“When a wise person sees danger ahead, he avoids it. But a foolish person keeps going and gets into trouble.” – Proverbs 22:3 (ISV)

On October 10, 2008, angry Senegalese fans attacked the country's football federation headquarters, smashing windows, after the national team was eliminated from qualifying for the 2010 World Cup by drawing 1-1 with Gambia.

The draw also eliminated the Teranga Lions from the African Nations Cup of the same year. Senegal, who had also failed to reach the 2006 World Cup, just six years earlier had reached a historic quarterfinal at the 2002 World Cup and the finals of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2002. Now they had hit rock bottom. For the rioting fans, this plunge was too much to take in.

When football fans become accustomed to success, failure is no longer a tolerable option even if their teams are no longer a force to be reckoned with or the fundamentals can no longer sustain their ambitions. Like Senegal at the time, Ghana football has gone downhill. The badness of the situation is evidenced by the poor performances of the Black Stars. What is palpable to fans and the media only draws denial and rationalization from those administering the game in Ghana.

Faced with the wrath of their fans, the Senegalese Football Federation was meek enough to admit the squalid state of the country’s football, particularly the senior national team. The path to success they charted has now culminated in their status as African Champions and de facto powerhouse of African football.

The process was, however, not a shortcut. Group stage elimination in 2012 was followed by Senegal being disqualified from the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after the riots that caused their play-off against Cote d’Ivoire to be abandoned. In 2015, they again failed to advance beyond the Group stage.

When the Teranga Lions finally turned a corner, a quarter-final exit in 2017 was followed by a runner’s up finish behind Algeria at the 2019 tournament. Senegal finally won the title they had coveted for so long at AFCON 2021 in Cameroon. The Senegalese are now reigning African champions for AFCON, Under-17, Under-20 level, and the Championships of African Nations (CHAN).

While Ghana’s current slump is reminiscent of Senegal’s meltdown of 2008, the Ghana Football Association’s (GFA) approach to resolving the malaise is starkly different. The GFA and its political patrons refuse to admit just how dreadful things have become. The underlining reasons for successive failures at the AFCON seem completely lost on the authorities despite fierce recriminations by fans and the media.

Prominent Ghanaian journalist Gary Al-Smith believes the current GFA administration does not have a solution to fixing the Black Stars.

"Elsewhere, the entire FA administration would resign because of the team’s consistent failures," Gary posted on X (former Twitter).

"The historic lows to which Ghana’s biggest football brand is being subjected [to] are enough. We are sliding into holes of shame we may never recover from."

“The question is what exactly is the FA doing right that can bring happiness to Ghanaians?” He asked.

The GFA’s preferred approach to addressing the rot is to paper over the cracks with quick fixes, fat bonuses and elaborate rhetoric. Anyone caught criticising the Ministry of Sports or the GFA is labelled unpatriotic. Even former stars like Stephen Appiah and Joe Addo who dared to speak their minds have not been spared. This is the opposite of the Senegal situation where the activism of former national team players led by El Hadji Diouf under the banner ‘Collective Renewal of Senegalese Football (CFRS) has led to improvements that are reflected in their present successes.

Ghana’s elimination from the 2021 AFCON should have set off a structured introspection into the future of the Black Stars leading to a sustainable blueprint for success. Unfortunately, the blessing of securing 2022 World Cup qualification just two months later at the expense of Nigeria quickly put a thick band-aid over the wounds of the failure in Cameroon. The GFA celebrated this as vindication that they were on the right path. As GFA President Kurt Okraku put it, "Just look at where our Black Stars have come from. It got to a point; we did not have quality. Gradually over time, you see a good team shaping up."

The appearance at the Qatar 2022 World Cup turned out to be a false dawn for the Black Stars.

Two short years is all it has taken to expose the GFA’s line of reasoning as a fallacy. The Black Stars are now on their longest-ever winless run at the AFCON - they have won only one of their last twelve matches in the competition according to Opta Analyst.

The local talent pipeline has also become clogged. The junior national teams apart from the women’s U20 team failed to qualify for any of the last FIFA Championships after shambolic displays in African qualifiers.

Ghanaian football fans may not riot or attack the Football Association office as the Senegalese did, but they are no less scarred by the continuous failure of their senior national team and the apparent helplessness of the football administration to arrest the slide.

It is time for the Ministry of Sports and Ghana Football Association to pause and admit that there is a deep-seated problem with the Black Stars and Ghana football. The painful reconstruction process must start now because the African football landscape no longer supports Ghana’s claim to be a football giant.

The sign is clear: Danger ahead! Proceed at your own risk! 

Written by Samuel Bartels;  X: @SammyBartels

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.