O.B. Amoah The National Democratic Congress (NDC) government has been tasked by the Minority Caucus in Parliament to build on the enviable and rich sports legacy of the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime.
Responding to President Mills' State of the Nation address on sports, former Deputy Minister for Education, Science and Sports, Hon. O. B. Amoah, on behalf of the Minority, noted that Ghana has since independence identified sports as a public function, adding, “That is a big challenge to the government of President Mills”.
Whilst congratulating President Mills on delivering his maiden address to the nation, the former Deputy Minister urged the President to continue to invest in sports and recreation, which have contributed to the economic growth of the country.
Sports, according to Hon. Amoah who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Aburi-Nsawam constituency in the Eastern Region, further promote unity and integration, noting that the first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah used sports to project a positive image for Ghana throughout Africa, the Commonwealth and the whole world.
He said it was in line with this that ex-President J. A. Kufuor saw sports as very crucial to Ghana's development and made huge investments in the sector, which has yielded impressive dividends for the country.
The NPP government's investment in sports, according to Hon. Amoah, aided Ghana to host one of the best organized African Cup of Nations and at the end of the tournament, Ghana, in addition to winning bronze, became number one in Africa and 14th in the World on FIFA's ranking, which was quite unprecedented in the country's soccer history.
“Thanks to the tournament, the regional airports in Takoradi, Tamale and Kumasi have been upgraded to handle international flights,” he added.
These investments, according to Hon. Amoah have enabled Ghana sports to blossom with the country being recognized as a sports loving nation.
Mentioning some of the dividends from the investments by the Kufuor Administration, the former Deputy Education, Science and Sports Minister said Ghana won silver at the U-20 world Youth Championship in Argentina with players like Essien, Muntari, Painstil, John Mensah and Pappoe.
Again, at the All Africa Games in Abuja in 2003, Ghana won the highest number of medals in its history with 25 medals in athletics, boxing, soccer, weightlifting, hockey, table tennis and disabled sports.
Furthermore, in August 2005, for the first time in the history of athletics in Ghana, the nation won silver and bronze medals through Ignatius Gaisah and Margaret Simpson at the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Helsinki.
“Indeed, Gaisah became the first Ghanaian athlete to be ranked second in long jump in the whole world when he won Gold at the 11th IAAF World Indoor Championship in Moscow on 11th March, 2006,” Hon. Amoah added.
He further recalled that at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia in 2006, Ghana's medal haul was the best for the country in 36 years of the participation, adding that “all these achievements were rewarded with fantastic bonuses and incentives”.
All these achievements, Hon. Amoah noted, were climaxed with the national soccer team, the Black Stars breaking the shackles of mediocrity and years of disappointments by qualifying for the 2006 World Cup in Germany where the team conquered mighty USA and Czech Republic, becoming the only African country among five representatives to move past the group stages of the competition.
“Subsequently, Joseph Agbeko and Joshua Clottey are World Boxing Champions and the state in 2008 rewarded these boxers with saloon cars for lifting high Ghana's flag”.
Hon. Amoah noted that school sports is very active at the basic, secondary and colleges levels with regular annual competitions, adding that the construction of stadia across the country should provide the arena to unearth talents for major competitions.
He said the challenge to President Mills' government is to build on this legacy, saying, “Ghana must qualify for the 2010 World Cup; the Cape Coast Stadium started by President Kufuor must be completed”.
Hon. Amoah emphasized among others that the Sports Bill, which has already been completed, must be passed to modernize sports and make the various associations more effective and democratic.
“The provision of facilities such as multi-purpose courts, sports halls, stadia, etc., to further develop sports in our educational institutions must be of paramount interest to the government,” Hon. Amoah suggested.
By Awudu Mahama