Ghana Football Association (GFA) President, Kwesi Nyantaki has been talking in glowing terms about the transformation of Ghanaian football so far under his leadership and the ways forward. In this exclusive interview with Sports Planet anchorman, TUNDE KOIKI, the FIFA and CAF Executive Committee member also speaks about the agelong Nigeria/Ghana rivaly in football, positing that it's a positive trend that has no end in sight. Excerpts…
Sports Planet: Ghanaian football has received a sought of renaissance under your leadership. How would you describe Ghana's progress under your leadership in the past few years?
Nyantaki: Well, we have seen some modest improvements in performances in the various aspect of the game in Ghana.
We've trained a lot of coaches. Before I became president, we didn't have licenced coaches in Ghana. Now we have licence C, licence B, mini license A coaches in Ghana.
Before we didn't have a structured arrangement for the training and development of referees, we have now. We have referees across the country, we have about seven FIFA referees who are doing well except of course a few occassions we have a few of them making mistakes.
We also have done well over the time. I have been around since 2006, we've been to three World Cups under my tenure. We've won the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the first and only African country so far.
We've done a lot of changes in our domestic league in order to make it professional, clubs are more professional than before and we've also done a lot of training programmes for professionals in our league.
All these have contributed in the modernization of football in our country. For the first time we have a women's league and we have a policy which is if you are not in school, you don't play football. That has eloquently been expressed with women football. So all the women you see playing football in Ghana now, they all went through the school system. Some are in the university, some have finished, some have finished high school, some are on scholarship in the United States and that's very commendable.
The thing is beyond football, they still have a life. And if by accident you get injured and retire prematurely, you still have something to practice as your profession. Across the spectrum of football, we've recorded many successes which are very good for the game.
You're a member of the CAF Executive Committee and FIFA Executive Committee as well. You're also the president of Zone B of West Africa Football Union. A lot of people argue that West Africa is the bastion of African football. A region that has the likes of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali… and yet we find it difficult to organise proper sub-regional competition like the COSAFA, Castle Cup and also the CECAFA. What could possibly be the reason for this?
Over the years, the main reason has been funding and sponsorship. As I speak to you, this December, we are organizing the four nation WAFU Championship in Senegal involving the league champions of Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and Senegal. We just signed a sponsorship contract with an American company. So for the next 10 to 12 years, we are guaranteed sponsorship to have regular competitions and that is going to put behind us the agony we've all gone through in not seeing competitions over the years.
As you said, this region have some of the strongest teams in Africa. But we cannot also boast of the strongest economies. Apart from Nigeria, raising money from any of these countries is not easy and that has been the biggest challenge. But thankfully, it's taking some time and we've found a solution to this problem and we hope that it will continue like that.
Club football in Ghana especially the Ghana Premier League is particularly strong. It has received a massive revival under your leadership. But unfortunately that hasn't really translated into success for Ghanaian clubs on the continent. Could there be a possible reason for this?
T.P Mazembe have bought all the best players in Africa. About four Ghanaians are there. And the same is with other clubs in the league. They are not able to attract the best players. And we all sell our best players to make money in order to sustain the clubs.
So funding is really a big challenge.
If we have money, we will buy players from Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria and make a strong impact in Africa. But the sad thing is that we are not able to retain our best players. After one year when the players shine, a club comes for him and you can't stop him from going.
Ghanaian players are in Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, playing soccer, why? because they have better financial offers from these countries. They earn five thousand dollars a month. No club in Ghana can pay two thousand dollars a month. So it's really a challenge and that's why we have a big exodus of African players outside Africa.
Nigeria and Ghana have a very special history. It's impossible to talk about African football and not talk about the incredible relationship between Ghana and Nigeria that has endured ever since independence. In your opinion, what could possibly be the reason why the rivalry between both countries have persisted?
It's like that and I'm sure it's historical. Ghana and Nigeria have many things in common. There are even Ghanaian ethnic group that even have roots in Nigeria. Now, when they migrate to Ghana, they want to show the people here that they are better so they will want to rub shoulders with them and want to prove they are the best and that really accounts for the intense rivalry between the two countries and it continues like that.
But it 's a positive and healthy rivalry. It's not antagonistic, it's not bad. It brings the best out of the two countries. We have two countries, Benin Republic and Togo, between Ghana and Nigeria, but Ghana and Nigeria are closer to each other.
So you can see the closeness and relationship which is very positive. So this rivalry will not end any time soon and the longer it remains the better for the two countries, so we can always get the best out of us.
Finally, do you support an annual friendly between Nigeria and Ghana which used to exist before? Do you like to see it revived?
Yes, I will really endorse it.
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