Speech By John Vigah on Launch Of Sparkles & Shambles Of The World Cup – Brazil 2014

John Vigah
John Vigah


DATE: JULY 30, 2020

Mr Chairman, Rep of the Minister of Youth and Sports, Director-General of the National Sports Authority, President of the Ghana Football Association, President of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana, President of the Ghana Olympic Committee, President of the Ghana Journalists Association (our host), Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Fellow Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honoured to welcome all of you today to this function to witness the launch of this book titled: Sparkles & Shambles of the World Cup – Brazil 2014.

Indeed, I thank you for consenting to our request and making time to attend this ceremony.

Again, I am delighted with the audience numbers in these trying times of COVID-19 and am extremely honoured and humbled by the erudite gathering.

As you can see, we are observing all the COVID-19 safety protocols. This auditorium takes 100 or even more, but we had to whittle the number down to make way for some social distancing.

Mr Chairman, in 2008 – some 12 years ago, I stood on another dais to launch my first book titled: Guide to Sports Journalism, a 510-page book exclusively dedicated to sports journalism.

It was quite a Himalayan undertaking putting that book together, but the response in patronage from tertiary schools and the sporting public at large, was equally motivating – and this may have galvanized me to author the book we are out-dooring today.

Indeed, I have been inundated with lots of calls on the need to do a reprint of my first book – Guide to Sports Journalism – for the Ghanaian market and the rest of Africa at large. And, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to potential sponsors and business entrepreneurs to come on board and let us make this pressing request a possibility.

Having said that Mr Chairman, Sparkles & Shambles of the World Cup – Brazil 2014, is a 170-page book that captures Ghana’s disconcerting, white-bread performance at the Brazil World Cup which cascaded into player rebellion and uprising – eventually leading to the airlifting of $4m to the Black Stars ahead of their crucial game against Portugal.

Readers will also find out in this book why a plane that was supposed to carry Ghanaian fans back after the Black Stars’ nerve-racking game against Germany was grounded, forcing the supporters and the Team’s Ambassadors and celebrities to spend the night at the Fortaleza airport.

Question: Were there terrorists among the Ghanaian supporters on board the American commercial plane that took them to Fortaleza? Maybe yes; maybe no! This book has all the detail.

There are also excerpts of Ghana’s Brazil World Cup Commission White Paper Report; there is the Luis Suarez’s biting orgy, the controversial Mardunas Resort where Ghana’s supporters were lodged, and many, many more.

Of course, it was not all negative! It was not all doom and gloom! There are some positives: Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan (Baby Jet) became Africa’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup in Brazil; the Black Stars also producing a chocolate-box, star-spangling 2-2 draw against eventual winners Germany, with FIFA’s Technical Study Group also hailing the Stars.

There was also a huge performance from Ghana’s right-back Harrison Afful that stole the heart of FIFA.

Again, did Ghana’s participation at the Brazil World Cup tournament result in any financial loss to the nation? Why is Brazil in love with Ghana? The book provides some interesting responses to these questions.

Mr Chairman, I may not have covered everything about the Brazil World Cup. No! Not, at all! Anyway, we did not even last at that tournament that saw the USA teaching us a bitter football lesson in our opening group game. In short, our stay was ephemeral – even though we dazzled the world with bewitching football of supreme class and glamour, especially in the Germany game.

However, I strongly believe this work will not only serve as a valuable literature for sports journalists, followers of our national teams, especially the Black Stars, sports and football enthusiasts – but also serve as a positive guide to our football and sports authorities going forward.

Many have wondered why I did not rather author a book on the South Africa 2010 World Cup – the first World Cup on the continent, which saw Ghana glowing to become the third African nation to qualify for the quarter finals stage after Cameroon and Senegal in the Italy 1990 and South Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup respectively.

The answer is simple. I did my damndest, but failed to elicit the requisite financial backing to implement what would have been a phenomenal project. Indeed, I went through similar challenges before publishing my first book and the one we are showcasing today.

