Ghana proved the ideal location for Africa's first FIFA Com-Unity Seminar of 2009 - Grassroots and Youth Football Development - which was held at an auspicious time. The country has always been one of the continent's leading football lights, especially at youth level, so it was only fitting that when the presidential programme rolled around to west Africa, it would be a natural destination to play host.
On the last day of the three-day programme, African football legend Kalusha Bwalya informed the participants that the end of the seminar marked the real beginning of the hard graft. "The end of the seminar is the beginning of the real work," he told the gathering. "We have to put in hard work so that we can achieve the objectives we have set out here."
Those objectives include rolling out a more structured programme for the organisation and publicising of a nationwide grassroots youth football project, identifying and supporting credible NGOs on football-related projects, and improving the relationships among all stakeholders in the game. These targets adequately represent what the Com-Unity programme is about, as it seeks to improve awareness of the value football can have in a country.
Each seminar is intended to improve cooperation and communication between a member association, its government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the country, other partners, and the media.
For Ghana, it came at a time when there were widespread reports of friction between the Ghana Football Association and its supervising Ministry of Sports. However, Sports Minister Muntaka Mohammed-Mubarak made it clear in both his opening and closing speeches that not only was the working relationships between both bodies in excellent shape, but that the government would give full backing to the GFA's efforts at developing football in the country
"The relationship between the Ministry and the GFA is excellent," Mubarak stated as he declared the seminar open. "And the government is committed to assisting the GFA in the development of football."
It was a theme carried on by GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi. "The fact that the Minister spent most of the first day with us, and then came back again and spent the whole of the last day with us, shows the spirit of cooperation that exists between us," he said.
Indeed, the GFA delivered on that spirit of cooperation by ensuring that all key stakeholders - namely the government, sponsors, NGOs, diplomatic community, clubs and media - were well represented.
Following three days of presentations and working group sessions, Nyantakyi expressed his delight at the huge milestones recorded. "All my expectations from this seminar have been met. We had frank discussions and it is clear to the media, GFA, NGOs and sponsors that we all need to work together to achieve common objectives," he said.
One thing all the participants were agreed on is that the seminar would not just be a 'talk-show' where the recommendations would not be implemented. "The Minister, the GFA President and the General Secretary were with us throughout, which shows the importance that the decision-makers attach to this event," Kwame Baah Nuokah, a participant, pointed out. "It shows that they are committed to making this work and it will not just be a talk show."
Nyantakyi agreed: "The recommendations will be given support and implemented every step of the way. We can also continue to have gatherings like this on a regular basis so that we can monitor our progress."
And again, he drew agreement from the Minister, who promised a 'vigorous' implementation process. "We have all learned something from this seminar, and I believe that we can take away what we have learned and implement it vigorously. Let me pledge that the government will be there to support the implementation of the recommendations with all the necessary backing required to see that the objectives are achieved."
This was music to the ears of all participants. And so it was a merry band who headed to the magnificent Ohene Djan Stadium for a football match between the Minister/FIFA Team, coached by former Ghana captain Anthony Baffoe, and the GFA President's Team.
The Minister, a former athlete, showed the speed that stood him out in his day by outpacing the defence to score two goals, which helped his team to a 4-1 victory. But the most important victory, of course, belonged to everyone - and to football.