I was at the Kotoka International Airport on Friday to welcome Olympics bronze medalist Samuel Takyi and his teammates. I was amazed at the massive reception.
It was worth it, especially considering where Takyi came from and the hardship he and his teammates endured during their preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Remembering all that put a smile on my face as I watched the young hero receive adulation for what he has achieved within his short amateur career.
At the very least, Takyi’s accomplishment proved to the Ghana government and all officials that, with a little push, Ghana can win more hardware at such prestigious competitions.
One other moment that caught my attention at the airport was Takyi meeting his parents. There was pride in their eyes and the sentiment was returned.
Takyi’s arrival overshadowed others who came with him, including his trainers, Kwasi Ofori Asare and Vincent Akai Nettey. While the crowd flocked to Takyi, Asare and Nettey watched from a close distance, perhaps pondering the old saying: “Success comes with so many friends.”
Takyi’s victory ended Ghana’s 29-year medal-less streak at the Olympics. Naturally, authorities, who just three months ago couldn’t tell the difference between Samuel Takyi and Samuel the prophet, were at Kotoka eager to hijack his success.
As has been repeated ad nauseum, boxing has brought Ghana four of her five Olympic medals – not to mention nearly all of its professional sporting acclaim, from DK Poison to Azumah Nelson to Ike Quartey…the list goes on.
Yet the sport is shamefully disregarded by the powers that be.
I was privileged to be in close contact with the national boxing team, the Black Bombers, as they prepared for the Olympics. The lack of funding, infrastructure and support was embarrassing. The Bombers struggled through it. Thus, Takyi’s success can be largely attributed to his own determination.
Yet, last Friday there were the gleeful authorities, the same figures who neglected these athletes during their preparation, now on hand to bask in the glory of their success.
So many boxers in Ghana have been forced to turn pro because of the lack of a supported amateur programme. They do so prematurely, unprepared for what awaits them at the next level and ultimately never reach their potential.
These are boxers could have won the nation medals, could have become successful pros, if only the government had invested in them.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Ghana must examine countries such as the USA and Cuba, nations who continually dominate the medal zone in Olympic boxing. These countries have well-structured amateur systems that were set up by arms of the government. With that in place, they can attract sponsors, with the government supporting them as they shape prospects into future champions.
In Ghana, boxers are left to fend for themselves. Imagine a parent with the capability to send her children to school with the books and pens, yet neglecting to do so. Such is the case with the Ghana government. Amateur boxers learn without proper funding and when it is time to be tested in competitions they usually fail.
Even worse, these boxers aren’t just fighting for glory. They are fighting for their next meal as amateurs do not receive monetary rewards.
Boxing has proved itself over the years, consistently raising the flag of Ghana high. A little investment could bring far more fortune to the country, but how can one reap if they don’t sow?
I propose that amateur fighters be given monthly stipends which will allow them to concentrate on their craft.
In Cuba, professional boxing is not allowed. The government takes sole responsibility for all their fighters, a move targeted at adequately preparing them for international competitions.
If Ghana can adopt such a policy, the country will win more medals at the 2024 Olympics in France—and much more.