Rustum Gameli Senorgbe, Public Affairs Office, Ho Technical University, Ho
There are many stakeholders who work on matchdays. Common among them are officials of the National Sports authority, the Ghana Football Association, the Security agencies, Medical Services, the media, among others.
However, one particular group that we normally forget is the ball retrievers, who are mostly boys between the ages of 8 and 15.
It’s common knowledge that these retrievers work as volunteers from communities, schools and junior sides of teams. As to what training they go through to work, I won’t be surprised if their fitness is tested. Then some values of fairness and the ability to remain alert at all times.
Law 7 of the game is about the duration of a match, and allowance of time lost during matches is well stated there.
The law has made provision for referees to add additional time lost due to substitutions, assessment and removal of injured players, wasting time, disciplinary actions, medical stoppages, delays relating to VAR checks and reviews, and any other including goal celebrations.
Nonetheless, ball retrievers play major roles to speed up play and avoid unnecessary delays. The reason they are always positioned around the field with spare balls to supply when the need arises. Their actions and inactions have significant impact on the game and the reason they need special attention. I don’t want to refer to the Eden Hazard incident with a ball boy in 2013 that got him expelled from the game.
Two issues of concern to me regarding ball boys are, Interference and Appearance;
I have noticed that the Accra Stadium for instance has one Baba Salisu who has been good at managing these boys to perform professionally from start to finish. This doesn’t exclude them from the boos of partisan fans found all over in football. That same management style isn’t common at other centres in Ghana. In most centres, ball boys are verbally abused by fans, technical men and players who want to delay time. These boys are also influenced to delay time which is opposite to their duty. These adults must rethink and imbibe in these young ones the values of fair play. Such acts towards these boys are unhealthy to their development.
Home sides have unconventionally assumed that ball retrievers are part of their match day entourage, and during matches, command them to act in ways that affect the fair play their presence is to protect, in most cases these ball retrievers ‘vanish’ from their position with few minutes to end the game when the home side is leading just to delay the restart of the game for the losing away side.
In some other cases, away players reluctantly opposed the quick restart of the game because a ball retriever has recovered a lost ball when they are the leading aide.
In the just ended Ghana Premier league, when Accra Hearts of is hosted Asante Kotoko all the ball retrievers left the Stadium before the referee brought proceedings to an end, just becuase the home side were leading.
These acts of delaying game by the use of ball retrievers seem to be the norm in most cases, contrary to the laws of the game.
The beautiful ball boys we see from afar appear in footwears with socks, shorts and shirts.
The closest to what we see from afar is StarTimes branded shorts and shirts and same for MTN in the FA Cup. And these ones are also not common. I have no idea as to whether anyone owns the right to their appearance. If there is, then we have more room for improvement but if not, then we have ‘billboards’ going waste.
Aside these two entities, these boys appear in fitting jerseys of youth teams of home sides, any agreed decent colour, sometimes sagging pants and oversized shorts and shirts . In most cases, no special attention is given their footwears. It’s common to see ball boys in sandals that impede their movements.
Ball retrieval in the game is an area corporate Ghana can invest in. Enhancing the beauty of our game is hinged on these little by little pieces of support. Many match officials can testify to the huge impact the State Transport Company, (STC) has made with their 50% fare package to the football association. Another company can also enjoy same goodwill by supporting the ball boys.
The ball boys lead the teams and never miss the cameras. They stay on till all is over. Any local garment manufacturer or any other entity should be considering the ball boys in their sponsorship plans.
The Ball Boys: Interference and Appearance to the beautiful gameThe Women’s league, the Premier, Division One, FA Cup are over. As we turn attention to the Women’s division one, regional and district football activities, let’s also think about the ball retrievers and their special role in the game whilst awaiting the next season with or without COVID-19.