The practice has usually been for us to cast our eyes wide across the domestic football landscape and hurriedly conclude that, medical standards at our clubs are poor. Even with that hasty conclusion, it often turns out that, our largely unscientific but intuitive assumption is right. And you get a morbid sense of how dire the situation is, when you move closer and closer to the key actors – the players, coaches, club administrators – as well as the medical professionals, whose job it is, to man medical and health issues of sportsmen and women.
I am not a medical officer. I have no training in the health profession. Yet, an academic term paper I have been working on in an MA programme, is enlightening me more on the need for the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and club administrators to take medical and player-health issues seriously than we seem to be doing. It is wrong to say that, Ghana’s health system is in no better shape. Thus, there is no surprise element, if our football clubs treat medical and player-health issues anyhow.
Even with the country’s health system, the politicians claim it is improving so there is no excuse for clubs. It is distressing to note that, almost all of the 18 clubs in our Premier League, for example, are without appropriate medical officers working for them even on part-time basis. A handful of clubs have skeletal medical teams who strive on match days to carter for their players and it ends there, until a case of career-threatening injury that requires surgery rears its ugly face.
The problem first emanates from the GFA, who as the body mandated to run football in Ghana, it neither has a medical office nor medical committee as it pertains at CAF and FIFA. It intrigues me, however, that, in the face of that deficiency, we have a Ghanaian, Dr. Prince Pambo on the CAF Medical Committee as a Doping Control Officer. We have also had Dr. Baaba, Dr. Martin Engman and Dr. Percy Annan; who are all highly skilled medical practitioners, who have played useful roles in our football medical issues. Can the GFA not tap into their knowledge?
Must the GFA have a medical office? Should it have a medical committee? Who is at the GFA’s medical office? Who is on the GFA’s medical committee? What is the policy direction for Ghana football in terms of health or medicine? Is that policy in tune with what applies at CAF or FIFA? If at the administrative level; the point of formulating policies on player-health issues, the GFA appears indifferent, why would clubs, who already have many problems to deal with, care about hiring professional medical officers even on part-time?
I am unable to divulge details of my information for my term paper but it is problematic if the GFA cannot, confidently and convincingly, answer the above questions. The GFA must wake up because health is an important subject. The welfare of our footballers must include attention to their health, not just kits and money. The issue of doping for instance ought to be looked at. I know on authority, that, some footballers in our league innocently take drugs for medicinal purposes or consciously consume substances without the explicit permission or knowledge of their teams.
Do these drugs and substances not contain active agents that are inimical to sportsmanship or indeed good health? The GFA must be concerned. It is not enough to appoint nutritionists, dieticians or doctors for national teams. Even with that, the GFA must be sure of the qualifications of the health professionals it employs working in concert with their respective associations. I challenge the Kurt Okraku administration to sit up on medical and player-health issues in Ghana football.
The present state of affairs only portends danger. I will be back on this issue.