Chairperson of the Ghana Women’s Premier League Committee (WPL), Hilary Boateng has expressed concerns over how COVID-19 has taken a toll on Women’s football clubs in the country.
The elite women’s league has seen tremendous improvement in the 2019/20 season after an exciting first round and was fully geared towards a much-anticipated second round before the global outbreak set in.
Mrs Boaten has been speaking on a Happy FM/ GTV Sports+ program dubbed the effect of COVID-19 on football clubs in Ghana.
“As we are all aware, this pandemic was obviously unexpected and came at a time when we had finished the first round of the league. We were on a three-week break when the President [of Ghana] announced a lockdown in the Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions. I would say at that point in time, the league was actually getting exciting and so I can say again that it [COVID-19] has affected the league in so many ways especially at that time where we had taken off on a good note.
On the financial effects of the pandemic on the women football fraternity, Mrs Boaten opines the magnitude of the burden it has brought to club owners and administrators in all the elite and the Division One League is not quantifiable.
“It has affected the clubs severally and speaking to quite a number of club owners, managers, coaches and club reps, you realize that some of these clubs have clubhouses for the ladies and some during the lockdown period went home whiles some actually stayed. Some of the clubs preferred they stay so they could monitor and ensure that they stayed fit. Even during these times that we are not playing the game, you can expect that the club owners are still dishing out monies for utilities and also to feed the ladies.”
On welfare of players
“A lot of money is being invested and we all know when it comes to women football, the ladies are not paid that much but the clubs have decided to continue to pay even if some are slashed down, so it has had an effect on the pockets of the bankrollers. Even for the Division One and the Regional League, it was just for a week for them to start and speaking to some of the owners, you realize they had paid for pitches, coaches to train their girls all in preparation for the start of their leagues and then boom the pandemic comes.
“These are monies that have been lost and also monies were paid to clubs; there was the ongoing player registration as well. There were conversations with clubs to buy players and all that obviously came to a halt when the president announced that everything should stop. Even if monies were exchanged or there were agreements to buy players from other clubs, that has also halted and monies and that have been exchanged cannot be refunded. When football returns, the clubs have to start the process all over again”.
On fitness of players
“In terms of the players staying fit at home, the club owners tell me the ladies do send in videos of their exercise regimen at home. The little they could do in their various home; this is for those who are not in camp to let them know that they are staying fit. Unfortunately after a week or two, these girls begin to complain about lack of data so they ask for data and it gets to the point the bankrollers obviously get cash-strapped and even if they pay, you ask if the ladies are using it for the exact purpose. You know as women we have other needs and so we ask for monies for various things. Some of these club owners are paying for school fees and paying for some of these parents to take care of the girls at home so it has a diverse effect on the Premier League and even the Division One for the women.”
On social vices during the pandemic
“In terms of vices, it is tough to say but I think as I said earlier because we do not live with the players, club owners are not privy to what these girls are doing in their various houses so they turn to believe what the players tell them. So when the players tell them they are staying fit, the proof may only be in a WhatsApp video. For now, it is all about what the girls are doing versus what is really happening. I really can’t speak for the girls because we don’t live with them but we can only hope that they are staying fit as expected of them. I have seen some videos where the girls are training pretty well at home and staying fit and we just have to hope and pray that they continue on that trajectory.”
Hillary Boaten then used the opportunity to correct some misconception created in media as a result of an interview she granted on radio earlier concerning the same issue.
“Yesterday, I granted an interview on radio where I talked about one of the promising players not married that I heard had gotten pregnant during this lockdown. Unfortunately, I was misquoted and I trended on various social media platforms. The audios are there for everyone who cares to listen to what I said. That was specific advice I was giving to the ladies just to remain focus and of course there are women who play football who are married and if a married woman gets pregnant, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.”
“We were talking about the SSS leaver or the after JSS girl who has decided to play football and has been put in the family way. Even the club owner was distressed about it and I only used the case to pinpoint that the girls should just continue to remain focus during this COVID-19 break while we wait for our game to return. That was just an advice.”