Stanley A. Twum-Barima
Come next year, the attention of millions of sporting fans all over the world would be the focus on the major world sporting disciplines – African Cup of Nations in Egypt, Germany World Cup, Commonwealth Games in Australia and World Women's Hockey Championships.
And as if by design, Ghana would participate in all the various sporting events and thus open the floodgates for recognition as part of the major global sporting families.
This, of course, is a huge national assignment that would not only keep busy the national teams and their technical handlers but also put much financial strain on a country, whose sports infrastructural development is solely depended on government subvention.
Unlike the developed sporting nations that depend mainly on massive sponsorships from multinational companies, Ghana continues to suffer from the strains of sports funding that more often than not, affects the performance of the national sports teams.
Undoubtedly, Ghana has become a nation of soccer, thus relegating all the other sporting disciplines to the background during Ghana's participation in international sporting events like athletics, amateur boxing and hockey that had also brought lots of honours to the nation.
This phenomenon was emphasised when the national senior soccer team, Black Stars, qualified for Germany 2006 about a month ago. Indeed, the euphoric celebration that greeted Ghana's debut at the World Cup, was enough expression of the nation's love for the game of soccer.
In fact, the sport is treated like fetish in Ghana and for the Black Stars to qualify for the world soccer fiesta after over 45 years of groping in darkness in search for the ultimate, Ghanaians surely deserve to celebrate the victory to Germany.
But whilst accepting the fact that soccer is the world's most popular sport and Ghana also deserves the honour of being represented at the World Cup, some of us find it very discriminatory for the apathetic attitude of the authorities in placing the Cup of Nations and the World Cup highly far above the Commonwealth Games and the Women's World Hockey tournament. The Ghana national women's hockey team qualified for the world contest after winning silver at the recent African Hockey championship in Pretoria, South Africa, where the men's team also earned bronze.
Of course, the other disciplines also deserve to be given equal recognition like soccer when it comes to the issue of preparations for national assignments. It also means that the other disciplines must not be neglected at the expense of soccer, otherwise it defeats government's policy of developing all disciplines of sports. The Ministry of Education and Sports and the National Sports Council (NSC) should live up to the policy of equal development and promotion of all disciplines of sports.
Ghana must not be seen to be participating in international events for the sake of mere participation because sports is no more regarded as pastime. It's now big business and should be treated as such. It attracts not only prestige but also economic development for nations, hence Ghana's hosting of CAN 2008.
Currently, it looks as if Ghana's focus is on the African Cup of Nations in Egypt in January and most importantly, the Germany World Cup in June whilst the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the World Women's Hockey in Germany are being relegated to the background.
And who is to blame? Of course, the Ministry and the NSC must bear the brunt of the neglect. For, while the authorities have embarked on massive publicity for Ghana's preparations for the Africa and World events, there seems to be nothing practically on the ground for the Commonwealth and Hockey championships. It's vividly clear that little or no efforts are being made to help prepare the sports men and women for these championships.
Let's take the issue of the Ghana Amateur Boxing Association (GABA), whose Chairman, Eddy Blay, has decided to take up the mantle of training the Black Bombers until a full time trainer would be secured for the team.
As a licensed trainer, the former Commonwealth and Olympic medalist, Eddy Blay, is capable of offering his rich experience to his boys, but his best is not likely to suffice a full time trainer for the Bombers, since apart from doubling as a the chairman of the GABA, he has his own business to cater for.
The authorities, therefore, owe it as a duty to help secure a full time trainer, as well as organise training schedules outside the country before the games take off. It must be noted that boxing, until recently was the “hen that laid the golden eggs” for the nation in international events, especially the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, thanks to Eddie Blay, Sulley Shittu, Ike Quartey Snr, F.A Moses and a host of other dedicated boxers between the 1960s and early 1980s.
This, however, shouldn't negate the fact that the late Willie Kwarteng, Mike Ahey, Christian Boateng, Alice Anum, Hanna Afriyie, B.B.Bashiru, Stan Allotey and many others also deserve to be remembered. And no doubt most of these old and new heroes and heroines have been instituted into Ghana's Sports Hall of Fame.
One also wonders whether a programme has been drawn for the athletes, boxers and hockey players, who are expected to participate in the Commonwealth and Hockey championships, despite the hectic preparations being slated for the Black Stars to undertake a training tour in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia next week.
The nation is aware that every effort is being made to adequately prepare the senior national team for the Egypt and Germany assignments but somebody is yet to tell us the kind of preparations being planned for the two equally important events.
Therefore, what's being done to put the athletes, boxers and hockey players in perfect shape against their impending assignments? We know that world ranked Ghanaian athletes – Ignatius Gaisah, Margaret Simpson, Zakari and the other Europe based athletes– are Ghana's best bet for the Commonwealth Games. And as top athletes, they are always in serious training sessions but what happens to the few other locals.
As at now, the public is not aware of the particular disciplines Ghana will be competing for. Let's assume that the necessary discussions among officials of the Ministry, NSC and the various sports associations are being held in the board rooms. The earlier the public was informed about the particular disciplines to represent Ghana the better.
And whilst awaiting for the names of the teams for both the Commonwealth and the World Hockey tournament, it's assumed that top best sports men and women would be selected to represent Ghana. There shouldn't be any room for large contingents with officials outnumbering the real sports men and women. There also shouldn't be any leisure trips for officials of the Ministry and NSC, and most especially Members of Parliamentary Committee, who in the past took advantage of such trips because they were MPs of the august House.
This weekend is a crucial period for the clubs in the GT Premiership, as they struggle for the leadership spot, as well as those who battle to avoid the dreaded relegation zone.
Asante Kotoko are separated from Hearts of Oak with four points and a stumble at the Kaladan Park against Real Tamale United would be suicidal for the Fabulous club, as their traditional rivals, the Phobians, are also gearing up for the league title.
With the relegation blues catching up with Hotspurs, Ebusua Dwarfs and Okwawu United, the struggle to remain in the elite division has also been very hectic. The two remaining matches would definitely decide who wins the crown or relegated to the Division One League next season. We need to have a peaceful closing matches but one mustn't forget the annual “match selling” activities are likely to resurface in these closing games. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) must watch out.
Till next week, that's the way it is!