By Ken Bediako
Let’s admit it, spectator sport is beautiful and healthy. Our ancestors who taught us that schools should take a short break for recreational sports, right from infancy, had great foresight. And we should also celebrate the scholars who mooted the idea of establishing competitive sports involving individuals and even nations. The cumulative effect is that right from the apex quadrennial Olympic Games encompassing the whole planet, we currently have intercontinental, international and Inter local clubs sports competitions around the globe that invariably serve as soothing balm to calm the often boisterous political atmosphere worldwide.
The fantastically awesome opening ceremony of the ongoing Commonwealth Games in England coupled with the spectacular performances of the competitors and the excitedly milling crowd clearly depict the importance of sports globally.
The proverbial pessimists with little or no sense of humour who thought the recent political furore in England leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson would affect the sanctity of the Games should feel ashamed. What is happening in Birmingham currently with thousands of young men and women enthusiastically engaging in healthy sporting rivalry proves that even in the midst of unprovoked ethnic wars and economic challenges life must go on.
Our dear nation, Ghana, is in Birmingham in full force. More than 100 athletes and officials are hoisting the national flag of green, yellow and red with the black star in the centre. They may not return home with a bagful of medals but the experience gained should be useful tonic for next year’s Africa Games Ghana is hosting.
Top officials of the 2023 Africa Games are in Birmingham to pick some tips that may help them in the task ahead. The mention of 2023 Africa Games in Ghana makes some of us feel a bit nervous.
With exactly a year to the Games, you don,t seem to see much of hectic preparations usually surrounding the hosting of such prestigious festivals.
It is obvious the FIFA World Cup in Qatar is taking much more attention but there is the need to quicken up things a bit over here.
At worse, the main competition sites should be ready three months ahead so we could have some trials to test their efficacy.
It’s not too late though. Ghana is not too much behind time in getting facilities ready for the Games. I saw a similar situation in Canada for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A day to the opening ceremony they were still planting grass in the Olympic Village and doing some painting of walls.
To be fair to the organisers, they were faced with series of stoppage of work at the Games Village by workers strike. They had to work overtime two days to the opening ceremony.
The sad aspect of all this was that African teams and some Carribean nations boycotted the Games at the last minute following New Zealand’s alleged sporting contacts with the then apartheid South Africa.
It was pathetic seeing a large number of well-prepared athletes being forced by their countries to boycott the Games at that last moment.
Ghana had prepared a very powerful Black Stars team, top boxers and crack athletes but had to return home without competing. Just to refresh your memory, the Black Stars comprised John Baker, Sam Ampeh (goalkeepers),Enoch Asumadu, P.S.K.Paha, Kuuku Dadzie, Dan Opong, Awuley Quaye, Lomo Mitchel (defence), Mama Acquah, Dan Owusu, Anas Seidu Isaac Eshun, Abdul Razak, Emmanuel Quarshie, Agyeman Badu, Ibrahim Kassum and Mohammed Polo.
Incidentally, the best player at the time, Robert Hammond, was dropped for alleged indiscipline.
amidst wild protests by the football public (The full story needs to be told later).
The athletics team comprised Ohene Karikari, George Phillips, George Daniels, George Enchill, Sandy Osei Agyeman, Makarios Djan, Joseph Bandu, Joe Appiagyei, K.R.Adams, Joshua Owusu for the men.
The women athletes were Hannah Afriyie, Grace Bakari (sprints), Janet Yawson (Long jump), Elizabeth Bruce (hurdles), and Rose Hart(discus).
The boxing squad was made up of light flyweight Eric Boone; flyweight Anthony Abacheng, lightwelterweight Mohammed Dauda; welterweight Musa Gariba, Lightmiddleweight Moro Tahiru, middleweight Amon Kotey; and light heavyweight Mama Mohammed.
As I was saying, luckily for Ghana the next Afcon fixed for Cote dI’voire next year has been shifted to the original 2024 schedule so the Afcon expenditure can be on hold for the meantime.
I know the know-all armchair critics and naysayers and their patently anti -sports collaborators will never see any wisdom in spending on sports and Games in the midst of the much trumpeted economic challenges. But some us who believe that man must not live on bread alone, will continue to support the development of sports as a necessary evil.
The experts tell us sports build a sound body which is definitely a good phenomenon.
Ghana was once upon a time regarded a strong sporting nation. Those were the days we had programmes like “catching them young” .
Schools and colleges sports was seriously pursued nationwide, the security services recruited a lot of sports talents. We even had a regular Security Services Games that produced a lot of national stars. The Police had a bias for volleyball, Prisons Service was noted for handball and boxing (Azumah Nelson was unearthed by the Prisons), the Armed Forces had a club for the national football league (Ghana Army later SS1974). The Army took part in the (CISM) World Military Boxing Championships. We had the annual National Sports festival and last but not the least annual Ghana-Ivory Coast Games.
There surely is the need to rebuild our whole sports infrastructure to meet the modern trends. Even though I recognise the fact the entire universe is facing economic challenges, I back the suggestion that there has never been a right time to build sports infrastructure and we better hit the road running right now.
Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.