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20.09.2005 Sports News

Right To Play

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Accra, Sept. 20, GNA - It has been a busy year in the world of sports for Ghana, as renowned national sportsmen and women, such as Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a disabled Cyclist, recent ESPY Award winner; Margaret Simpson, Ignatius Gaizer and other Ghanaian athletes, winning medals in the recent Helsinki Games and other competitions around the world, as well as Raphael Nkegb, disabled athlete, a winner of bronze medal in the German Open Athletics Championships (Berlin, Germany).

In the area of football, the national Under 17 team, the Starlets are very busy in Peru, fighting very hard to bring glory to the nation at the ongoing FIFA Coca Cola Under 17 World Cup tournament. So also are the Satellites, the national Under 21 team, who had just qualified for the WAFU u-21 competition to staged in Abuja. The Black Stars, now on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup for the very first time, had had a hectic time coming thus far, all within this year, they have all done their part in putting Ghana on the world map of sports.

With all of these talented sports men and women coming out of Ghana, one has to wonder why we put so little emphasis on sports and physical activity for all in Ghana. No one can be naive enough to assume these athletes are overnight successes; they all worked hard to build a strong foundation from childhood and today, they are the pride of Ghana. You might remember them as children, maybe you grew up with them in the same neighbourhood, attended the same school, or maybe you are just recently becoming familiar with their names and faces. These famous sports personalities and athletes, as we know them today, are different from each other on many levels, but one in which they all converge is this: once upon a time, they all started somewhere small.

Despite their successes, many of us still find it difficult to digest the idea that sports and play were not only recreational past time, but also a form of education in life. Studies have proven that when sports and physical activity are added to the educational curriculum, children learn important life skills, such as problem solving, team-work, respect, communication skills, leadership, fair play, sharing, inclusion, tolerance, and discipline.

The International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, article two states that, "Physical education and sport form an essential element of lifelong education in the overall education system".

However, in spite of all the commitments made by governments and international bodies, millions of children still remain deprived of physical education and sport.

In Ghana, and around the world, NGOs, such as UNICEF, Right To Play, Play Soccer, SOS Children's Village have stepped up the challenge and are helping to fill the gap in the promotion of the healthy development of all our children, communities, and nation. On September 21, in the spirit of the International Day of Peace, communities and organizations around the world will not only be celebrating the ideals of peace, but also the important role that sport and physical activity play in the overall achievement of global peace. Thus, not only do sport and physical education play an important role in human development, they also defy all cultural, ethnic and language barriers, making it an integral tool in facilitating peace, understanding and unity.

As such, and adding to this year's celebration of peace, the UN has proclaimed 2005 as the International Year of Sport for Development and Physical Education (IYSPE2005).

This year, in Ghana, three organizations, the SOS Children's Village, Right To Play and Play Soccer, will collaborate in the marking of the International Day of Peace by hosting two Global Peace Games on September 23 and 30, respectively. The Global Peace Games are annual events that use sport and play to teach children about the importance of inclusion and equality, as additional means to promote peace.

During the Games, children from all ages, genders, abilities, and religious groups will gather to play games and sports and learn about sharing, fair play, team work, tolerance and understanding of the "other."

Adolf Ogi, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace said, "Sport is a school of life, where you will learn how to win gracefully, to keep your head up high in defeat, to respect your opponent and - most importantly - the rules of the game through Fairplay. The 2005 Global Peace Games for Children and Youth represent an important step in this effort to accomplish this common goal of creating a better world for all."

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, Margaret Simpson, Raphael Nkegb, Michael Essien, and Stephen Appiah, to name only a few Ghanaian sportsmen and women, are all doing their part to raise awareness for the right of children to play and learn. We, as individuals, now need to do our equal parts and require, demand, and insist that the government's focus and development agenda changes to include physical education, as an important component of our children's healthy development. It is for the betterment of our children and the development of our communities, regions, and country.

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