Right from when the Upper West Region constituted only five districts to now constituting 11 districts, the Sisaala districts have always contributed 50-55% of athletes into the Regional contingent for both the basic and second cycle games. Notably, among all the disciplines, football undoubtedly has been the passion of many if not all. Back in the 90’s in the Tumu District, school vacation period was characterized by voracious gala competitions which began with the famous ‘Goil 1998’. As the Sisaala adage goes, ‘the dog says fall and I fall is play. We embodied and epitomised it to the admiration of all and sundry and marked the beginning of a jim-dandy football at the time.
These gala games were a stupendous source of entertainment, an avenue for great talent discovery and most importantly a rallying point that fostered unity, solidarity and peace among the peoole. It showed our humanity and glorified our hospitality especially among our playmates and visitors as we thrilled them to football beyond comprehension made in the Sisaala land. All credit, foremost, goes to a young man called Osman Rashid (aka Lalas) who used empty tins to create trophies. Each participating team will pay a token to the organizers of the gala league before your team could participate. Teams emerged from various sections of the district to participate in the gala competition. Sections such as Zongo, Nyaminjan, Kuoro Jan, Moshi Zongo, Quarters, etc produced clubs such as 11 Wonders, Red Tigers, Team Hoi, Three Stars, etc.
These games kept the young lads engaged in football fiesta till schools resumed. The relevance of these games then can not be overemphasized. This was more like a local juvenile competition which gave young lads the opportunity to unearth their talents and engaged the youth so that they Stayed away from social vices, built inter-community cohesion, helped young players polish their skills and served as a scouting grounds for the only Two division two(2) clubs in town (Soccer Youth & Royal Soccer Ambassadors). It therefore came as no surprise the quality of player performance moving from these juvenile clubs to any of the division two teams in town.
The stiff rivalry between these two clubs ensured each club produced their best at the end of each Regional Division Two football season in the Upper West Region. League derby games between Soccer Youth and Royal Soccer Ambassadors created an atmosphere of a Sisaala El-Classico. The enthusiasm was heightened, expections over the roof and match day was a sight to behold. How so many enthusiastic youth defied all else just to witness the game was nothing short of grace. The candour of the teams and skills displayed mystified the individual teams and players, some of whom werebdeified.
The likes of Mr. Charles Chakila, Mr. T. Muftawu Fasasi , Baba Pele, Alhaji Y. Y and a host of others would spice up the matches between these two clubs by predicting the outcome of matches. Soccer youth and Royal Soccer Ambassadors represented the Eastern and Western sections of Tumu. It was assumed that any good player within these two boundaries must play for the club within that area though this was not a rule. By dent of hard work and perseverance, each of these clubs have qualified into the National division 1 league before 1999. The likes of senior BASHIRU (Niara), Joe Benin, Imoro (From Pieng), Oruma (Soldier man) Saani Abacha, Suleman Rufai, Moro Seidu Forkor (Campos), Baba Iddi (Crespo), Quander Ganew, Late Abede (Gwollu), Kanwei Fuowie, and Moro Nafiu are but a few players from the Sissala area to have graced the National division One League with a few ending up their career in the Ghana Premier League.
It has been a decade now since a team qualified into the National division 1 league from any of the Sisaala areas. The last club to do so is Tumu United in (2010-2011) captained by Musah Hardi and Nibala FC (2007-2008) now Unity FC which was sold and is currently based in Sunyani. What happened after the qualification and the teams are not stationed in Tumu will be another write up for another day.
Currently, the farthest a team can go from the Sisaala area is their participation in the Regional Division Two Middle League and possibly qualifying for the MTN FA Competition. The only team in recent times to have progressed in the FA cup competition was 24 Hours FC that was knocked out in the round of 32 in 2016 at the Tumu sports stadium by Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
The structure and form of this middle league makes it practicably impossible for teams from the Sisaala area to qualify into the National Division One League. The cost element together with managerial and technical issues are a major cause for worry.
This sad state of football competition in the Sisaala districts and the Upper West Region as a whole gives room for some critical questions to be asked and needs urgent review.
What has happened to those local juvenile leagues? Can we revive and sustain the local juvenile league? Can middle league competitions be held outside the regional capital? What are the qualifications of technical members of these clubs? What is the state of football pitches in the Sissala area? When we probe into the issues and begin to find solutions to these questions maybe, just maybe we will be making a headway.
For me, I will suggest the following solutions to the current state of football in the Sissala area. Considering the number of clubs spread across the Sissala area, one can conclude that, the talent available needs to be synchronized should we as a people want to compete at the highest level. Emphasis should be on the quality of the clubs and not the quantity of clubs we have. The numbers are good but they’re not bringing us the desired results. Maintaining a maximum of Two Top Flight Division Two’s will not only enhance competition but also help in getting desired results.
Again, stakeholder involvement in sports and for that matter, the game of football has declined tremendously. I dare say that the municipal and district assemblies have no idea how these clubs survive. A round table discussion with club owners could help them manage these young lads successfully throughout the football seasons.
The structure of the game in the Sisaala area must include the revival of juvenile teams. The likes of Trigna Academy, Kangra FC, Gandawii Young Stars, Bujan Crocodiles, Kulfuo Dreams SC, Shining Stars and Kong Young Stars, Hilla Young Stars could be grouped into Colts, Juvenile, U-15 and U-17 categories. This will ensure player’s gradual migration from Amateur-Semi Pro-Professional footballers capable of competing in top flight football.
A deliberate attempt at improving the Human resource base of coaches and team managers of various clubs is worth considering. The revival of the Old Footballers Association could be a major booster in this endeavor. We want to see the likes of Baba Bele, Fatawu Y.Y , Moro Kasas, Awudu (aka Hold On), Fuzy (24 Hours), Batongwie, Yussif Jargon, Sukah Razak, TAHIRU Namuro, Luriwie, Ras Ottokori,
Yehyeh, Rashid Luriwie etc on the technical area given coaching instructions to the young and upcoming players.
A greater look at the football pitches in the districts, not one proper state of the art standard pitch or astroturf exist in the Sisaala area which occupies 2/3rds of the Region and given the historical contributions of the Sisaala area to football and sports, such a facility is long overdue, could further enhance our chances of bouncing back to elite football. The attitude of given out football fields for construction work should be a thing of the past. Assemblies must make frantic efforts to construct quality fields and upgrade the existing ones to accommodate the growing number of clubs emerging in the Sissala area. This could also be a leeway to campaign for Middle League games to be staged in the Sissala areas.
The time to begin football revolution in the Sissala area is NOW OR NEVER. We must and are capable of producing the Baba Yara’s again for “where there is a will, there’s always a way”.
Sulemani Rufai Agbonor
Author: Sulemani Rufai Agbonor | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org