As the second round of the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League gets underway, football pundits are struggling to predict the winner of the league.
Before the first round ended, Bechem United, Medeama SC, Karela United, Accra Hearts of Oak, Accra Great Olympics and Kumasi Asante Kotoko had managed to be among the top four with some of them having a taste of occupying the summit of the league table.
Incidentally, Great Olympics, which was promoted to the elite division along side King Faisal at the beginning of the 2020 league season, had been the most consistent in their performance.
After losing to Techiman Eleven Wonders in the 15th week, Great Olympics won their next three encounters and succeeded in toppling Karela from the top position.
In spite of their defeat to city rivals, Legon Cities, in the 19th week, which saw Kotoko taking over the top spot, Olympics has won the hearts of football fans who now consider them as one of the favorites to win the league.
Thanks to good officiating, the league is gradually on its feet to full recovery after it lost a semblance of its attractiveness to local fans who turned their attention to foreign leagues in Europe and elsewhere.
The competitive nature of the league, coupled with high technical brains of some coaches, as well as improved performance of some key players and high standard of officiating have been identified as the hallmarks that are gradually inducing football fans to reunite with the local league .
Sadly, however, the COVID 19 pandemic, which forced the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to suspend all football operations last year, has denied football fans the opportunity to be part of the revival of Ghana football at weekends.
In the words of former Black Stars and Hearts of Oak legend, Mohammed Ahmed Polo, “the COVID 19 pandemic has delivered a heavy blow to football fans because it has deprived them of watching beautiful football being displayed at many of the league centers”
Explaining, he noted, “ I was always motivated by the heavy presence of the fans at the stadiums anytime I was playing. My magic was always in full swing when I saw the fans, so it is very unfortunate that the pandemic has forced football fans to stay home while their idols are displaying their skills at the stadium”
He, however, expressed the hope that the fans would strictly abide by the COVID 19 protocols and also fully take the vaccinations to curb the spread of the pandemic to induce government to allow fans to watch football matches.
Just like Polo, other football legends such as Abdul Karim Razak and Yaw Preko and coach Josef Emmanuel Sarpong have also spoken highly about the improved standard of the GPL and expressed the hope that the performance would be sustained to induce corporate bodies to sponsor various teams in particular and the league itself.
“ In Europe, America and other continents, it is sponsorship by corporate bodies that enliven their leagues to attract quality players to ply their trade there. So the likelihood that our league would be attractive if the corporate world sponsor it in their numbers is very high” Polo opined in an exclusive interview
To Polo, the influx of foreign players in the ongoing league was an indication that the league was gaining the needed recognition outside the realms of Ghana, hence the need for the government to entice corporate bodies with incentive packages to motivate them to sponsor individual teams and the league.
It is an open secret that one of the key challenges affecting the growth of Ghana football is sponsorship. It has always been the responsibility of governments to offer incentives to corporate bodies to induce them to sponsor league matches to make it more attractive.
With the FA striving to improve the quality of our game, while the standard of play is being improved to a high level, sponsors are likely to come on board to support the growth of the GPL.
However, government owe it a duty to give sponsors a tax waiver for them to be adequately motivated to sponsor individual clubs and the league.
This is because globally, sponsorship is key to the development of football in particular, and sports in general, hence the need for Ghana government to do same to grow Ghana football to an appreciable level.
If government takes the bull by the horn with incentive packages, sponsors would be baited to flood in to offer sponsorship to speed up the growth of Ghana football which used to be the envy of other nations some decades ago.
If government entices corporate bodies to sponsor the GPL, it will motivate the youth at all levels to nurture their potentials in football, thereby reducing the rate of unemployment that is now becoming a national canker.
The end result is that the local league would once again bounce back to life to become the convergent point of entertainment centers, thereby reducing stress among Ghanaians, many of whom dine and wine with football.