Veteran Sports Journalist Ken Bediako - The Writer

By Ken Bediako

It’s a good guess to conclude that the highly inspired performance by Lionel Messi that catapulted Argentina to win the FIFA World Cup had the blessings of the Almighty God.

The 35-year-old pint-sized ball artist has won the hearts of modern day followers of the game so much so that his prayers to retire from the international scene on a good note had universal backing. It almost became an open secret that “the system” backed Messi to win the Cup for Argentina with FIFA boss Valentino reportedly describing it as injustice if Messi failed to win the cup. The young man has contributed so much to the rapid popularity of the game and deserves to retire on a high note with the elusive World Cup triumph.

And so it has come to pass that the nimble footed leftie, who can give a good pass even if blindfolded, has now been universally acclaimed the BEST OF ALL TIME (BOAT) footballer apparently inheriting the title widely held by Edson Arantes dos Nascimento (Pele for short). It was Pele, who at the age of 17 plus, immortalised the No 10 Jersey on his World Cup debut in Sweden in 1958. The No 10 jersey is now a famous symbol for top class midfielders throughout the world Football historians who saw Pele right from his teens rate him the best all round footballer with amazing ball control, wizard dribbling, splendid tailor measured passing, efficient goal scoring with either foot and powerful heading supported by a strong physique.

Pele’s record of three World Cup triumphs is unsurpassed. Even though his World Cup goal tally has long been surpassed it may not be fair to compare those days with the present when we had only a 16 nation championship. Please note that it’s now 32 and could be 48 in 2026.

Some of us old timers are slow to make certain comparisons in association football because the game has evolved so much over the years. Apart from the unprecedented exposure in television coverage worldwide, some of the laws of the game have been amended. Born dribblers like Messi are now given protection by Referees and hatchet men in defence are compelled to be less vicious these days for fear of receiving a card. I recall Pele was so butchered in the 1966 World Cup in England he even threatened to quit international football. It turned out to be an empty threat though. He was in action in 1970 to help Brazil win the original Jules Rimet Cup for the third time and for keeps.

Those were the days when we in this part of the world knew very little about live TV coverage of international sports events. We were served with only pre-recorded sports events like the numerous Muhammad Ali World boxing title fights. Can you imagine that in 1970, by the courtesy of Pioneer Tobacco Company, GBC TV showed a recorded version of the Mexico World Cup two weeks after the closing ceremony but we enjoyed it all the same. It was new to us. Indeed, some of us were even privileged to be specially invited to the Opera Cinema House in Accra Central later on to watch a special World Cup documentary by the Brazilian Embassy titled “The World AT Their Feet”. Things have changed oo. We are now in modern times. Hi Tec and all. Unlike the past, live telecast is now the norm and you see Messi and Co live in action so often you don’t need

anybody to tell you how good he is. A big advantage to the current generation of footballers if you ask me. Of course if they flop it is also well documented. You ask Baba Rahman.

High technology has given sports a big boost and sports lovers, not too comfortable with a milling crowd can readily choose to stay home and

enjoy watching all the action on TV Live in the comfort of their homes.

But I tell you there is a whole lot of difference being at the stadium. I am used to being where the action is instead of watching events through the eyes of the camera

In fact, this is the reason why I am so thrilled Ghana will be hosting the African Games next year. I will be at the Games venues all day.

It is Africa’s biggest sports festival and even though Ghana seems to be racing against time, I am confident all efforts will be made to finish the competition venues early enough for this sports extravaganza. It’s a huge task but with concerted determination from all stakeholders, Ghana 2023 should be a reality. The FIFA World Cup fever is over as far as Ghana is concerned.

Let’s leave Argentina and France to celebrate and wail. PSG team mates Messi and Mbappe, the two record breakers, should be left alone to sort things out in Paris. We, I mean their admirers in Ghana, must focus on the big assignment of hosting the entire African continent next year.

Ghana was among the pioneers that set the Games rolling in Dakar 57 years ago and we must not be found wanting in 2023 as the hosts.

I was a 24-year-old junior sportswriter with The Daily Graphic at the time of the first Games so let me refresh the minds of the younger folks what happened in 1965.

Ghana sent a contingent of 56 comprising 37 track and field athletes,10 boxers, 3 tennis players and six officials for the Games in Brazzaville that took place from July 18-25.

The women athletes were Rose Hart, Alice Anum, Adisa Attah, Phillis Laryea, Ivy Lamptey, Felicia Agyeiwa and Beatrice Laryea.

The men were Mike Ahey, B. K. Mends, F. W. K. Donkor, Stan Allotey, E. C. O. Addy, M. F Okantey for sprints 400m relay: J.A.Addy, E.Q Quartey, Sidiku Buari, Owusu Mensah, P. K. Gyempeh 800m; E.F Kessie, Ohene Asare 1500m: E.D. Amevor and J.L Kumodzi.

5000m: E.K. Tam, David Asante.

110m hurdles: Ohene Frimpong, S. M Botchway.

400m hurdles: J.A. Addy, S.A. Badu

Pole Vault: M. K Dawu, F C. K. Korsah.

Long jump: Mike Ahey, F.K Ayivor, J.O Amoah.

High Jump: P.O. Cruishank, V. W.Dotse.

Triple Jump: J O.Amoah, F.K.Ayivor.

Shot Putt & Discus: Godwin Tengey

Javelin: K Grumah.

The boxing contingent was Flyweight Sulley Shittu; Bantamweight Steve Akushie; Featherweight Carl Bobo; Lightweight Sammy Lee, Welterweight Aaron Popoola, Light-welterweight Eddie Blay, Middleweight Joe Darkey, Light-middleweight R. A. Okine, Light heavyweight Ben Aidoo; and Heavyweight Thomas Arimi.

The Tennis squad comprised Odartey Annan, Anthony Dove and Narh Tetteh; Officials were Peter Renner, team manager; Adjin Tetteh, athletics coach: Roy Ankrah, boxing coach; J S. Wontumi, FIFA Referee; G. W. Amarteifio, Boxing referee/judge. Hope Adjepong, chaperon and Kobina Hagan, chairman GABA.

Ghana won13 medals, two gold, five silver and five bronze. The two gold were won by track athletes who also won three of the five bronze medals. The boxers won one silver and three bronze medals.

The medal winners were:

1.Rose Hart 80m hurdles gold.

2 Alice Anum, Long jump gold.

3.Adisa Attah, High jump silver

4.Rose Hart, 100m silver

5. Alice Anum, Ivy Lamptey, Felicia Agyeiwa, Rose Hart 4x100m relay silver

6. J.A. Addy, 400m silver

7. Mike Ahey, B.K. Mends, E.W.K. Donkor, M.F. Okantey,4x100m bronze

8.J.A. Addy, F.A. Owusu, E.Q. Quartey, Sidiku Buari 4x400m bronze.

Boxing medallists were:

1. Flyweight, Sulley Shittu silver.

2. Bantamweight Steve Akushie silver

3. Middleweight Joe Darkey bronze

4. Heavyweight Thomas Arimi, bronze.

A few of these pioneer medallists are alive and it would be interesting to get them assembled at the opening ceremony of the 2023 Games in Accra. What a great re-union this would be.

Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.

Merry Xmas to you all.

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