The recent purchase of Ghana Premier League side Accra Lions by German football icon Lothar Matthäus and two partners marks an exciting development for Ghanaian football.
There has been a long-held view that inadequate investment in the football enterprise has slowed the development of the sport at all levels so massive investment in club football such as was announced last Tuesday was the type needed to unlock the full potential of the sport in the country.
It remains unclear how much the new owners paid to acquire Lions but there was a lot of excitement about the deal more because of the clout Matthäus brings to the table and its potential to lure investors to undertake similar ventures in the country.
The President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Kurt Simeon-Okraku, was excited about the project, which also has a former German player agent Oliver König and Ghanaian football star Frank Acheampong as shareholders in the ownership triangle.
Perhaps, the investment by Acheampong, a former Black Stars player who currently plies his trade in the Chinese Super League, could spur other high-earning Ghanaian players and retired stars to consider buying shares in local clubs as a viable investment.
The FA boss said he foresaw “a vision unfolding” and a project that would succeed.
Already, Matthäus has spoken about his long-term vision for the club through talent development and bolstering of training infrastructure for the club formed in 2015.
As club chairman, König also brings a wealth of experience and extensive networks to Lions, just as their sporting director, Ibrahim Tanko, a Ghana international who enjoyed a notable career at both Borussia Dortmund and SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga.
Over the years, there have been similar projects with foreign interests with the most notable being the famous Right to Dream Academy and Gomoa Fetteh Feyenoord Academy (initially owned by Dutch topflight club Feyenoord Rotterdam but later metamorphosed into West African Football Academy after taking over Red Bull Academy), both of which had strong talent developing models where talents are honed for bigger challenges in Europe.
There is every reason to believe Matthäus and the other co-owners of Lions have similar long-term objectives where top talents will be developed with Europe as the ultimate destination for the most gifted players. Nonetheless, opening up the space for foreign investment will bring in more financial resources, enhanced infrastructure, expertise, and global exposure for Ghanaian clubs and players.
Investors such as Matthäus, König and Acheampong bring not only capital but also expertise and international networks; their involvement ensures that clubs can access state-of-the-art resources and provide better conditions for players and staff.
WAFA and Right to Dream have demonstrated the positive effects of such partnerships. Right to Dream has established itself as a model for youth development and also putting others on different career pathways, which have largely benefitted Ghana football in general through the discovery and nurturing of talented players such as Mohammed Kudus, Majeed Waris, Kamadeen Sulemana, Majeed Ashimeru, who have gone on to excel both domestically and internationally.
For Ghanaian football legends such as Samuel Osei Kuffour and Anthony Baffoe, both former players in the German Bundesliga in the 1990s and consummate believers in the German system of development, believe the Lions project would deliver a lot of positive outcomes for the football industry.
Matthäus himself said his illustrious playing career and experience as a former coach of clubs in Austria, Serbia and Israel, as well as the national teams of Hungary and Bulgaria, give him a deep understanding of the game from the global football landscape at both managerial and technical levels to impact positively on Accra Lions.
“Ghana has always had a huge potential of talent and I’m thrilled by the idea of supporting the sportive development of young footballers with my knowledge and experience,” he said last Tuesday.
As is to be expected, the project will lead to more professionalism in the management of Accra Lions through the implementation of best practices in management, scouting, and coaching, which will eventually improve the quality of the game, raise the profile of the club and league, and attract more attention from potential investors (individual and corporate).
In the medium and long term, a lot of opportunities will be created for young players in pursuing their dreams and it could have a positive spinoff for the local football industry in the long run.