AFRIYIE IS RIGHT — AND WRONG: FOOTBALL’S ALL ABOUT MONEY NOW

Ghana’s Black Stars may be obsessed with financial incentives, but they’re no worse than everyone else

By: Sammie Frimpong

It’s an opinion few Ghanaians could disagree with, even if it came from a high-up in the hierarchy of a body which is itself regarded as being as cash-tainted as they come.

I’m saying it today on your network and any player in the Black Stars who believes that I’m lying should come out and dispute it,” Ghana Football Association vice-president George Afriyie — who doubles as the Black Stars management committee member — told Nhyira FM earlier this week.

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He added: “If anyone tells you the current players of the Ghana team are playing because of love and passion for the country then its a big lie.

Afriyie isn’t entirely wrong. The ugly incidents which marred Ghana’s appearance at the 2014 Fifa World Cup — when the players held us all to ransom over slightlydelayed payment of funds due them, remember? — underline Afriyie’s belief, as have other instances when the team claimed monies deemed absurd by the public. Really, why would the Stars’ bonus structure have to be revised suddenly and upgraded from $8000 to $12,000 when they hardly deserve the raise?

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Suffice to say, then, that the Stars wouldn’t play be at their best without the proper financial incentive (and it appears the players often have a bigger say in determining what’s ‘proper’ and what isn’t) — but neither would any individual/team in modern football. And that’s where Afriyie isn’t entirely correct.

Recent developments the height of which is France international Paul Pogba’s record transfer from Juventus to Manchester United last week for a monstrous €105m prove that, perhaps more than anything, it’s money which makes the sport tick these days. That realization isn’t exactly a reason to be joyous — it’s sad, really — but it is truth nonetheless, albeit a hard-hitting one. It isn’t just Juve (the Italian champions themselves parted with €90m for summer capture Gonzalo Higuain mere weeks prior, by the way) who laughed all the way to the bank, in fact; Pogba himself is set to earn a bumper annual wage, while his agent, the ubiquitous and remarkably powerful Mino Raiola, stands to bag a cool €35m. For all the parties involved bar desperate United (and even the ‘poor’ Reds may already be raking in a thick flow of revenue from Pogba shirt sales), little else but the money mattered in securing the deal.

Take also, as another case in point, Portugal’s run to glory at last month’s European Championship. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. received a whopping €250,000 each for picking the Iberian nation’s first major piece of silverware. Add to that sum the ‘expense allowances’ paid to the players en route to the title which takes the overall figure of bonuses distributed per head to a round €300,000 — now, multiply that by 23 and the amount splashed on picking that 8kg mass of sterling silver named in honour of some French football administrator totals some €6.9m. And, of course, the people around the team — technical staff and all — weren’t doing their own jobs pro bono.

Consider, too, Leicester City’s Premier League-winning campaign last season making Foxes‘ boss Claudio Ranieri £5m-richer, and also the £1m bonus recently appointed manager of Scottish champions Celtic, Brendan Rodgers, is set to pocket for successfully guiding the Glasgow outfit through six qualifying games into the 2016/17 Uefa Champions League’s group stage.

Put simply, football isn’t cheap anymore, even if indeed it once was. Everyone is in the business now for money; any exception is either living in utopia — or in the sentimental world of “Osei Kofi and the rest” which Afriyie nostalgically references in lamenting Ghana’s latter-day internationals’ motives juxtaposed with an older generation’s.

Football, as we now know it, is ‘all about the benjamins’ and there’s no more shame in it for the Stars than there is for Pogba, Raiola, and all others responsible for turning the game we love into a circus.

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