Mahama reportedly said when he was told was what was happening back home.
But why not, Mr.President? Why must you not personally get involved? Our elders say “if you send a foolish child on an errand, your feet will rest but your heart and mind will not know peace.” Sending an incompetent adult is like sending a foolish child. And that is what you did at the Sports Ministry.
Mr. President, you appointed Dr. Mustapha Ahmed as a Minister of State in Charge of Development Authorities. He was instrumental in operations of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA). He, together with some officials of SADA, embarked on some unprofitable and questionable trips and supervised the spectacular mess in the program that was meant to alleviate the suffering of the poor masses in the Savannah zone. When the mess of SADA was revealed in investigations, you changed the board, changed the CEO and gave Dr. Mustapha Ahmed a new position. You did not punish anybody for their roles in SADA. You gave Dr. Mustapha Ahmed a bigger responsibility. You sent him to head the Youth and Sports Ministry. So in my view, you are personally responsible for every mess that Dr. Mustapha Ahmed will cause.
That is a subject of another day. Today, let’s focus on our ladies who won gold despite their menstrual cramps but were refused the crumbs until you stepped in.
Mr. President, you helped to end the shameful disregard for the Black Queens. And I commend you highly for this. If the reports we are getting are true, you will do well to ensure that the three years of outstanding bonuses due the Black Queens are also paid to them. We wait for your arrival and swift action.
But even as we wait for you, I have a few things to say. There is so much injustice done to other teams and sporting disciplines. Some people have argued that when the Black Stars play in the World Cup, they give the nation more money than any other team does. What they have forgotten is that, the Black Stars were not neglected when they were virtually ‘waste materials’. Their performance at the Africa Cup of Nations was as hopeless as their attempts to qualify for the World Cup. We did not stop funding them and encouraging them.
We invested in them. And they are now doing what is making us proud. In the same way, if we invest in the Black Queens and other teams, we shall have strong teams.
In terms of the bonuses paid, it is painful to think about it. When the Black Stars played their AFCON qualifying match, they received $10,000 as bonus. When the Black Queens played in a tournament and won gold, we are offering them $2000. This does not make sense considering the fact that the Black Queens players do not play in leagues that pay them. Their only solace for staying in the sport is the hope that they will one day be called to play in the national team and get some reward. So why are we denying them their due?
The Captain of the Black Stars, Asamoah Gyan, earns about $300,000 a week. The captain of the Black Queens, Mercy Myles, earns practically nothing for her trade. When Asamoah Gyan plays a qualifying match for Ghana and earns $10,000 while Mercy Myles wins a whole tournament and cannot get $10,000 it doesn’t make sense. To worsen matters, the Black Meteors who also won gold at the All African Games four years ago were given $14,000 each. This is injustice. And we must cure it.
Beyond paying the Black Queens their crumbs, the Sports Ministry, National Sports Council and the GFA should sit down and overhaul the sports sector. The Ministry of Black Stars should be disbanded. Let’s have a Ministry of Youth and Sports.
And get serious with sports in this country.
The Writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7FM.