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22.07.2002 Sports News

I did not withdraw in support of Coach - Monica Twum

By Monica Twum
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I want to take this opportunity to respond to the two articles about my withdrawal from the Commonwealth Games. First of all there is nothing personal about why I withdrew my participation from the games, and secondly it has not got much to do with me not being in shape. More important for my fellow Ghanaians to hear is that whoever said I withdrew from the Games BECAUSE I WAS SUPPORTING THE COACH WAS WRONG! I have never said any such thing to any one, that I was supporting the coach. Now to my loved ones in Ghana, especially my family, who have being so worried and disappointed about my decision to not go to the games; please understand my side of the story and understand that my action is not a boycott, but simply a withdrawal for good reasons. Ever since the first week of October 2000, when the team left the Olympic games village in Sydney, I have never heard a word nor received any communication from the GAAA or NSC, until May 20th 2002 (almost two years!). Whoever wants to judge me, please first ask the GAAA what happened between Oct, 2000 till May 2002 that made them not be able to contact me. Keep in mind that the year 2001 had some important international track meets like the World Championships. But guess what happened, I was not invited to go and participate, even though that year (last year), at that time of the season, I was the “ONLY” female Ghanaian athlete who had run the IAAF standard “A” qualifying mark for the women’s 100m. This was really painful and frustrating; to be qualified (and the only qualified one by the IAAF standard), and still left behind. I wondered why our best sprinter at that time was not selected. Yes, I was really hurt and my frustration was building up, but I don’t like using such words, so I told myself that life goes on, and I wouldn’t let the pull me down agents pull me down. As I mention above, nobody contacted me until May 20th, 2002, when Dr. Owusu-Ansah, the acting chief executive of the NSC. called me and assured me that they want me to go for the Commonwealth games. But in the conversation, he also made it clear to me that “the final team was as yet not selected, and that he would let me know when every thing was ready”. The next day, I got a call from Mr. Atuahene, the chief coach, supporting what Mr. Owusu Ansah had said, that I was selected. I was really excited because those calls to me were a relief of the tension that had built up in me for so long. I was ready to put the past behind and go and compete for the nation again. So, I sent a fax on May 22nd 2002, expressing my interest to go and compete for the nation and also my plans and all the information that would help them get back in touch with me. At that time I was enrolled in the first five-week summer session at school, and as Andrew Owusu said in his previous article, we have to enroll in summer school in order to get money for meals. So I made it clear in my fax to the officials that the best time for me to join the team was on 14th of July. But, guess what. Nobody contacted me until July 11th 2002, when Dr. Owusu Ansah called to tell me that he was going to send me a PTA to go to the airport and pick up my ticket to go to Manchester for the Commonwealth Games. Can those who want to judge my actions please just evaluate this situation. How can I, a Ghanaian or African just walk to the airport without a visa and tell the airlines that I am flying to England for the Commonwealth games. Now can the jury ask our officials what happened to the fax I sent them, and also whether they did or did not reply to my fax? Also I want to know if, by any chance, they have forgotten or have no idea that non-Americans, when traveling from one country to another, need travel documents that have a visa in them to prove that they are legal visitors to the country they want to go to. Even when a Ghanaian has to travel to a neighboring country like Benin, don’t they need a come documents to enter the country? How can I just even walk to the British embassy and tell them I have to go and run for my country Ghana therefore I demand for a visa, and want it in two days so I can be there by the 14th? You know what, everybody will think I am crazy. In short, I WAS NEVER CONTACTED in good time. I did not hear from the officials, and you know what, so I had to let my life go on. I got tired of waiting in hope, as my college track season had ended in the first week of June (and, trust me, even as at then I was hoping to go for the games). But how could I keep on training with nothing concrete to show that I was selected? Remember that Dr. Owusu-Ansah didn’t contact me with selection confirmation until July 11th. And, more importantly, remember that last year I had waited for Ghana and missed the other survival options here (like summer school) to do so. So, this year I couldn’t take the risk and when I didn’t hear anything concrete by the time our college season ended in the first week of June, I decided to hang up my spikes, because I did not get any responses from the officials. Probably, our officials have forgotten that people have lives ahead of them, and that we have to make concrete plans and choices so that our lives here don’t get messed up. We can’t afford to live from moment to moment, because this is real hard life I am talking about and not a soap opera. It is about time that our officials realize this aspect of our lives and change their attitudes toward their athletes. Life here is hard and we can survive only if we plan every detail properly. I can honestly say that throughout this track season, I never heard or even read anything showing the actual plans for the GAAA, for instance in the form of a yearly calendar. Normally, a yearly calendar is put out which the GAAA never keeps to, but this year even that was not sent out. Nothing! For one thing I believe the GAAA was established in order to take care of or be