...Let's provide venues and facilities for it to grow
It was one comeback that will do the image of handball in the country a lot of good. Last week Thursday, when the national handball team walked off the court after a very entertaining game with Cote D'Ivoire trailing 26-29, the Black Hands, bronze medallists in the All Africa Games in South Africa in 1999, looked all but out of the next competition. But that is where skipper Anthony Odametey and his squad proved everybody wrong.
Playing to the tactics of coach George Bankole and Technical Director Gabriel Missodey, the Ghanaian men national team overwhelmed the Ivorians 29-21 to book their place in next year's continental championship as past of the All-Africa Games in Abuja, and left the large army of local fans at the Prisons handball Court in Accra, dancing into the night.
The chairman of the Handball Association of Ghana Benson T. Baba joined the merry making and promised a special training package for the squad in preparation for the Abuja championship.
The Ghanaian women, though were not that adventurous losing 38-14 to their Ivorian counterparts who reveled in their world cup performance recently. The visitors also won the first game 30-19.
The Ghanaian men's team gave a vintage performance that should stand the team in a very good stead. For a game born outside the gate of the Accra Sports Stadium in the late 1970s handball has come a long way and can confidently pride itself as a medal-winning event for this country. Unfortunately, officialdom does not appear to put much premium on its potential.
There are not many handball courts even in the national capital. As for the regions, courts are engendered facilities. The result has been very poor preparation ahead of this championship.
While Cote D'Ivoire arrived from a stint at the handball world cup, the Ghanaian squad had to contend with training sessions at the Prisons Court. Handball courts slated to be constructed at Kpando in the Volta Region for a national handball championship have never gone beyond the drawing board.
In spite of the number of times the Member of Parliament for the area Akua Dansua has raised the issue in Parliament, the authorities at the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the district Assembly have not been able to put their heads together to complete the project. Handball courts do not cost much to construct. As a matter of fact, it is one of the cheapest games to organize. It is the paradox of sports promotion in the country that the cheapest game to promote rather suffers from lack of attention in a nation, which is financially challenged. Instead, officialdom prefers to throw money at events that are more expensive to organize.
Since its baptism in 1977, handball has depended on the philanthropic gesture of individuals. In all fairness, the father of handball is E.T, Kwashie, former Managing Director of Tesco and one-time Chairman of Accra Great Olympics. As Director of Great Fingers, the pioneer handball club in the country, Kwashie, dubbed 'Sharp Sharp' for his ability to bail out sportsmen and women at short notice poured his personal money to provide equipment for Great Fingers and got the team on the international trail along the West Coast of Africa.
At that point in time, Great fingers training grounds, which also served as the venue for international matches was outside the wall of the Accra Sports Stadium at the Osu end. The court outside the stadium served as incentive for sports loving people passing by to get a feel of handball.
One thing that goes for the game is that once you get a feel of it, you do not want to lose the excitements. People flocked to matches at the stadium, while boys and girls from Osu became the first recruits for the game. Today, most of technical officials are the early birds the game caught. The game in turn repaid those who flocked to it. Most of them gained employment with Fire Service, Prisons and the Police Service. They all had a rallying point in the court outside the wall at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Unfortunately, the court was destroyed when the contractors involved in the renovation of the Accra Sports Stadium in readiness for CAN 2000 used the grounds for purposes other than its original use. That affected the game to such an extent that the women's game especially have never recovered.
While looking forward to the participation of Ghana in the All Africa Games, it would be the opportune time for the National Sports Council and the Ministry of Youth and Sports to re-open the court. It will offer an excellent rallying point for Operation Abuja.
In the interim, a number of issues should engage the attention of the Handball Association of Ghana and the Ghana Olympic Committee, which is expected to facilitate the nation's participation in the All Africa Games.
There ought to be a number of friendly internationals with teams along the West Coast to make the team battle ready for Abuja. There is every evidence that the men team will go places. But it needs exposure to make it really gel.
The women's outfit needs a lot of attention. Watching them play, one longed for the early days when Christiana Dodoo, Angelina Shang, Grace Omaboe and others made the game proud. HAG should interest the schools in handball and the game will make the average Ghanaian sports fan proud. Kudos to the boys. They have done this nation proud. At a time football, athletics, professional and amateur boxing are in the lean season, it is a nice feeling to learn that the baby game is now on the move.