Opinions Thu, 11 Aug 2016

Gyan’s timeless legacy – A sporting bravado

Gyan is constructing an Astro pitch at his former school, Accra Academy

The first time I came across the word ‘legacy’ was after the 1988 Seoul Olympics. I overheard my late dad on the telephone with a friend of his over what the South Koreans were going to do with all the plush facilities they had built for the Games.

From the conversation, I got the feeling the Koreans had a back-up plan. It was to serve as a basis for upcoming young athletes in various sports disciplines with the residential apartments being taken over and managed by real estate companies over the years with a clear maintenance, administrative, and ownership structure.

I was really not interested in such a conversation until I was old enough to appreciate what that was all about. Many years down the line, I have read with astonishment how millions, if not billions, of funds have been wasted by host cities, all in a bid to lure the best sporting talents to their country every four years. Either their post-Olympic plans simply went “bollocks” or organisers had no clue what to do with these facilities after playing host to the world.

Throw in Black Stars skipper Yaw Asamoah Gyan. Opportunities do not come through every day and there is a big chance some legacies may have to be created out of nothing. In the case involving all the host cities that have followed since the Korean capital (Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, and now Rio), funding was primarily provided by the state with individuals tasked to deliver the best games ever. Remember Michael Knight in Sydney? It takes a different turn though with the Black Stars skipper.

Many years ago, I walked into the four walls of Accra Academy as a tiny tot in an all-bloke environment. I had read and heard stories of former Bleoobii (old students of the school), who had given back in varied ways and continue to. This isn’t new though as old boys and girls associations try to outdo each other regarding funding of a particular initiative in their schools. I had also come to know within my time at Bleoo that the school was famous for churning out a huge number of sporting icons including the Agyin-Tetteys and the Myles-Mills brothers. There is a chance these lads have given back something at some point in support but I honestly did not see Gyan take it to such a gargantuan level. I had left school before he enrolled, so our paths only crossed in the line of duty – he playing football and I working as a broadcaster.

Somewhere in Ngouni, Gabon, in 2012 though, we got to know each other by stroke of coincidence. I had a ‘Bleoo’ wrist band on my right hand. I didn’t know he had spotted it, though I knew he was a Bleoobi. As he approached me for our agreed interview, he suddenly burst into excitement. He wanted to know if he could have the wrist band after the interview. Now that was a pleasant surprise. I bought that for a mere GHS5.00. He could afford a million of that. The catch though was that he could not get one in Ngouni of all places, more than three hours by air from Accra. From that moment, I got to appreciate his emotional connection to his alma mater. After the interview, which lasted about fifteen minutes, he politely requested for the band and then exclaimed: “…I love this school. I have to do something there, man!”

I sat quietly and nodded and softly said: “That’s cool, man. Good thoughts.” And the conversation ended there.

A few years down the line, I got wind of his intentions to provide an Astro turf for the school. I recalled the look on his face in Ngouni, Gabon. It was that of one who really wanted to help. He had obviously discussed this with his management team and the school authorities on this amazing idea. I was glad to be at the sod cutting a couple of months ago and from the initial estimates I saw, the finished article was to cost some hundreds of thousands of euros. Now that was a huge one for me, if not for others.

I have had the opportunity of being there a few times to see the rate of progress and I have got to say it’s really shaping out so well than I initially thought. I had concerns over maintenance and administration, knowing what sadly pertains in the country, but I have had assurances from project manager Robert Coleman (a Bleeobi) that there would be no legacy concerns after the official launch, which is scheduled for a few months, if not weeks.

Gyan has truly answered the call and demonstrated his desire to build a massive legacy years after his career would have ended. He may have his flaws just like every man, but at this point, it is fair to say he has done what Napoleon could not do in sporting terms. Asa it is. Well done.

Columnist: classfmonline.com