After a 10-month absence, the various venues came to light as football fans trooped in to watch their various teams compete in the ongoing football season (Ghana Premier League, Division One League and others).
Football games had been played behind closed doors due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the country in March 2020.
It followed up with the truncation of the 2019/20 Ghana football season in June that same year.
Fans were expectant and excited when government eased restrictions on football activities with the game scheduled to bounce back in October last year.
In the directive from the President Nana Akufo-Addo, 25 per cent of fans were to be admitted at their various stadia amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Towards the progressive easing of restrictions, government has taken the decision to allow the resumption of training in all contact sports, taking into consideration the imminent participation of our national teams in international competitions,” Akufo-Addo stated in the televised address.
“Indeed, some national teams have already been given the dispensation to begin training ahead of their international engagements. All sportspeople who are camped are to be tested regularly.
“Fellow Ghanaians, with respect to football, after due consultations with the Ghana Football Association, it has been decided that the Ghana Premier League and the Division One Football League will restart on Friday 30th October with a full regime of testing of players, technical and management staff.
“No spectators will be allowed at the training centres and when actual competition resumes, sitting at all stadia will be limited to 25% capacity to ensure social distancing. Wearing of masks by spectators at stadia will be mandatory.
“The restart of all other sporting competitions will be determined on a case-by-case basis, pending consultations between the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the respective sports associations.”
However, the directive on fans return failed to materialise and was overturned due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in October.
A statement from the Sports Ministry read, “In line with the directives of CAF to organize football matches behind closed doors without spectators in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic spike globally.”
“The Ministry of Youth and Sports directs that all sporting events including the Premier League matches should be organized behind closed doors and without spectators”
“All teams must ensure testing of their team members as required for matches. Any team without COVID-19 testing will not be allowed into any of our facilities for training or matches”
Another setback for the Ghanaian football-loving fans who were desperate to watch their teams when the season kicked off in November last year.
With the easing of restrictions on some spheres of life, especially ahead of the 2020 General Elections it was imminent the government was going to bow down to the pressure from football fans.
Other sectors that were affected or closed down to the COVID-19 were operating with most not complying to the COVID-19 protocols.
Markets, Churches, Transport system, Schools (Tertiary and Senior High School), Political Rallies and campaigns, Travels, just to mention a few were in full force.
After the President’s 21st State of the Nation Address on Measures Taken against the Spread of the COVID-19, which announced the reopening schools in January 2021, also paved way for the announcement on fans return to the stadia.
On 8th January 2021, the gates were opened for football fans to watch the Ghana Premier League between Legon Cities and West Africa Football Academy (WAFA) at the Accra Sports Stadium. The first game to usher in the fans after the ban was lifted.
With the two sides not having a huge fan base, it was quite a number at the Nation’s Wembly as spectators were in to enjoy football on a Friday night.
For the first time, clubs were able to make some money from gate proceeds per the limited number of people allowed entry into the stadium. At least some financial burden will be cut off.
Speaking to some media outlets, some fans were a happy and full joy to watch their teams from the stands.
“We are happy to be here today to also contribute our quota to the development of the clubs and Ghana football. One way or the other we also helping the clubs financially since we come into support”.
Secondly, it’s was a huge motivation for teams to always play in front of their fans a major factor that Ghanaian clubs were missing all season.
Reports from the various matches venues indicated fans comported themselves and adhered to the directives, a positive sign that government could ease restrictions and allow more fans entry into the stadium should it continue.
However, the COVID-19 continues to linger on and there must be a conscious effort from all stakeholders to create the awareness.
We should never come to a point where football will be the cause or spread of the COVID-19 in the country.
Ghana has recorded over 55,000 cases of COVID-19 and 336 fatalities.
We must continue to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Herbert Boakye Yiadom