17.09.2004 Sports News

Our Sports authorities’ fatuous intransigencies

By Henry K. Kwenin Jnr
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It is quite pernicious and unfortunate the way our sports administrators never seem to learn from our continuing attrition and demise in the sporting world. Since I actively began to follow Ghana sports, I have come to realize that many of our failures in tournaments and the Olympic Games have always been attributed to disputes - among officials and senior players forming camps (as we were made to believe with the Black Stars in Tunisia 94) , non payment of wages and sheer inanity.

Suffice to say, after we return home from tournaments with these disgraceful results, we start looking for scapegoats and make all the noise we can in radio phone-in programmes but still return to make the same mistakes. How long will we sit down and allow this insidious trend to continue? The Olympic Games As to what really happened to our athletes at the Games, only the Good Lord can tell us. But why do we always return from games and begin name calling of our athletes. Let's begin in Sydney 2000 where we went to the Games with a preposterous number of officials compared to athletes and still failed to register James Toney in time for his fight (I stand to be corrected) – because I guess the responsible official had gone window shopping in the streets of Sydney but he (Toney) was later called a “foodian” for missing the weigh-in or whatever formality there was to be done. There was also talk of unpaid per diems whiles our Nigerian counterparts for instance got their monies on time – as reported by the Graphic Sports newspaper after the Sydney Games.

The national Olympic football team the Black Meteors arrived in Athens with officials almost the same number as the 18 man squad – for whatever reason, nobody knows. And it still baffles me how Aziz Zakari pulled up hurt in the 100m final with an apparent “injury” after doing so well in the heats. I guess we can all recollect that a similar situation occurred in Sydney 2000 and why do I question this “injury”? Paradoxically, a few days later, he clocked a respectable 10.04 sec in the 100m at an IAAF Grand Prix meeting (not bad for an athlete who pulled out of the Olympic Games 100m final a few days earlier) and was second to the vastly impressive and ever improving Asafa Powell of Jamaica who run a lifetime best of 9.88sec and set a Jamaican national record in the process. I watched that race on television and were it not for a sluggish reaction to the starting gun, Aziz would have equaled his personal best of 10.00 of even lowered it.

Exactly a week after the Games, the vivacious Aziz clocked an impressive 10.18 in another IAAF meet (impressive because they run against a strong headwind) again placing second only to Asafa Powell and also beating the world champion Kim Collins. I have no qualms with Aziz Zakari but all I am deducing here is the fact that “maybe and I repeat maybe”, he had his own reasons for pulling out of the Olympic Games “injured”. Some people may argue that if this is true, then he is not patriotic but please it is high time we did something extra for our sportsmen to “die a little for our nation” as we say.

Change of nationality If we can all recall vividly, Africa won no medal in the 100m final at the games though we had a Francis Obwikwelu winning silver. As I believe we all know, he deserted Nigeria to compete for Portugal so the medal went to Europe.

Over the past few years, quite a number of African athletes have sought foreign nationality in a quest for greener pastures and the usual “access to better training facilities”. Athletes such as Glory Alozie of Nigeria now competing for Spain, Wilson Kipketer of Kenya now competing for Denmark and recently Stephen Chirono now called Saif Saeed Shaheen competing for Qatar are a few examples.

In the case of the latter, he was barred by the Kenyan Athletics Federation from competing in the Olympic Games because he had not served the mandatory 3 years before allowed to compete for his adopted country. Dear readers, I am a student residing in Kenya and I have a little idea of the tumultuous “journey” some of these athletes go through before they get to where they are now - virtually on their own. I have a number of athlete friends in Ghana and if you listen to the day to day hustles, they go through “hell” just to get to greater heights so I do not see why the authorities are making so much noise about Vida Anim wanting a switch of nationality like her decision was made fortuitously – apparently for the same infantile attitude of our culpable administrators who only pay humbug to their promises in interviews. The way forward Why do we always have to wait for a bombshell to be dropped before we spring into action? It is about time that this Machiavellian attitude of our administrators is obliterated for Ghana to reach its apogee in world sport.

Our sports officials should cringe from unnecessary talk, insularity and name calling and rather pay attention to the immediate and long term needs of our sportsmen for it is quite despicable that a former power house in sport like Ghana should now got to the Olympic Games for the sake of competing - in the spirit of the Games indeed like the likes of Palau and Vanuatu (with all due respect the mentioned countries). Ask Iraq about just competing. Let us change our ethos in sport administration and forge forward. With regards to the crises in Ghana football, that is another article. Henry K. Kwenin Jnr University of Nairobi Kenya. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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