FREEKICK: IS AN INFLUX OF FOREIGN PLAYERS GOOD FOR GHANA’S FOOTBALL?

Ghanaian clubs are displaying a growing desire to have
footballers of foreign nationalities on their rosters. Is it
altogether a healthy habit for the collective, though?

Late last year, Bashir Hayford, head coach of Ghana league champions
Ashantigold, remarked, on losing his three expatriate players while
preparing for the Miners’ 2016 Caf Champions League campaign, that
he’d love to scout talent abroad in replenishing his stock.

“I am looking forward to have certain players from outside Ghana to
let people see that we are truly a professional club in Ghana,”
Hayford told Accra-based Atinka FM.

And though Francis Oti Akenten, technical director at the Ghana
Football Association, agrees with him to an extent — even suggesting
that the quota of foreign players permitted per club could be
increased from the present figure of four — he isn’t wholly convinced
the national game would exactly be better for it.

“I agree with coach Bashir Hayford to some extent when he claims that
the foreign quota of player in the league should be increased but that
can’t be the yardstick to justify our league’s failure,” Akenten
explained when speaking with the SportsCrusader website this week,
going on to illustrate his point.

“The English Premier League is the most attractive league in the world
but I can’t say same about their national team’s performance.”

So, then, which opinion is more valid?

Two of KickerGH’s writers take sides in this week’s ‘Freekick’ session.

JOSHUA ANSAH — ‘Let the foreigners come!

 

asante-kotokohearts-of-oak_6giymbkvldpj1c1simpje7b25
Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak all have a few foreign players in the ranks in the Ghana Premier League

Ahmed Toure and Robin Gnagne: two names well-known to most lovers of
the local game, both players of immense quality and, perhaps even more
noteworthily, both foreigners whom the Ghana Premier League has
thoroughly enjoyed having around — and there’ve been many like them,
by the way.

It’s for all of those reasons that I find it really difficult to
imagine why an influx of foreigners could spell doom for domestic
football as some would have us believe. If anything, the effect could
only be positive.

First, players from outside the country will bring with them some of
the attention of football fandom in their various homelands. Ghanaian
soccer fans and journalists now follow a multitude of foreign teams
and, by extension, several leagues which have a good representation of
Ghanaian footballers. It’s just the sort of publicity our league could
thrive on and, thus, the concept of opening ousrselves up to more
non-Ghanaians would hardly be unwelcome.

Really, wouldn’t it be nice to have, say, Togolese, Cameroonian,
Ivorian and Congolese media regularly mention our league simply
because some of their own play here?

Moreover, bringing in players from beyond these shores will compel
clubs to raise and maintain standards which will, in the long run,
benefit our league as a whole and the indigenous players in
particular.

I, for one, don’t buy the argument that has England cited so often as
an example of, with concerns being raised over an increased quota of
foreign players potentially stifling our best. Our ‘best’, needless to
say, don’t even play here; they’re out there augmenting the best
talent in other countries and drawing our focus to football in those
lands along with them.

So, then, what’s the fuss?

Why open the door only narrowly to foreigners who may wish to troop
here to have a feel of our brand, when there’s clearly so much more to
be reaped doing the opposite?

Let them come!

SAMMIE FRIMPONG — ‘The foreigners are welcome, but. . .’

Shaun October
Imports |South African Shaun Mason October, played for Accra Hearts of Oak last season, Naire Benogo (Inter Allies, Mali), and Petrus Shitembi ( AshantiGold, Namibia)

Football, like all art, thrives on variety. It’s why you’d like to
watch the planet’s biggest leagues — England’s the foremost — each
weekend, savouring the wonderful cocktail a blend of players from all
over the world can produce on a soccer pitch.
But there comes a time when a line, one that separates beauty from
chaos, ought to be drawn. When not properly balanced as Akenten
suggests, the trend could be detrimental to the health of a nation’s
football in the larger picture. Breeding of indigenous talent could
screech to a painful halt, consequently affecting the structure of the
various national sides.

Again, England are the most obvious case in point. The country’s
Premier League is doubtlessly the finest championship in the world —
forget, if you will, La Liga’s powerful Barcelona-Real Madrid hegemony
— but its national team is, er, crap, having won nothing of note in
half a century. With EPL clubs ever so saturated with imports, and
quality English players only being limited to the odd emergence of a
Ross Barkley or Dele Alli, that drought isn’t likely to end anytime
soon. It’s just the kind of problem Chinese football, with its
extravagant splashing of resources on bringing in foreign players,
would have to deal with before long. Ghana, though, cannot afford to
be handicapped in that sense. Our clubs need not copy the English and
Chinese to become, per Hayford’s description, ‘truly professional’.
Given that our league is already a shambles and the national teams are
a sole source of pride, a liberal approach to recruiting footballers
from overseas — thus squeezing the local lads out of opportunities —
would undermine the latter. And then what are we left with?

Zilch.

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