Meet the Youth and Sports Minister Isaac Asiamah (2)
This is the concluding part of the one-on-one interview the Youth and Sports Minister, Mr Isaac Kwame Asiamah, had with Graphic Sports’ Beatrice Laryea.
During your vetting, you talked about creating a sports fund which you have done. What are the responsibilities of the Sports Fund Committee and what has it achieved so far?
IKA: The national Sports Fund Committee has been meeting and we have charged the members to look for areas of possible revenue-generating activities and so far I think they are on course. Many countries have used sports lotto as a way of generating funds and there are many other areas that the committee is looking at and they will make recommendations to the ministry after which I will send it to Cabinet and Parliament for legal backing then we will take it up from there.
Why the budget for the national amateur boxing team, the Black Bombers, for their participation in the Congo games, not honoured?
IKA: First of all, there were issues with their earlier accounts. In 2005, they went to another country for a similar tournament and when they came back they didn’t retire the accounts well and we are trying so hard to ensure that there is value for money. The accountant here had been having issues with them all this while before I even came here. So when they came here with their budget this information came before me and I asked them to do the proper thing by rendering proper accounts.
Not only that, but we were stressing that they should take a second look at the kind of selections they make because for some years now they have not won any medals. Our job is to ensure that we achieve three critical things in this ministry – efficiency, economy and, of course, effectiveness, to give us value for money.
Whenever a team is going for such tournaments there is what is called condition for participation but they failed in all those areas when we checked. The other issue is that they jump to the media instead of coming here to defend whatever they need. My doors are open to everybody, including the media. If there is any issue that they want to clarify they should come here. Unfortunately, some of the federations think that the media will fight for them so they go to the media and before you realise they will say the minister is not working and a whole lot of issues. Let us look at the quality of the participation. We can’t just be participating and not win any medals.
Are you aware that their participation in that tournament automatically serves as qualification for the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be staged in Australia?
IKA: That is not entirely true. I am told there are other qualifiers that will enable them to. There are so many competitions ahead. I have not left them entirely. I am still engaging them, I am still a father to all the sporting federations. I am not at war with anybody. We just need to do the right thing.
Some of your predecessors encountered challenges at this ministry which caused them their jobs. Will your story be different?
IKA: As for me, I have said that God is always in control so I will do my best; however, it is Ghanaians who will mark me. The President has given me a job to do so I will do my best. I have my own unique way of handling issues; definitely my story will be different.
There were issues and concerns raised about Black Stars’ recent friendly matches against Mexico and USA, especially the difficulty in getting all the players on board one plane and accommodation issues. What happened?
IKA: Those contracts were signed by the GFA so the terms were negotiated by them and since they returned the GFA president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, has been here to brief me on what happened and he agreed that it was a very unfortunate incident. It is a lesson for them and I hope such issues will not be repeated in the future.
Coach Kwasi Appiah had the full support of the ministry even before he was appointed. He has been in charge for almost three months now. How will you grade him on a scale of one to ten?
IKA: He is still building a team so I think we should give him some time to build a solid team for this country. I believe that the two friendlies against Mexico and USA afforded him the opportunity to assess the strength and weaknesses of the team. As a coach, I think he should know how to form a solid and formidable team that has all elements of strong defence, powerful midfield and, of course, a piercing striking machinery. It is not the best to have a whole national team with only foreign-based players, while our local league is not represented. So, for me, it is good that he is giving some of our local players opportunity to feature for the Black Stars. The blend of both local and foreign-based players is very significant because I believe in building local content.
Previous Black Stars’ coaches had to make do with temporary accommodation provided for them by the GFA. Will the ministry provide a permanent residence for Coach Kwasi Appiah and how soon?
IKA: Well, I am against the situation whereby we pay so much for hotel accommodation for national team coaches. This time round this government is committed to providing a permanent residential facility for anybody who becomes the coach of the senior national team. Already, high-level discussions have taken place regarding that and I have written to the Minister for Works and Housing who has assured me that he is working on it so it will be done.
What is your impression about the leadership of the Ghana Football Association?
IKA: They have their strengths and weaknesses and when there are issues I engage them and we dialogue over them. As a minister, I can’t sit here and be lambasting and attacking a federation under me. My style is to fix the challenges and not to attack people. I am a team player and I always want the people that I work with to come together to resolve issues. My aim is to clean the GFA, not to fight anybody.
Do you by any chance suspect some foul play in the activities of the GFA as was propagated by your predecessor, Nii Lante Vanderpuye?
IKA: Well, he has his own style of solving issues but my style is not to go out there to attack personalities. If there are rots there, it is my duty to clean the GFA through dialogue not attacks.
What is the relationship between you and your predecessor?
IKA: He is my colleague MP and we see each other in Parliament all the time and we talk. We discuss issues. I don’t have anything against him and I don’t think he also has anything against me. We may disagree on issues or policies in Parliament because both of us belong to different political parties and we have different positions on issues but it doesn’t mean we are fighting.
Is it possible that the two of you can work together by sharing ideas or asking for his views concerning some policies in the interest of Ghana sports?
IKA: Why not? We do but on the quiet. We discuss issues when there is the need. Not only with him but I do discuss issues with other former Youth and Sports Ministers such as Messrs Yaw Osafo-Maafo, O. B. Amoah, Mohammed Muntaka, E. T. Mensah and Paapa Owusu Ankomah, among others. Occasionally, I ask their opinion on issues or challenges that I am facing. I am in touch with most of the former ministers.
What inspires you in life or where do you draw inspiration from?
IKA: When I see or read about a leader who believes in achievements and one who acts more than talking I am inspired.
What is your level of education and what about honours or awards?
IKA: I went to Accra High Secondary School so I am an AHISCODIAN and I later went to the University of Ghana for my first degree. I continued to the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) for my Executive Masters in Governance and Leadership. I won several awards during my SHS and university days and even as a Member of Parliament, I have received some awards but I can’t readily remember which awards exactly.
What about family?
IKA: I have four children – three girls and a boy. They are Maame Serwah Asiamah, Maame Yaa Asiamah, Rolland Asiamah and Elizabeth Asiamah. The eldest just completed Holy Child Senior High School.
How about your wife? You didn’t mention her name.
IKA: I am married with children. That’s enough so what is your problem…hahahahaha.
So where do you fellowship?
IKA: I am an Anglican. I fellowship at St Mary’s Anglican Church in my constituency.
What do you do during your leisure time?
IKA: Though I am from the forest area (laughs) I enjoy swimming and I also like the local Ghanaian movies (Kumawood) so I watch them whenever I am free.
For us at Graphic Sports, we wish you all the best in your new office and we pray that you succeed beyond measure?
IKA: I am also proud of all of you at Graphic Sports for the many years of contribution to sports development in Ghana. My doors are open so come for whatever information or clarification you may need.