All the same, currently, we are putting together a comprehensively momentous book on Ghana’s World Cup History (tracing all the failed attempts since the 60s until we struck gold in 2006). That work is expected to be published by the first quarter of next year, all things being equal.

The work will cover a lot of the joys and jollity in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, as well as much of the spine-tingling drama in the Stars’ camp in Brazil which this book did not touch on expansively. So, maybe, I can comfortably say what we are launching today is just a teaser or forerunner of what is to come.

Mr Chairman, I strongly believe that a good number of my colleagues may have done some works in sports journalism, but are presently gathering dusts in their shelves due to lack of financial backing; and I would like to take this opportunity to implore corporate bodies, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and individuals to endeavour to support such literary works when we run to them in desperation.

Having said that Mr Chairman, permit me to take this opportunity to urge my colleague sports journalists not only to help promote sports, but also seek to expose the wrongdoings and all the repulsive things that sadistically militate against the growth of sports in our dear country Ghana.

Sports journalists, it is said, enjoy a great deal of latitude by custom in their comments on players, officials, athletes and other sports personalities.

However, I would like to appeal to my colleagues to be circumspect in their choice of words so as not to spoil the beauty of reportage and lead themselves into courtroom battles that take away from their credibility.

They must endeavour to remain professional, ethical, truthful, fair, balanced and objective at all times as much as possible.

I must be quick to remark, however, that facts remain facts. They are sacred and must be presented as such. Certainly, no one can claim damages for the loss of reputation he or she did not possess.

A journalist’s pen, keyboard or microphone must state the facts in their unadulterated form without fear or favour; and if the facts are not twisted or contorted, then the journalist has nothing to fear.

That is why I always believe that it is the journalist’s duty to write the news and crush hearts. It does not really matter who is affected – so far as the matter published is the stark truth capable of changing society for the better.

On this note, I would like to appeal to media owners to, as a matter of urgency, pay sports journalists what I call a living wage or decent allowance so as to prevent them from relying frantically on ‘soli’ for survival.

Many journalists in Ghana are poorly remunerated and this has adversely affected their overall professional delivery – ultimately leading to the pitiable standard that we see in some aspects of our media landscape.

It is no secret that once journalists are showered with adequate amount of gifts in the form of ‘soli,’ it has the propensity and proclivity to influence their work in a negative manner – especially when they are doing stories that could affect such benefactors.

It is also the reason I have always argued that media institutions should endeavour to look for their own funds to cover international events instead of desperately relying on the government during tournaments.

Perhaps, there might not be anything wrong with such sponsorships from governments. But let us be real here; would the sponsored journalist have the nerve, temerity, audacity and guts to effectively criticize a government official when they go wrong or are involved in any kind of scandal during the tournament? Your guess is as good as mine!

May I also remind our authorities to take deep interest in the Committees and Commissions that they set up and endeavour to implement their recommendations thereof. The Justice Senyo Dzamefe’s World Cup Commission White Paper Report is still emblazoned on the minds of many Ghanaians.

Finally, Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentleman, let me take a quick minute to thank the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the National Sports Authority, the Ghana Football Association, the Ghana Olympic Committee, the Sports Writers Association of Ghana, Editor of the Ghanaian Times, and the Nungua Manste – and all of you – for making it to this event.

I also wish to express my deepest gratitude to all who in diverse ways contributed to the publication of this book, especially my senior colleague Ekow Asmah, who took time to go through the manuscripts and Mr George Afriyie, former Vice President of the GFA as well as Ambassador Ray Quarcoo, a Patron of SWAG.

I should also thank the management of Homechow led by Gabriel Ankamafio for the food and Twelium Industries Ltd for the drinks.

I hope my literary effort will go a long way to edify the minds of sports journalists, sports enthusiasts, students, coaches, football administrators and the nation as a whole.

Thank you and God bless you all.

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