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The woman with many parts

BY: George Ernest Asare
Madam Habiba Atta Forson

To those who consider Madam Habiba Atta Forson as the sole founder of Kumasi-based Fabulous Ladies Football Club, she is a mere football administrator striving to nurture and develop the potential of young ladies with the propensity to use football as a career.

Her schoolmates at Yaa Achiaa Girls and TI Ahmadiyya Secondary School in Kumasi at the basic and second cycle levels, respectively, regarded her as a versatile athlete who won medals at the local and international arenas.

Many who grew up with her during the formative period of women football, however, saw her as a lady who should have been an asset to the nation if women football had won the heart of Ghanaians as one of the pastimes sports disciplines in her hey days.

Others also perceived her as an astute coach who was instrumental in transforming former Black Stars and Asante Kotoko player Frimpong Manso from a striker into a stalwart defender.

Incidentally, intimate friends see in her the virtue of a philanthropist, ready to spend her last pesewa to support brilliant, needy young ladies to build their capacity more meaningfully to improve their standard of living.

Woman with many parts

Ironically, the mother of six who drives her players in their team bus from Kumasi throughout Ghana to honour league matches, was seen as a woman with many parts when the Daily Graphic caught up with her at her residence in Kumasi.

Considered as one of the most recognisable faces in women football with the passion to turn the fortunes of the sport around at the highest echelon before bowing out, Madam Habiba Atta, now the first to assume the women’s representative role on the enviable ExCo of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), started football administration after transforming the then Ashtown Ladies Football Club in Kumasi into Fabulous Ladies, almost four decades ago.

With her effort, she encouraged her peers to form similar clubs across the country to compete for honours.

Black Queens

The septuagenarian football administrator, who was vice chairperson of the Ashanti Regional Football Association, was instrumental in initiating the formation of the national women’s football team-The Black Queens- in 1992 and assumed the role as a team manager when Black Queens first appeared in the Women’s World Cup in the USA in 1999.

Her passion and experience in women football offered her an opportunity to serve as a committee member with all the female national football teams at various stages of her career.

Genesis of Fabulous Ladies

Recalling the genesis of Fabulous Ladies, she started in 1983 when Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) in Kumasi organised fun games for some Keep Fit clubs .

“After the fun games, I realised that some of the women had great potential in playing football. That was the genesis of women soccer.

This is because after the games, I realised that something should be done to nurture and develop the potential of ladies with skills in playing football.

“I therefore contacted the chairperson of Ashtown Ladies Social Club for us to form women football clubs, but she declined, so I started inviting ladies from the various suburbs of Asafo, Kwadaso, Bantama and Ashtown where we formed the Ashtown Ladies football Club,” she explained, adding that as a fan of Kotoko, she attached her club to Kotoko, hence Fabulous Ladies.

Maiden players

“Among players who constituted Fabulous Ladies included myself as a founder and skipper, Gladys Achiaa, Adwoa Konadu, Vivian Nelson, Mavis Addae Sarfo, Akosua Pepra, Dora Zuta , Judith Amoah, Joyce Gyimah, Elizabeth Kennedy, Esther Nti, Joyce Gyimah, Diana Appia, Cynthia Frimpong, Becky Boateng and Monica Abankwa,” she revealed.

“My players who have played for the Black Queens included Yaa Avoe, Habiba Sulema, Alice Kusi, Priscilla Okyere, Rita Yeboah, Rosemary Konadu, Amma Saabi, Portia Boakye, Agnes Esther Nti, Aduako, Zinabu Nabubie, Mercilia Amoah and Joyce Asamoah.”

She had also sponsored some of them to attain higher education in Ghana and abroad and so far over 20 of them had benefited from her philanthropic gesture.

“I have also offered them accommodation, fed and clothed them to motivate them to excel in their chosen career,” she noted.

Yaa Achiaa Girls

Recounting how she ventured into sports, Madam Habiba Atta who was a product of Ahmadiyya Secondary School in Kumasi, said “it started from Yaa Achiaa Girls Basic in Kumasi.

“In those days, I excelled in High Jump and other field events so much that I continued to nurture and develop my potential at Ahmadiyya in Kumasi where I represented Ghana during an annual games in Nigeria where I won bronze in High Jump” she recalled.

She said while in school, she also represented her region during National Sports Festivals, winning medals in High Jump, Javelin, Shot Putt and 4X 100 metres events.

During the First All Africa Games held in Congo Brazzaville in 1965, she was part of the team and won silver in High Jump.

Between 1962 and 1965, Madam Habiba Atta made a huge impact when she won the national High Jump event consecutively and set a national record in 1963 - a record which made waves for five years before it was finally broken.

In 1977, she won the regional tennis champion after bowing out from active athletics competitions.

At Kumasi Secondary Technical College (KISCO) where she was a staff and a coach, she was instrumental in turning former Black Stars and Kotoko players Frimpong Manso and George Kennedy into national assets.

Frimpong Manso

While she transformed Frimpong Manso from a striker into a formidable defender, she motivated George Kennedy to become one of the most potent strikers in Ghana.

She said in spite of the numerous challenges she had encountered in football, she was more determined to leave a legacy that would be cherished by the present and future generations.

Divine intervention

“ With the support of all my Exco members, women football would be placed at an enviable position that will entice young ladies with potential in football to yearn to nurture and develop their potential for their own benefits and Ghana.

“I introduced competitive women football in Ghana, but my role was not recognised when the game started gaining popularity, but with divine intervention, I have come on board at this stage of my life.

I will therefore collaborate with other stakeholders to transform women football into a well-endowed one to attract the best of talents to enable Ghana rub shoulders with the elite countries during international tournaments,” she assured.