Following CAF’s decision to strip off the hosting rights of the 2018 CHAN from Kenya, I swiftly soliloquized – “This is the moment Ghana must take advantage,” and a deep sense of satisfaction run through me as if the bid has already been made with Ghana getting the hosting rights.
The news swiftly run through the Ghanaian sports media like bush fire in the harmattan with many calling for Ghana to put in a bid to host the tournament which is four months away from now.
Shockingly, others were insisting that it is not necessary to put in the bid because Ghana is not ready as government is not financially fit to swiftly put up infrastructure to host the tournament. Others were even arguing vehemently that Ghana want to take advantage to participate in the tournament after the shameful defeat to Burkina Faso in the CHAN qualifiers.
I took a few steps back in thought, pondered over the issue and the only conclusion I could draw was that, perhaps, those saying Ghana must not bid do not really understand what Ghana stand to gain should we host the tournament.
Let’s freshen up a little with the benefits of hosting the CHAN and reasons why Ghana must swiftly table an official bid.
First of all, hosting the tournament will not only create a positive atmosphere of unity in the country but will also leave a legacy of infrastructure for the country for years to come after the tournament.
A significant benefit is the long-term investment which comes from preparing for the event. Ghana as a country and the host cities will have a legacy of improved sporting venues. Also, cities will usually have to invest in infrastructure and transport to cater for an influx of tourists.
Let’s not forget that hosting the 2008 AFCON left Ghana with a great deal of positives including having numerous training pitches across the country, which today, have become the home grounds for many Division One and Two clubs. The four host cities are still reaping from the benefits of hosting the AFCON 9 years ago.
Apart from that, we had two more stadia (Tamale and Essipong) constructed with the existing two (Kumasi and Accra) upgraded to modern standards. For sure, these facilities wouldn’t have been in place if Ghana had not hosted the 2008 AFCON. So why do we behave as if it will be a curse to host CHAN?
I have still been struggling to understand why some hold the assertion that Ghana must not bid because we are not prepared in terms of facilities. This is a crystal demonstration of ignorance and the mere fact that those making such claims do not even know what it takes to host the CHAN.
With 16 countries participating in the tournament, all Ghana need is for 4 stadia to be available which are already in place – Cape Coast, Essipong, Tamale, Kumasi and Accra can all host the tournament. So what stops us from bidding?
Well, I know those kicking against the bid will argue that Essipong and Accra stadia are not in good shape which is fair. But that is the more reason why we must bid. Doing so will get these two stadia back to their feet and that will be a plus for us after the tourney. For training pitches, they are all over the place and hosting will not be a problem.
Hosting the tourney will also increase the profile of the host cities and lead to lasting economic benefits. For example, cities which host the CHAN can be assured of a persistent increase in recognition and tourism. When South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup and later the Football World Cup in 2010, it was a defining moment in highlighting the new ‘post-apartheid’ South Africa.
This raised profile can be important for giving economic benefits, such as attracting tourists and business investment. The importance of this point depends on the particular city. For Tamale, the 2008 AFCON made a big difference to perceptions of a lot of people who had not visited the north before.
The several years of planning and investment will help create jobs and can revitalize depressed cities. This was an important claim of the 2008 AFCON - choosing a site in Essipong, which at the time was relatively depressed. Jobs were created in the process. The rate of unemployment in the system will obviously go down with hosting such tournaments.
The CHAN will see a surge in visitors, athletes and media. This will provide an increase in spending and injection of money into the local economy. However, this injection of money, will only be short-term (a few weeks) and make little overall impact on the wider economy.
The tourism industry will boom while hotels are bound to make huge gains. You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you hosting the tournament will be hugely significant to the country. It is only a nation wrecker who will kick against Ghana’s bid for the tournament.
Beside the infrastructure and economic advantages of the tournament, it will also help in cultivating the culture of stadium attendance among Ghanaians. We have complained overly at low attendance at match venues during league matches on numerous occasions but hosting an international tournament has the advantage of establishing the habit of attending matches in spectators will be a rippling effect if Ghana hosts the tournament.
Finally, the psychological merit that accompanies such tournaments because of the excitement it comes with can’t only be explained by psychologists but the average Ghanaian will be able to enumerate them. Stress management is just one of the therapies that can be afforded by the tournament.
It is often easy to find reasons not to host a major sporting event, too much debt, more important priorities. But, a major sporting event can create enthusiasm and excitement for such an event. It can help promote uptake of sport which has lasting benefits for the nation’s health. Also, a major sporting event can lead to a rise in volunteerism which promotes civic virtues.
In my opinion, the Ghana FA must assure government that we can host the tourney and encourage the state to officially bid. This will be hugely beneficial to the country.
By: Sheikh Tophic Sienu @desheikh1 on twitter