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02.09.2004 Sports News

EDITORIAL: We Need a New Sporting Agenda

By Chronicle

FOR A very long time now, international honours in any sporting discipline has eluded this country and gradually, Ghana is losing her lustre as a shining example of African sporting excellence.

Our dismal performance during the just-ended 28th Olympiad has only reinforced this perception and the teeming sports lovers of this country are at their wits' end as to when Ghana will once again regain her past sporting glories.

And what a glorious past we have had! Those old enough to remember the brilliance of our Black Stars now shudder when they see the present crop of players falling all over themselves simply to qualify for major tournaments. Those were the days when the name "Black Stars" sent our opponents into catatonic states of submission.

The Aggrey Fynns, Baba Yaras, Abdul "Golden Boy" Razaks and others too numerous to mention, lifted the flag of Ghana high. They were humble, patriotic and not money-crazed. For them, playing for the nation was honour enough and the government also reciprocated by giving them the best possible treatment and incentives. So the Black Stars shone brightly in the firmament of African soccer. Four times we won the Africa Cup of Nations.

In track and field, Ghana small though she was in population terms, was able to produce world- class athletes like Rose Hart, Alice Anum, Stanley Allotey, Mike Ahey, Ohene Frimpong, the list is long.

Similarly in the fistic sport of professional boxing, Ghana rose to dizzying heights. Azuma Nelson ruled the featherweight class till he himself decided to quit. And this was on the world stage! His role models were the Eddie Blays, Floyd Klutei Robertsons, David Kotei Poisons who blazed the boxing trails for him to follow - right to the very top, the pinnacle of the world.

These great athletes all contributed their quota to making Ghana known around the world as a great sporting country in spite of our seemingly perennial poverty. Somehow we always managed, when it came to the crunch, to dig a little deeper into our reserves of resilience, sacrifice and endeavour to "die a little for Ghana."

Sadly, it would seem that those days of greatness are gone forever, or at best, lost in the hailstorm of commercialism and greed. Today, the sports have become big-time business.

The Chronicle has absolutely nothing against the professionalism that has engulfed the sporting world. Indeed many things make that progression even welcome since that brings out the best in people and makes the competition keener and better. Is it not a delight to watch two thoroughly professional soccer teams battling it out for 90 minutes?

What gets our goat, however, is the nonchalant, wishy-washy, half-hearted approach we have become adept at, whenever it comes to managing our sports. This attitude where during major international assignments, we end up sending more officials than athletes; where the "big men" decide who should play or feature, against the wishes of the coach; where the overworked sportsmen are even denied the little they have toiled for; and worst of all, are left to fend for themselves when they get injured in the line of duty.

How on earth do we expect our youth to "die a little" for their nation? Does it make sense, especially considering the deprived backgrounds most of our sportsmen spring from, to sacrifice all for their nation when nobody gives one hoot for their welfare?

Pretty soon, we can safely predict, a lot of our budding sportsmen and women will choose to naturalize in other countries where their needs will be taken care of, too well. The process has already started with Kenyans and Nigerians leading the way.

We must not be surprised, the day we see a Kojo Frimpong running, playing or boxing in Hong Kong colours! And until our government realizes the huge potential of sports in moulding national character and positively reinforcing the national psyche; until our leaders become a little more open-minded; until much more resources are put into sports development and administration, that day will not be far off.

The Chronicle urges the government to take a long, hard look at the whole gamut of sports in Ghana and come out with a bold and new vision so that this sports-loving country can begin to win some international laurels.

It has been such a long time coming since we tasted the sweetness of success. Much too long!

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