It is a standing joke in this country that the nation takes delight in honouring the dead instead of acknowledging the efforts of the living legends, especially in the field of sports.
I would therefore attempt to break the trend and profile this week Mr Walter Esposito, a Swiss naturalised Ghanaian who has been in the forefront of sports administration in Ghana for more than six decades.
Mr Walter Esposito, who not too long ago retired as Director of Akosombo Textiles Ltd, can easily be described as the “Mr Fix It” of Ghana sports. There cannot be a single sports discipline in this country that has not benefitted immensely from Esposito’s natural inclination to solve problems on his feet.
Like the late D.G Hathiramani, the Indian who settled in Ghana, and made the promotion of sports, particularly table tennis his clarion call, Mr Esposito arrived in Ghana in 1958, in the euphoria of post-independence and identified himself with sports promotion in the infant nation.
Between 1959 and 1964 he was an official and international liaison officer for Athletics and Amateur boxing competitions. In 1960, Mr Esposito organised a pre-Olympic tour for the Ghana Amateur boxing team to Switzerland and Germany. The tour was quite fruitful. It aided Ike Quartey Snr, fighting in the welterweight division to win Ghana’s only medal, a silver from the Olympics in the 1960 Games in Rome.
Incidentally Ike’s silver was the very first medal by a sub-Saharan African nation in the Olympic Games. It is also the only Olympic silver in Ghana’s history.
When model football club Real Republikans, dubbed Osagyefo’s Own Club was formed by powerful Sports Director Ohene Djan in 1962, Esposito was named patron and remained so until the club was disbanded following the overthrow of Osagyefo Dr Nkrumah’s regime in 1966.
For 11 long years-from 1969 to 1980 Esposito was a member of the Ashanti Regional Boxing Association. He also served from 1970-1978 as member of the Ghana Olympic and Overseas Games Fund Raising Committee. He was also executive member of the Ghana Football Association, and for three years its treasurer. He was appointed member of the National Playing Fields Committee for seven years (1973-1980).
Remember Akotex? (Ako, Ako) the exciting national league football club who revolutionised our game with sweet flowing entertaining football. That was the brainwork of Walter Esposito who was chairman and Managing Director of the club from its inception in 1969 to 1980. At this stage credit also goes to coach Adabie who expertly groomed artistic and skillful players to pull the crowd.
In 1977, Esposito was awarded the Grand Medal by the State for his “immense contribution.to nation building”.
The honour obviously encouraged him to give more to the service of the nation. From 1974 -78 Esposito was member of the Ghana Boxing Authority and treasurer of its Promotions Board.
From 1978-1982 he was board member of the National Sports Council.
In 1978 he was appointed patron of the Sportswriters Association of Ghana (SWAG) for his enormous contribution to sports development. He was among the first batch of SWAG patrons and incidentally he is currently the only living. May the souls of the departed founding SWAG patrons B.K. Edusei, Dennis Beesley, H. P. Nyemitei, Dr Nkansa Gyane and Mrs Theodosia Okoh rest in eternal peace.
Walter Esposito has the distinguished honour of being life member of the Ghana Olympic Committee, an honour suitably conferred on him in 1997. Mind you, Walter Esposito’s interest in sports management is not by accident. He was a sprints champion and long jumper in his youthful days in Switzerland.
A multitalented person, Esposito’s interest goes beyond sports. He is also a keen musician. In the early 60s he formed an Orchestra called “The Cosmopolitans”. It was after this that he started compiling music for programmes on Radio Ghana.
One of such popular programmes was “Musical Rainbow”, featuring what was then known as “Negro Spirituals”.
He is also an accomplished sports columnist. He used to write the “Kwesi Spike Diary” in the sports pages of the Daily Graphic in the 60s when I was a junior sportswriter there.
A very amiable person, Mr Esposito has a huge sense of humour. I vividly remember at one SWAG Awards ceremony at the National Theatre in Accra, Esposito had the full house laughing their lungs out when he showed the yellow and red cards to the presenter of the show, Kwabena Yeboah (now SWAG President) who had faulted in reading his lines. Surely, Mr Walter Esposito is a man of all parts. We thank God for giving such a man to the cause of Ghana sports.
“Espo” as some of us fondly call him is married to pretty and equally amiable Deborah. The couple have two adult children Walter Jnr 51, an Architect and Jacqueline 49, a psychologist.
Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.