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26.04.2002 Sports News

ATHLETICS: Why the Qualified Ones are not Selected

By Nana Kwame Antwi-Boasiako
ATHLETICS: Why the Qualified Ones are not Selected
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The recent announcement by Dr. Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah, Chief Executive Officer of the National Sports Council, regarding his short list of athletes who should be sent to the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, has confirmed the shady dealings about team selection and poor sports administration in Ghana indicated by Professor Francis Dodoo, University of Maryland, USA during an interview I had with him about a month ago. ANNOUNCEMENT Athletes I contacted about Owusu-Ansah's announcement are utterly surprised about the list and some have already given up any hope of the New Patriotic Party's "positive change" slogan translating into sports. They argue that the Sports Ministry still harbours some conservative individuals and any attempt to change the old ways of doing things seems impossible. According to Owusu-Ansah, athletes are selected by a competent games committee, which comprises representatives from the NSC, Ghana Olympics Committee (GOC), Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS) as well as chairmen and secretaries of all the participating disciplines. He went on to explain that the committee is guided strictly by the number of the contingent, and Ghana has decided, as he put it, to send only the best to the competition to enhance the nation's chance of winning medals at the games. He provided a provisional list of the athletes who have so far been identified as Aziz Zakari, Kenneth Andam, Abu Dua, Ernest Osei, Harry Adu Mfum, Margaret Simpson and Vida Anim. Owusu-Ansah said the selection was based on the athletes recent performances and ratings by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). Fortunately some Ghanaians have access to the Internet where they can find the performances of these athletes, or is Mr. Owusu-Ansah using different figures that the rest of the world is not aware of. When I spoke to Dodoo, he says the congregation of selectors assembled by Owusu-Ansah did absolutely nothing to justify the qualifications of the athletes. He thinks that, at least in athletics, selection is such an easy exercise to perform, and he gives a number of ways to do it fairly so that the best team would be chosen to represent Ghana. The problem though, Dodoo contends, is that fairness will undermine the system of patronage that benefits some officials. PAST GLORY Since the days of Sports Minister Ohene Djan in the 1960s, where Ghana, arguably, achieved most of its sports glories, sports administration has come under serious scrutiny. In fact, the minor sports in Ghana including hockey, volleyball, and golf do not attract any serious media attention, as individuals seem to manage these sports. On the contrary, the major sports, football, boxing, and track and field cannot hide under the shadow of the media. Conspicuously, athletics in Ghana have been mismanaged to such an extent that most of the talented athletes have either given up or spent more time fighting sports administrators to demand fairness. After winning, for the fifth time, the African cup in football in Libya in the early 1980s nothing of substance has been nationally achieved. Critics may refer me to some of the achievements made in boxing during the 1980s and 1990s, but my concentration is on the overall administrative mismanagement in NSC over the years and on athletics. I had the chance to talk with some athletes. PROFESSOR FRANCIS DODOO After almost 90 minutes of telephone interaction with Dodoo, it became clear to me that officials select their favourites to international games like Commonwealth and Olympic, but not those who actually qualify. Dodoo argued that the actions of the NSC with special reference to athletes are appalling. Dodoo, who is a nephew of President Kufuor, says his uncle rightfully has more pressing concerns than sports, but that one of his (Dodoo's) fears is that the shenanigans in sports are serious enough that they could end up undermining the values that the President stands for. CONCERNS In the same interview, Dodoo argued that the problems facing the NSC are solvable if only administrators would be interested in finding lasting structures to address issues of concern to athletes as a group. In so doing, he thought a primary step would be for Ghana to tap the resources of accomplished athletes, past and present, who have had the opportunity to hobnob with the larger structures of global sport that many of our officials are relatively ignorant about. OTHER VIEWS I drove to University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama to witness a Southern Athletics Conference competition last month. To my surprise I met a number of Ghanaian athletes including Ghana's current best triple jumper, Andrew Owusu. The athletes all had similar complaints about the poor selection criteria that the NSC adopts. One Ghanaian student from Arkansas bitterly complained that athletes are not treated fairly in Ghana. "Has the NSC lost touch with technology?" he asked me. This student who asked me not to use his name says some favourites of the officials manufacture their own times and jumping distances to the NSC. He argues that "instead of the NSC verifying such claims," they ignore the magic of the Internet. COMMUNICATION Julius Sedame, a graduate student in sports administration at Mississippi State University, who was a member of Ghana's contingent in the Atlanta games, expressed similar disappointment in the operations of the NSC. He called for the total overhauling of the NSC administration. Andrew Owusu in his piece "Why Athletics in Ghana must be overhauled" meticulously and chronologically explained the problems of sports administration in Ghana and provided some solutions to the problems he identified. Owusu said the lack of effective communication, misuse of the existing communication channels, and inappropriate selective communication between officials and specific athletes has always been the major reason for the multitude of problems plaguing athletics in Ghana. He noted that a major complaint from the Ghana Amateur Athletic Association has been the lack of reporting of performances by athletes (overseas) during the course of the season, and that when the athletes do report, some send in fictitious performances thereby compromising the selection process. CONCLUSION Every journalist, at least to the best of my knowledge, tries to present a balanced report. Unfortunately, my geographical location makes it impossible to contact Owusu-Ansah personally to get him to justify the basis of selection to Ghanaians. There is no official e-mail address for NSC through which I could even contact anyone. However, I did check all the websites and I am tempted to agree with the complaints of the athletes. Ghana currently continues to look back in the 1960s and talk about achievements in football. We are in a different century and, in fact, millennium, and we need to turn over a new leaf. I think the NSC administration needs a shake up. Our athletes train hard on their own to be a glory to both themselves and to us. As such, the minimum reward the nation can give them is transparent criteria of selecting the best and most qualified athletes for future games.

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