TOO SMART, TOO WRONG: VANDERPUIJE OVER-STEPPING HIS MARK

The sports minister’s attempts to wield his influence beyond what is rightfully his domain is a bit troubling

It’s often been tough to tell who is right and who isn’t in the many clashes between the opinions/decisions of Ghana’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Nii Lante Vanderpuije, and the Ghana Football Association’s interests since the former’s appointment in January 2016.

Vanderpuije has been hailed by many as a champion in the cause to rid Ghana sports football of its many real/imagined ills and, to his credit, he has shown consuming zeal in that quest. Most of his thoughts, not unsurprisingly, have been favourably received by a public which has grown increasingly hostile towards the powers-that-be in Ghana football.

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Requesting that Black Stars boss Avram Grant return to the country so he could pay greater attention to the domestic league was commendable, as was Vanderpuije’s demand that the GFA display greater accountability to the State with regard to national team friendlies.

His latest move, though, is by no means justifiable from the perspective of any objective judge.

“We have already qualified for the [2017 Nations Cup] and local talents must be used to cut down cost of preparations so that other national teams especially the females can also have funds for their preparations,” Vanderpuije told Happy FM.

To suggest — almost insisting, in fact — that Grant revises his roster for the Stars’ final Afcon 2017 qualifying date with Rwanda due September 3, efectively replacing the squad he’s already named with one full of domestic talent, just isn’t right, is it?

Granted, it isn’t too difficult understanding why Vanderpuije would reason thus. Ghana has already qualified for the tournament in Gabon, and even losing to the Amavubi wouldn’t knock the team off its perch atop Group H. Put simply this doesn’t look like a game Ghana needs to string its finest material together for. For reasons Vanderpuije may not have considered, though, Ghana would do well to put its best foot forward for this one.

Qualification for the 2018 Fifa World Cup resumes in earnest come October, and every game in the build-up to the commencement of that testing series counts. The fixture versus Rwanda in itself may hold little of value for Ghana, but its competitive setting — in view of said future assignments — could be crucial. Then again, at the business end of the Ghana Premier League season when clubs are involved in title pursuits and relegation battles, it would be a bit ill-advised summoning their players for international duty.

But even if Grant didn’t have all those excuses, deciding who to invite to the national team is solely the head coach’s call — not the minister’s. Threatening that, should his counsel be ignored, the GFA would be obliged to fund the “money to pay for the [foreign-based] players’ tickets” is just too lame, too low for a man of Vanderpuije’s calibre. He is over-stepping his mark and needs to be called to order.

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Past sports ministers have suffered for not being sufficiently concerned about certain key details regarding the day-to administration of the beautiful game in Ghana, but Vanderpuije, at the other extreme, may be doing a bit too much.

In the end — should he fail to apply the brakes as in this fresh instance — the Member of Parliament for Odododiodoo may prove too smart for himself.

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