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Sports Features Wed, 24 Jul 2013

Ghana is not worth dying for

By Theodore M.K. Viwotor (Multi Sports Columnist)

Over the years many people have wondered if Ghana is truly worth dying for. This question cuts across the different areas of human activities; but the most talked about social area is sports where many sports men and women continue to wonder if Ghana is worth wasting one’s energy and time for.

In the days of old, sports were considered a recreation so those who represented Ghana at any level or in any discipline, considered it as a patriotic act that deserves not much reward; appreciation from the nation and authorities was more than enough. Promises were made though; but they were tokens that were not very significant.

On very few occasions, some sports personalities were promised houses that never came. All these happened but the dedicated Ghanaian sports men kept on availing themselves to national call.

As time passed by, the sports arena changed from the recreational nature to an avenue for changing the fortunes of young men and women who take up one discipline or another. Sports have evolved into a business enterprise to the point where some of the richest people on earth are those involved in sports.

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The Tiger Woods, Didier Drogbas, Michael Essiens, Andy Murrays, Usain Bolts and the rest are some of the richest and most prominent people on earth due to the discipline they have taken up. The list is very large, as well as the multiplier benefits that these men have brought to society.

Besides inspiring younger ones to follow sports, they have used their resources to change the fortunes of their compatriots and many others who have benefited from their benevolent acts. We are all witnesses to their charitable acts that have reached the underprivileged in society.

With this background, it is very annoying and heartbreaking for a sports man or woman to devote time, energy and money to training and preparation only for the nation they have sacrificed for to treat them with disdain. It is very insulting, to say the least.

Many of Ghanaian sports personalities, especially those involved in what is known as ‘lesser-known sports’ carry a lot of pain and bitterness against the nation for the lack of respect and mistreatment meted out to them.

Apart from football that enjoys the greatest flow of cash, the other sports are neglected to their fate, making it waste of time and resources to die for Mother Ghana. It is, therefore, not surprising to hear that many of the athletes we rely on at international events are giving up on representing Ghana at events.

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Ghanaians were met last week with the news of some of the well known sports personalities saying good bye to Ghana over non-payment of bonuses due them and the lack of respect shown them over the years.

It started with Ignatius Gaisah, an athlete that has done his part for Ghana in the area of athletics. The long jumper has requested for a nationality switch to compete for The Netherlands in any future competition: his reason? Ghana’s failure to pay him an amount of $5,000 for competing in earlier competitions; isn’t it a big shame on a nation like ours. Gaisah has done his part for Ghana. He won silver at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, gold in the 2005 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, gold in the 2006 World Indoor Championships in Moscow, and bronze in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, among others. All these were done for Ghana. If we have to lose a great gem like this due to this paltry sum (I mean it), then we all need to bow down our heads in shame. One player of the current Satellites, who won bronze at the just-ended U20 tournament in Turkey basically through mathematics and not performance, is going home with thousands of dollars whilst an athlete who has singlehandedly uplifted the nation’s image is fighting with the authorities over peanuts.

When Black Stars players announce their resignation from the national team, a whole president goes on his knees to beg him but nothing is being done about our loss of the people who keep on ensuring Ghana is on the score and medal boards at major competitions.

For his (Gaisah’s) colleagues to support and join him in boycotting Ghana, one can say there is something wrong with the way we handle sports in the country. Aziz Zakari, Vida Anim, Margaret Simpson and the rest have all joined in announcing their exit from anything that has to do with Ghana. BIG SHAME!!!

The mistreatment of representatives of Ghana in lesser known sports is so widespread that one wonders if it makes sense to want to go into those sports, let alone compete for Ghana, in any competition.

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It would be recalled that Africa’s number one Paracyclist in the C2 category, Alem Mumuni, together with Ernest Ayisi, another paracyclist, had to travel to the USA and Canada to take part in events aimed at qualifying Ghana to the next Olympic Games in Brazil. The saddest aspect of the trip was that, they had to source for sponsorship from individuals and some corporate bodies to be able to secure air tickets to compete in Ghana’s name.

When they got to the USA, they needed some small amount of money to travel by air to Canada so had to fall on philanthropists to raise some monies that only helped them travel by road. A journey of about an hour by air was undertaken in 31 hours by road. This was what two Persons with Disability (PWDs) had to go through to lift the image of Ghana high. Fortunately, they made an impressive impact that put Ghana’s name on the world map in the C2 category. Alem Mumuni placed second (2nd) at the world event, making him the 2nd Best C2 Paracyclist in the world and his name was recorded on the website of the world body with the name and flag of Ghana. No one cares much about what he has done; it was the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) that recognized his work and gave him a meritorious award at their recent annual award ceremony. Nothing came from the nation to them. Is this a nation worth dying for?

The list of people who have ‘killed themselves’ for Ghana in the area of sports is very long and unending. Some of them wish they could go back to the time they had offers from other nations to compete for them. They are cursing their stars for making that ‘silly mistake’ of opting for Ghanaian nationality over a more attractive country that was ready to do all they needed for them. Our heroes look back with pain rather than joy because a nation they sacrificed for has taken them for granted.

Some of them could still be overheard telling their younger counterparts to decide wisely when faced with the option of taking up another nationality. They have regretted doing all they did for Ghana because the authorities never appreciated or rewarded them. No wonder everybody is becoming selfish nowadays when it comes to the national teams. Players of the senior national team, the Black Stars, in spite of the money they make outside, still continue to demand the paying of anything due them for playing for Ghana. We may not understand them because it makes no sense for them to ask for the pittance they get from Ghana, compared to their fat salaries. However, one may presume that they are doing this because of the way the nation treats its heroes. If those who played in the past were not rewarded, the current players can’t afford to spare the nation even if it is a pesewa. After all, when you are injured, they leave you alone to your fate and for your club to take care of you.

The negative attitude towards the lesser known sports must be looked at again if we want to encourage younger ones to be patriotic and serious with sports. A small fraction of what is devoted to football and given to footballers would be enough to bring smiles to the faces of the likes of Ignatius Gaisah, Aziz Zakari, Vida Anim and Alem Mumuni and to motivate them to go the extra mile.

Until the negative attitude changes, our sportsmen and women would continue to feel Ghana is not worth dying for.

Source: Viwotor, Theodore M.K.