Three years ago, on the 26th of June, 2014, the government of Ghana to the bewilderment and astonishment of the whole world at large flew $3 million in cash to Brazil during the FIFA World Cup to settle the issue of appearance fees owed to players and avert a potential boycott. Now you may be forgiven for thinking it sounds like something straight from Hollywood (and it practically ended up there) but this is as real as real can be.
One might decide to applaud the haste with which the government was able to organize and fly the monies to the players despite the backlash and all but are such acts worth it? Its amazing how the government is ready to lay it all down to support the senior football national team, the “Black Stars” yet other sports in Ghana don’t even get the needed acknowledgement. For a team that has not won a trophy in 31 years its baffling how time and time again astronomical sums of taxpayers’ money are given out to them as bonuses
Athletes in minor sporting disciplines have been forced to forfeit their participation in international tournaments because the government does not have the allocated money to fund them.
A year, two of Ghana's female teams qualified to represent the country in two international competitions; the Black Princesses qualified for the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup in Papua New Guinea and the Black Queens made it to the Women's AFCON hosted in Cameroon.
Twelve days to the FIFA U20 tournament, the Black Princesses were still in the country training on a playing surface that was way different than what they will be playing on in the World Cup. The case of the Black Queens was no different as they were not just training on a brown surface but a grassless brown pitch with patches of brown grass at the edges. Meanwhile, the staff and players of the senior national team would have been in camp in a nice location abroad with pristine weather conditions to match the location of the tournament.
It is so perplexing how for a government and a sports association when it comes to other sporting disciplines the “no money” mantra is quick to the fore but they are quick to provide when it comes to the Black Stars. Quite recently, the Ghana U-17 Basketball team which qualified to represent the country in Africa had to forfeit because there was “no money”.
Despite the fact that a lot of kids participate in various sporting disciplines in school they don’t pursue it as a profession because they know the hardships minor sports face in the country. Every high school in Ghana churns out athletes for the intercollege sports yearly, but most of them discard the sport when they get to the tertiary level as incentives and motivation to pursue a career as an athlete in Ghana is low. For years now the number of athletes the country has had to participate in the Olympics dwindles. Most of them who reside abroad complain about the treatment they receive as well as delay in the payment of bonuses.
Years past despite the few number of Olympians we have representing the country at the athletics meet our only beacon of hope had always been long jumper Ignisious Gaisah. Since 2005 that he represented the country, Ignisious had won the country 7 medals which no other athlete can boast of, so you’d be forgiven for thinking someone like this will be heralded and placed on the pinnacle of sports in Ghana, well you thought wrong. After gaining his Dutch passport in 2013, Gaisah now represents the Netherlands and has already won 2 medals for his new country.
To what end shall these minor sports which seems to have a lot of dedicated and potential world class sportsmen and women in them continue to participate with the notion of raising the flag of Ghana high. With the continued disregard for minor sports in the country, it only serves to make it an unattractive avenue where prodigies of various sporting disciplines would rather prefer to go to school and end up with some boring corporate job than participate in a sport that would rather serve to hinder their prospects. Why is the focus of every sports ministry in a government the Black Stars? Is it their marketability? How has that helped us as a country going forward?
Its high time government and sporting officials forget about how quick they can line their pockets and take a chance to elevate the lesser or minor sports to prominence. The Black Stars just grew to great renown in 2006 when they qualified for the world cup and put in a fantastic display at the tournament. There are people waiting in the wings to put the country back on top in terms of sports. It’s time the minor sports are given a chance to put the country on the map. As for the Black Stars all we can do is continue to wait for that elusive trophy. 31 years, but who’s counting.
Story by; Christlove Akrasi-Sarpong (Diploma 1 A).