Football, or soccer, is a global sport. The UK leagues may dominate the media but how does Ghana compare? Could you find love for this African league?
Football is a global sport. On every continent, there are groups of players competing together with skill, tactics and endurance against another group of players. There are millions upon millions of fans watching and laying money on the outcome.
No matter where in the world, football is football - right? Well, there are a host of different leagues, with unique approaches and star players. Here we explore the football leagues in the UK and compare these with those in Ghana.
UK football leagues
The English Premier League, also known as the EPL, is probably the most famous league in the world. Alongside the Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga, the Premier League hosts the world’s footballing superstars, including Sergio Aguero, Man. City; Mohammed Salah, Liverpool and Marcus Rashford, Man. Utd.
The games are broadcast in 188 of the 193 countries recognised by the United Nations with only countries such as Afghanistan, Cuba and North Korea refusing to air Premiership games. A game between Liverpool and Man Utd. draws a global audience of half a billion people. In short, the EPL is huge!
Yet, the EPL is only one of many professional football leagues in the UK. Scotland has its own premier league, with teams like Celtic and Rangers dominating. Then, there are the lower leagues in England, including the Championship down to Division 3.
Yet, this is the tip of the soccer iceberg, as there are 480 divisions in 140 leagues with an average of 15 teams in each division. Therefore, there are over 7000 professional and amateur football clubs in England and Wales alone. Ninety-two of these clubs are full-time professional clubs that offer a combined wealth of over £22 billion.
What can we conclude from this? Football is an integral part of the national culture and loved by millions in the country. It is also an essential part of the national economy.
Ghana Football Leagues
It is obvious to state that the leagues of Ghana do not enjoy the same global renown as those in the UK. However, there is a well-established structure to the Ghanian game that allows skilled players to work their way up the leagues.
As with the UK, it is not so straightforward as to assume there is one league with a division structure. The league in Ghana is divided into three zones, with one in the south, one in the middle and one in the north of the country.
Therefore, in Division One there is a total of 48 times, with 16 in each zone. The same is true of Division 2 and Division 3. This shows that Ghanian professional football leagues are as developed as those in the UK.
To help provide a structure for the encouragement of home-born talent, the Ghana Amateur Football Club Owners Association (GAFCOA) works to offer welfare and development to quality players.
Over the years this has proven successful and who can forget the national team’s first appearance in the World Cup in Germany and their success four years later when they so nearly reached the semi-finals.
Adele Ayew Pele is probably the best player the country has ever produced, though Michael Essien of Chelsea and Real Madrid and Kevin-Prince Boateng of AC Milan is probably the most globally recognised talent.
The level of importance of football to the national life is demonstrated in the pay given to Ghanian players playing in the big clubs in the country.
Indeed, as in the UK, Ghanian players are wealthy relative to the national population, especially at Hearts of Oak, Asante Kotoko and Liberty Professionals. However, the development of football remains uneven, and the South zone is much further ahead than those in the north.
The development of the home leagues is also hindered by the popularity of the national team. A lot of resources are diverted away from league level to boost the chances of Ghana on the international stage.
A tale of two extremes?
The British gave the gift of football to Ghana during the colonial period at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century. The first matches played in Ghana were organised by the British, as was the first formal competition in the late 1800s. Therefore, the overlap between the UK and Ghanian football is founded at the roots of the sport.
However, there is an obvious disparity between the wealth and prestige enjoyed by the leagues in the two nations. The UK leagues, especially the EPL, enjoys global notoriety that is worth billions.
In contrast, most money in Ghana is filtered to boost the prestige of the national team. Although there is an established league in Ghana, acting as a learning ground for some of the world’s best players, it does not enjoy the spotlight and therefore the huge sums of money available in the sport.
This does not mean it isn’t worth keeping an eye on the talent of the Ghanian first division, especially those in the south. The larger clubs in Ghana often draw the attention of talent scouts from around the world. The country is lucky to produce some notable talents, which should help the league to continue to grow from strength to strength.
In contrast, the UK leagues are a depository for this talent and elsewhere around the world. Some footballing pundits argue that this dominance of the league system is to the detriment of the development of talented British football players.
It might seem there is little comparison to be made between the giants of UK football and the developing strength of the Ghanaian leagues. However, there are lessons that can be learned that can travel in both directions.