Ghana Sports beyond football.

Author: Kwame Larweh
Sports Minister, Isaac Asiamah

I may sound like a broken record, but recent events have left me frightened about the prospects of sports in the country. I have conceded that it’s game-off for the discipline in this country because all our political leaders since I was born have shown disinterest in growing and developing the physical activity, but as an optimist, I believe a smart one may come one day and pay attention to sports. But that maybe a dream for now.

 This year has been one eventful sporting year I have ever witnessed in my entire life. Majority of sporting disciplines had their world events held this year.

To mention a few, we had the Volleyball World Cup male and female, Beach-volleyball World Cup, Basketball World Cup, IAAF World Athletics Championships, Cricket World Cup, Rugby World Cup, Swimming World Championships and Table Tennis World Championships.

On the continent, the Africa Cup of Nations was held and the African Games also took place. In the world events mentioned above, we were minutely represented while in the African Games, we also moderately took part.

Needless to say the sports industry in America generates 60 to 80 billion dollars for the American economy. That is twice the worth of the entire Ghanaian economy.

Football Jinx
Since time immemorial,  football or soccer as the Americans call it has been the mainstay of Ghana’s sporting industry. It is the heartbeat and passion of the nation.

Varied successes have been chalked up in relation to the sport. The game has given us a World Cup at the Under-17 and 20 levels, a bronze at the Olympics and four Africa titles.

We have been consumed by football, both men and women, we love the sport, it gives us as much pleasure as it gives us pain.
Our love for the sport has however come at a very great cost to us, our livelihood, our economy and to a larger extent, the many other sporting disciplines.

It appears we, as a nation, have been jinxed to give regard to football only and no other sporting discipline aside football.

Even as we try to have minimum concentration for these other sports, the apathetic and disinterest approach we adopt towards these disciplines at the highest level of authority tells me something is amiss and football maybe or is our only sport.

History favoured other sports
Our history, however, after independence shows  a deliberate effort by our first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah to grow, develop and promote athletics, boxing, volleyball, basketball, hockey, table tennis, tennis, badminton, cricket , etc.

Another leader who made a deliberate effort to develop other sports aside football was the Late Ignatius Kutu Acheampong. And history proves that with his massive sporting infrastructure across the country.

We have had great athletes in track and field, boxing, volleyball, table tennis, tennis and basketball.

Vested Interest
The issue of concentration on football may not be surprising when one stretches his or her head over the fence to see the truth.
It is the pursuit of money and how fast you arrive at that. Other sporting disciplines don’t fetch that much in Ghana as football.

But then, the question must be will other sporting disciplines fetch as much money as football if they are well-catered for? The answer is obvious.

Lipservice paid to remaining disciplines
The other sporting disciplines minus football has received disrespect, disinterest and apathy from officialdom. Over the past 20 years, other sporting disciplines have received nothing but low financing, neglect, lack of infrastructure and mismanagement from successive governments.

The irony is that, while we hoped for medals in the African Games and the just-ended IAAF World Athletics Championship other serious African countries are fast producing medals, our hopes remain a hopeless dream or ambition.

At the recently held African Games, the Sports Ministry chose to go with fewer athletes despite Ghana being the next host nation. The lame excuse was that there wasn’t enough funds. The National Sports Authority(NSA) added on to this excuse by saying they were only taking athletes who were medal hopefuls.

Sad to say, it was one of our most disastrous African Games we had participated in ever. In fact, we had fewer medals than we did in Congo, Brazzaville, four years ago.

In boxing, which was one of our marquee events where we had medals most, we had to make do with a disappointing fourth place consolatory bronze.

In athletics, the decade-long fracas over who has control over the sport and what is appropriate for the sport’s future travelled with the athletes to Rabat.
In table tennis, taekwondo, judo and fencing, we hardly made it past the next stages. Our medal hopes were gone from the start.

Problems of Least-financed sporting disciplines
These least-financed sporting disciplines which have been neglected by government also have some innate problems of their own. There is the leadership problem in all these sporting federations. Aside the non-existence of infrastructure bedevilling these disciplines, the chairmen and presidents of these disciplines hardly take these sports seriously.

These federation heads see the sport they oversee and supervise as a personal hobby, a recreational venture and an avenue to scrape some few cedis into their account through foreign travels with the national teams and local clubs.

The zeal and knack to dedicate their time for their respective disciplines and concentrate on hunting and developing talents is non-existence.

The excuse for them is that, they owe their living  through their personal jobs since the Sports Ministry and the government do not pay them for being sports federation heads.

Most of these heads  have little or no interest in the sports they supervise. Their only interest is to travel with the disciplines abroad and make some few per diems.

Irrespective of that, a greater responsibility is on the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS) and duty bearers to make sports a serious business in Ghana that can generate income, employ a good number of people and serve as a source of employment for the myriad of youth in the country.

 There must be a deliberate effort by the head of state to channel resources to undertake massive sports infrastructure and embrace the discipline as part of our national identity.

No way forward
Suffice to say that It is evidently clear that the state and its leadership doesnt seem to be interested in developing sports. For the past two decades, there has been no deliberate attempt to make sports as part of our national fabric.

Ours is ‘Talk Only No Action’(TONA); Ours is politics in the morning, afternoon and evening; Ours is delusions of grandeur.
The flip side of the coin is that we admire the American athletes, the Jamaicans, the Cubans and the Germans.

We dream of being like them, we have mirages of our flag being hoisted high at an Olympic event and our national anthem being played, we hallucinate over how great we have swimmers at Chorkor and Cape Coast and on the sea side but who can never swim in a pool.

But the stark reality is that we are a ‘third world’ country of talkers, losers and cowards. In fact, there is no way forward for Ghana Sports development.

Situation remains the same
There is a talk of ten mini sports complexes being constructed across the country. That is for political expediency. There is no genuine effort to accentuate these facilities to tie in with a national development goal towards attaining a first-class sports country.

The future appears bleak for sports in the country; a decade from now  and I bet  someone else will repeat this same piece in a different form. We are just helpless and hopeless.