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16.06.2004 Sports News

Comments must be fair to our sportsmen

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(By Richard Avornyotse, GNA Sports Desk)

Accra, June 16, GNA - The performances of a country's sportsmen and women bring joy and sorrow to its nationals depending on the type of results they achieve. When they distinguish themselves, the whole nation celebrates and for sometime, burning national issues are forgotten as sports dominates discussions in street corners and pubs.

When the result is negative, the national psyche is devastated and minor issues could be magnified to point to the inefficiency of the system and particularly, those who are charged with the responsibility of organising and supervising sports in the country.

In Ghana, the liberalisation of the airwaves and the consequent proliferation of radio stations have raised the platform at which comments are made concerning the output of our athletes. Our radio presenters and their listeners who phone in now have the chance to make comments to a heterogeneous audience.

Just as the newspapers, the radio stations have great believability in the minds of the audience. The people believe that anything which comes out of a radio set or appears on the pages of newspapers is the truth and nothing but the truth. They inform their friends who missed that particular radio programme or newspaper comment and the information soon spreads like wild fire.

It is in the light of the above that it becomes imperative for everybody to be circumspect of the kind of comments one makes concerning the performances of people who hoist the national flag at international sports meetings.

While it behoves us journalists to comment on the performances of our sportsmen and women and praise or criticise where necessary, it has become the habit of some of us to make comments without recourse to the manner in which a Ghanaian athlete fared in an event.

A case in point is the way some of our colleagues of the radio fraternity vilified and derogated Kpakpo Allotey on some of their programmes when he lost to Craig Docherty of Scotland in a WBC International title fight in Glasgow last month, even though they had not watched the film.

I was privileged to watch the film soon after it arrived in the country from the UK last week and from my objective point of observation, Kpakpo's performance did not deserve the kind of derogatory comments that emanated from some of our radio stations. A particular radio presenter from a station located at Laterbiokoshie in Accra described the fight and made mockery of Kpakpo's pre match boast that he would win the title for Ghana. He even quoted some demands Kpakpo had made after he was "annihilated."

It is indeed sad and unfortunate that a person who is charged with the responsibility of informing and educating the people should stoop so low and ridicule a brave Ghanaian who lost the chance to annex a world title in the most bizarre manner.

From what I saw, Kpakpo was no push over for Craig and when referee John Kean stopped the fight in the sixth round, almost everybody at the venue of the fight including the Sky Television commentator was surprised because Kpakpo was not in any danger and it was indeed Kpakpo who threw the last punch before the stoppage.

There was a slight cut on the left eyebrow of the Ghanaian but it neither bled nor impaired his vision. Kpakpo had fought Docherty fiercely for as long as the fight lasted. His only blemish was his immobility in the fourth round when he decided to rest on the ropes and trade punches.

Having watched Docherty's previous defence against Malik Jabir, another Ghanaian, in which the Scot bled profusely from a deep cut in the first round but which he won through a unanimous decision, Kpakpo's cut was a child's play and the stoppage was clearly a homeboy decision. The fight report in Metro Sports, a Scottish tabloid confirmed by objectivity as it described the stoppage as "a surprise."

Though it is incumbent upon us journalist to do critical analysis of events and inform our audience accordingly, we must endeavour to inform ourselves adequately about events because it is only then that we would be in a position to do detailed analysis and proffer measures to correct the inadequacies of our sportsmen. We should encourage them even if they fail and reassure them that there would always be another chance.

After all the legendary Azumah Nelson who has just been inducted into the Hall of Fame lost his first opportunity to become a world champion via a stoppage by the late Salvador Sanchez. Needless to say that Azuma returned and sat on the featherweight and super feather thrones for more that 10 years.

We must try as much as possible as journalist to encourage our sportsmen and women instead of using the mass media to taunt, castigate, derogate and vilify them. They are our ambassadors who can bring honour and fame to mother Ghana. Kpapko was robbed and every Ghanaian must sympathise with him. Just a little bit of patriotism, please. Keep shooting!