When President Nana Akufo-Addo remarked recently at the launch of the GNPC-sponsored Ghana’s Fastest Human athletics competition in Accra that his government was determined to change the erroneous impression that “Ghana is only about football”, it marked what could be a turning point in Ghana sports.
It was a bold and undeniable statement which, when backed by strong government-led support, could see the often neglected sporting disciplines being given the needed attention not only from the state but also by individuals and corporate bodies.
An avid sportsman in his youthful days, the President, once a member of the national Academicals football team, has witnessed the best years of Ghana sports when notably athletics, table tennis and boxing put the country on the world map.
Many decades later, Nana Akufo-Addo leads a nation whose sporting prowess at the world stage has unfortunately been reduced to just football because of the neglect of other sports.
In the last decade, the nation has witnessed, sadly, the neglect of other sporting disciplines in favour of football. During that period, the so-called lesser sports have been left to their fate, as a lot of state funding and corporate support is devoted to football.
That is why there is an urgent need for a shift in priority in Ghana sports under Nana Akufo-Addo, with more resources being channelled into these orphaned sporting disciplines which have been sustained by individuals and corporate bodies.
The President rightly said that Ghana had the capacity and human resource to excel in other sporting disciplines. However, those talents will remain undiscovered and unpolished until resources are made available for their federations to develop them.
That is why the Ministry of Youth and Sports must begin to look at ways to better support these federations to give practical meaning to the President’s pledge to support all sports.
Currently taking place at the Accra Sports Stadium is the African Rugby Challenge which has largely been through the effort of the President of the Ghana Rugby Football Union (GRFU), Mr Herbert Mensah, and his lieutenants who have invested their time and resources into making the sport thrive in football-mad Ghana.
In the wake of the neglect by the state, individuals such as Mrs Gifty Annan-Myers and now Mr Mensah have helped sustain rugby, but it is about time the state supported such individual efforts beyond the usual lip service.
Individuals such as the new Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) chief, Ben Nunoo-Mensah, and Oko Nikoi-Dzani have used their resources and organisational skills to transform disciplines such as weightlifting and hockey.
Two decades ago, Mr Mensah did the unthinkable when he organised the Max Brito charity rugby game which saw the Accra stadium filled with enthusiastic supporters to watch rugby, previously an unknown sport in Ghana. It only goes to prove that when there is a will, there is a way.
The Max Brito game was enough proof that Ghana sports needed passionate and dynamic leadership to take charge of the various disciplines to unearth the hidden talents and ignite national passion, as was displayed in 1995. However, such individuals can do only so much without state support.
It is time that the ministry led the fulfilment of the President’s vision of supporting all sports by ensuring that they get their share of budgetary support this year, coupled with the provision of adequate infrastructure across the country to reactivate dormant and orphaned sports.
Action definitely speaks louder than words.