responsible for athletics and athletes whether they are in or out of the country, just as a government is responsible for the country’s citizens residents both inside and outside the country. Now my judges, listen to this: how can one live in one part of the world and say that he will be or work efficiently with someone who lives thousand miles away. For one thing I believe the Athletic Department of Ghana was establish in order to take care or be responsibly for is athletics from the country both internal and external, just as a government will take care or be responsible for her residents both inside the country and also outside the country. To me it looks like this long distance relationship between foreign base athletes and our officials or supervisors back home is not working, and is not helping anyone especially the foreign base athletes of Ghana. The way they are running the affairs of the country’s athletics so inefficiently, the choice we often have is to either respond to their last-minute planning and go to the Games, only to come back after the games and pay a price here for not organizing our affairs properly (missing summer school, although we had already signed up to go, which then makes teachers give you a grade of “F” for the summer classes), or to decline the last-minute invitation to go represent Ghana. What a difficult choice to give young people who either are students or professional workers with adult responsibilities in an efficient job system, where they can’t just leave impromptu without giving their bosses long enough notice about their coming absence from work. How can a worker who gets invited on July 11th, just leave work for two weeks? His boss will just fire him because, here, work (and school), is taken very seriously. So, GAAA, please realize that this is the real lives of people that you are playing with, and shape up your affairs or let someone else run them. This is one of the main reasons that we Ghanaian athletes, and I mean “we” as a collective body, decided to come together to elect leaders who will take care of our affairs outside the country just as an ambassador will do as a representative of his government, taking care of its people outside the country. Dr. Francis Dodoo (chairman), Andrew Owusu (secretary) and Aziz Zakari (treasurer) are our Ghana Athletes Association (GAA not GAAA) representatives and they speak for ALL of us. No one, including our officials, should take our unity lightly, or try to divide us, because we all know that these people are not just speaking for us, but they have our welfare at heart. Our Ghanaian sports officials have not showed us that they have our welfare at heart as much, because they drop us from selections unfairly (like I was not selected from last year’s World Championships even though because I was running so well, I thought and planned to go), and even when they select us they don’t give us enough notice of selection so that we can jeopardize our lives here if we accept their invitations. Francis, Andrew, and Aziz are not in this to take away anyone’s job. Dr. Dodoo for instance is a professor at big university here. It has also been very expensive for them to work for us, and they also spend a lot of their own time to do it. They are doing what they are doing just to help all of us come out and express our concerns. We want the people of Ghana to come in and help us deal with the corruption that is going on at the athletic section of the nation’s sports, so that we can perform the best for the country. We need fair selection to be done, and coaches and officials should not be selecting people on the basis that this person bought me a “cell phone” the last time so I am going to take him or her to the games, or this person is respectful because he or she will not argue even if I am cheating them or regardless of what goes on. Talking about respect, I am sure most of you readers can bear with me that at least 90% of boys or girls born and raised in Ghana know what it means to show respect to elders. But I don’t know how else our officials want us to show that we do respect them. When they drop us for no reason, do they expect respect? Perhaps if this is such a big deal, then there should be a clear level of respect written which they want the foreign based athletes to show them, so that whenever we break that, then we will all know we are at fault. But, I don’t think that is the issue. It could just be that they can’t stand foreign base athletes because we know and insist on our rights as based on our constitution. We don’t let them cheat us without questioning it, and when you question being cheated, you will be labeled disrespectful. They say we are not respectful because we tell them what is on our minds, and are not afraid that if I say this or that, then they will drop me from the team. They only want to take people who’s hands can remain in they the official’s mouths. Anyway, enough is enough. I only wanted to write to explain why I withdrew from participation. I think that Ghana athletics has to change drastically and we are going to rely on the officials of our athletes association to lead us in that effort. We all want to compete for our country and we also all want to compete at the major games because it benefits us financially and in terms of personal accolades. So, you should all please understand my decision to withdraw as being because I had no choice. If Ghana had got in touch with me quicker I could have come. To leave and go now, means I will fail the summer courses I have enrolled for, and not having trained since first week of June, I am sure I would only waste the country’s money, so I think the decision to not go is a patriotic one on my part. I love my country, and that is why I support my athletes association because with the help of Ghanaians they are going to help us improve athletics for the benefit of all Ghanaians, except those who have been holding it back. God bless our home land Ghana and make our nation great and strong. And God bless all of you!

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