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28.07.2003 Sports News

Kufuor's Date At Swag Awards

By Ebo Quansah
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According to an Akan idiomatic expression, no one points to the father's village with the left hand. But there are compelling reasons to point to Ghana sports with the left hand and pronounce it rotten. There is no discipline of sports where results have been encouraging. In some cases, the events have ceased to be mentioned as an existing discipline of sports.

Not many Ghanaians remember that swimming has been competitive in this country before and that cricket was a very competitive event in this country.

We are slowly approaching a blind alley in almost all disciplines of sports in Ghana. The fact that there is nothing happening with barely two months to the All-Africa Games tells much about the decadence in our sports promotion.

Facilities are not up to scratch. Administrators are not updating their knowledge of sports development and promotion. The technical team is failing to match the rest of the world, while our sports men and women have grown to be apathetic to national cause.

In a nutshell, sports promotion and development in Ghana are approaching crisis proportions. The defeat by Uganda and Rwanda in the 2004 African Cup of Nations preliminaries sums up how low this nation has sunk in sports.

The reasons for this sunken image are many. Infrastructure in this country does not come up to scratch. Facilities are appalling, officials are stale in their knowledge of modern trend in sports, policies are not directing the game towards the right route while competition with our neighbours which aided the growth of the various disciplines is far in between.

In effect, Ghana sports need a lift and appropriately, the President of the Republic, John Agyekum Kufuor will do exactly that when the Sports Writers Association of Ghana host the 28th Annual Awards Ceremony at the Banquet Hall of the State House on Saturday, August 2.

With such a sunken image what can the President do to get sports back on track? The first assignment is to lay down policy guidelines for sports promotion to follow. For instance, we would like to know the state of the new sports law that should replace the supreme Supreme Military Council Decree 330, which still recognizes sports promotion in this country as purely amateur event. In this age, when sports have become big business, it is anachronistic that the supreme law of the land governing the promotion of sports recognizes the event that ensures a sound mind in a sound body as amateur.

Some of us expect the Father of the nation to instruct the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sports to get the National Sports Council to revive the National Sports Festival. The sports festival, which begins with district and regional competition, was one major source of unearthing talents.

The revival of the sports festival must go in tandem with the re-organization of bilateral and zonal competitions. Until the championships were abolished after the Accra competition in 1975, the Ghana-Nigeria Sports Festival offered a great avenue for the two nations to prepare her sports men and women for international competitions.

Apart from the purely sporting nature of the competition, the Ghana-Nigeria Sports Festival worked towards bringing the youths of the two nations together.

So were the Ghana/Ivory Coast Friendship Games. While the games aided Cote D'Ivoire to improve on her athletics and football for instance, the competitive nature of the games boosted Ghana handball, basketball and volleyball.

With these games in the sidelines, there is not much by way of international competitions to test the battle readiness of Ghanaian sports men and women. Many have to travel long distances abroad to get international exposures. Those unable to travel remained in this country and became stale.

One would want the President to lay the ground rules on schools and colleges sports. Times were when schools competitions drew thick crowd to the various centres. As a matter of fact, when I joined the sporting media as a young reporter with Ghanaian Times, one event I never missed reporting, no matter the venue was schools sports competition.

The collapse of school sports has had an adverse effect on sports promotion in this country generally. The policy of organizing school sports every other year helps no one and I expect the President to lay the ground rules.

One expects the Head of State to talk about rewarding companies and individual philanthropists who put their money in sports by announcing a tax rebate of considerable value. In a situation like Ghana, where the Government cannot shoulder the huge sports bill, it stands to reason to encourage private investment in sports promotion.

Of course, no amount of policy would work when we continue to use Second World War facilities. It is a shame that the state of Ghana boast of only two standard stadia - both constructed in the 1950s. The Accra Sports Stadium was constructed by the colonial government following the findings by the Coussey Commission that lack of recreational avenues was one of the main reasons why the 1948 disturbances was that devastating.

The logic was that with a recreational avenue to occupy the youth, they would not be easy prey to those who wanted to use them for their own purposes.

It is a shame that in the run-up to such a major event like the All-Africa Games, this nation has been unable to put up a single athletic competition to test the games preparedness of our track and field team. The reason could be found in the state of the running tracks in Accra and Kumasi. Both facilities were put up in the run-up to the 1978 African Cup of Nations hosted by this country. In effect, the tracks, meant to last for not more than 10 years are now a quarter of a century old.

Something ought to be done and pretty quickly.

The 500 guests who will throng the Banquet Hall and million others who will follow the proceedings though the media will be to glad to hear plans the government has put in place to provide infrastructure and facilities.

The award itself is the biggest single event on the sporting calendar. That the Father of the Nation will mount the rostrum to re-launch Ghana sports has added another dimension to an already mouth-watering event. For the first time in the 28-year history of the awards, the Sports Personality of the Year will be conferred on a woman.

Margaret Simpson, who won Ghana's lone medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester last year and went on to win the heptathlon in the African Athletics Championship in Cairo barely two weeks after the event will fly from her base in Mauritius, where she is training at a school for athletics excellence and mount the rostrum to be decorated by President Kufour. Our understanding is that Margaret will receive various items donated by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs as encouragement to our women folks to take to sports.

Charles Taylor, who has become the subject of a tussle between Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko and got the Ghana Football Association's contact line with the Federation of International Football Associations busy, will take home the Footballer of the Year award.

According to the Sports Writers Association of Ghana, the presentation will be over a buffet dinner to be hosted by Ambar Royal Cuisine. The Marriots International Dance Band, exponents of authentic highlife music will provide music for those itching feet to take to the floor.

The event is strictly by invitation. People without invitation cards need not try to enter. They will be thrown out. Sponsors of the event, according to a SWAG statement, include Western Union Money Transfer, Nestle (Ghana) Limited, Akosombo Textiles Company Limited, Bamson Company Limited and a host of donors.

List of Award Winners

Sports Personality of the Year - Margaret Simpson

Athlete of the Year - Margaret Simpson

Male Footballer of the Year - Charles Taylor

Goalking - Charles Taylor/Bernard Don Bortey

Pro Boxer of the Year - James Toney

Team of the Year - Black Queens

Top Scoring Club - Accra Hearts of Oak

Most Promising Star - Kwadwo Poku

Discovery of the Year - Jordan Opoku (Feyenord -Fetteh)

Hockey Star of the Year - Patrick Taylor

Volleyball Star of the Year - Edward Seidu Adjanako Addo

Female Footballer of the Year - Florence Okoe

SPECIAL AWARDS

Nestle (Ghana) Ltd Contribution to the development of sports

Oko Niikoi Dzani Contribution to the development of hockey

NDK Financial Services Supporting the promotion of hockey

King Tony Akwetey Running and completing marathon at age of 72.

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