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22.07.2003 Boxing

Azumah Speaks, Who Listens?

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A simple but significant event took place at the Efua Sutherland Children's Park in Accra last Saturday, with boxing great Azumah Nelson at the centre of it all.

It was a unique occasion when the legend of African boxing amplified his simplicity by opting to celebrate his 45th birthday with the most vulnerable in society, children, some without known parents.

For a man who has seen it all, competed at the highest level of sports and continues to enjoy the status of a global celebrity, it is significant that the people who still matter in Azumah's life are deprived children.

Ordinarily, the popping of Champagne and big proposal of toasts by aristocrats in dinner jackets would have marked such an occasion.

But as a testament to his humility and sense of history, Azumah chose none of those. Rather, he slipped into his track suit and running shoes, joined hundreds of children in sports gear and, in their midst, demonstrated child-like instincts in various games and boxing and ate with them.

His guests, ranging between the ages of six and 14, comprised children who may not have witnessed any of those monumental ring events, which placed Azumah among the elites in boxing history.

For most of them, the name connotes a fairy-tale in Ghana's distant past. Yet, the enthusiasm with which they fell over each other just to feel his body and presence showed how relevant he still is to them.

Nothing could have been more appropriate therefore that in his birthday message, Azumah Nelson associated himself with the plight of the Ghanaian child and made a few suggestions to the authorities to enhance their well-being.

An aspect of Azumah's message, which we wish to re-echo, is his call on the authorities to provide more sports and recreational facilities for children.

Using himself as example, he made the point that, if well understood and developed, sports has the capacity to rescue many poor children from vices such as drug abuse, crime and poverty.

Azumah has spoken in words and has proven by action where the sympathies of society ought to be directed. And from an ambassador with such strong appeal to the youth, it is up to the authorities to listen.

In Ghana, officialdom has earned notoriety for ignoring the roles and value of our national heroes and role models and celebrates them only after their death.

The great spirit in Azumah will wait for such thing. He has therefore created his own platform among children.

Those with eyes and ears must see and listen.

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