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Tamale Sports Stadium Underutilized

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Sun, 9 Jun 2013 Source: Ziem, Joseph

One of the major reasons for the construction of the Tamale Sports Stadium was to give the people of the Northern Region a good feel of football thrill associated with the various national teams most especially the Black Stars. But more than six years down memory lane, it appears the multipurpose edifice has not been put to maximum use. Many residents are also fed up with authorities restricting Black Stars matches to only Accra and Kumasi denying them of the chance to watch their heroes also play in Tamale. Joseph Ziem writes.

There was general hullabaloo that surrounded the construction of the US$20 million multipurpose Tamale Sports Stadium in 2006 ahead of the 2008 African Cup of Nations which Ghana was the host nation.

While most people thought that the region was a hot-blooded area and therefore was not a right place to host the tournament, others thought that those against had also failed to understand that when all means to unite a group of people who constantly fight over parcels of land or right to chieftaincy succession hit a dead end, it was only sports or football that could unite them.

Some self-centered government officials and key public figures outside government at the time supposedly tried all they could to make sure that Tamale never played a host to some of the participating teams. While some were seriously advocating that the venue should be moved to the Brong Ahafo Region, others also thought that the facility should be built in the nation’s capital, Accra or Kumasi. In fact, it was as if some of them were ready to give out their parcels of land for free to government to execute the project.

The media in the region at the time played a very significant advocacy role trying to win the sympathy of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government through positive stories that seemingly convinced President John Agyekum Kufour’s Administration that the Northern Region was peaceful.

Thank God that President Kufour stood his grounds and finally took a bold decision, probably because the then Mayor of Tamale Mohammed Amin Adam was his darling boy as some people claimed.

The stadium contract was eventually awarded to the Shanghai Construction Group of China to build it on a vast tract of land released to the government by the chiefs through the lobby of Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris, Northern Regional Minister at the time and also the Mayor of Tamale.

The Tamale Sports Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium mostly used for football matches and served as the home stadium of premier league side Real Tamale United. It has a capacity of over 20,000 and hosted some matches during the 2008 African Cup of Nations including Angola, South Africa, Senegal, Tunisia and the Cameroon quarter final match.

However, more than six years down the line, many people are asking whether those who were against the construction of the stadium in Tamale were not justified after all, since it is not being utilized as expected of football lovers.

For instance, many economically viable facilities such as conference rooms, gymnasium, forty-bedroom hotel, restaurant, stores and car park, were yet to be put to maximum use in order to generate enough revenue to develop other sports in the country and for that matter, the region.

Besides, the senior national team the Black Stars and the other junior teams, were not frequently featured in the Tamale Sports Stadium when they had matches, a situation that was denying most residents the opportunity to also once in a while see in flesh their gallant heroes and heroines.

While the Black Stars games were most often limited to only Accra and Kumasi, administrators of the game according to some sports enthusiasts, had always tried to sideline the Northern Region when it came to organizing high profile games because they thought people would not patronize such games. Thus, most of the time it was only Premier league, Division One, School and College games and not even the national U-23 team games that were hosted there, a supporter of RTU Football Club Muniru lamented.

A Senior Sports Journalist and Media Officer during the Ghana CAN 2008 in charge of Tamale Venue Ell Samuels, also told this writer that it might take the next 20 years for Tamale to host the next school and college games, adding “now that RTU is relegated, no one knows when they will return to the premiership and this means that the pitch will remain fallow till then”.

Mr. Samuels confirmed that with the exception of the stores, gymnasium and conference rooms, the rest of the facilities were currently not being utilized by officials, adding that, for instance the restaurant and forty-bedroom hotel could have been given to a private business entity to operate them so that government could take its share to maintain the stadium. “I suspect there is serious politics going on as to whom officials should give the facilities to manage that is why they are still not being operated”, he pointed out.

According to him, facilities such as basketball court, volleyball court, long tennis court and warm-up tracks could also be provided through the revenue that the restaurant, hotel, conference rooms, stores and gymnasium would generate in order to make the place an interesting recreational centre for the public to visit and pay money to have some fun. Adding, “The tracks in the stadium are peeling off and since there is still vast land outside the pitch, it could be developed for training during major events”.

The Head of Sports at FIILA FM also debunked assertions that people do not watch competitive games in Tamale that was why Black Stars games and other international friendlies were not regularly featured at the Tamale Sports Stadium, citing the game between Ghana and Uganda which saw the stadium filled to capacity and most people who did not get the opportunity to enter had to stand outside.

Besides, he said “during the 2010 World Cup Qualification, the senior national team used the stadium to acclimatize ahead of their match with the Sudanese and that attracted the public to watch the game and also the local base Black Stars during the First Edition of the CHAN Competition in La Cote D’Ivoire trained here before they played against Niger and it contributed a lot to their qualification because of the way and manner supporters encouraged them on the pitch”, Mr. Samuels recalled.

Mr. Samuels thus suggested that officials of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, National Sports Council and the Ghana Football Association should regularly host Black Stars games in Tamale because that in his opinion, would contribute a lot to peace and stability in Tamale and Northern Region as a whole since sports or football brings unity.

When contacted, an official at the Tamale Sports Stadium who pleaded anonymity said the decision to play Black Stars matches and other international friendlies in Tamale was often taken by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, adding “I can’t tell why such games are not often played in Tamale, but considering the match between Ghana and Uganda, it was well patronized”.

The official however confirmed that most of the facilities were not being put to good use because they were about 59% uncompleted. Adding, “Those facilities were not part of the contract agreement signed with the Chinese Construction firm”.

Alhaji Rashid Pelpuo during his tenure of office as Youth and Sports Minister inspected the Tamale Sports Stadium and other sports infrastructure in the Tamale Metropolis to see how best the government could improve upon the existing ones and also construct new ones as a way of developing sports in the Northern Region.

According to a GNA report dated August 8, 2010, the former minister acknowledged the fact that the remaining uncompleted facilities at the stadium had not depicted its beauty and stressed the need for measures to be put in place to ensure that the remaining jobs were completed.

However, he could not stay in office for long to see to it that such unfinished businesses were carried out before he was kicked out by the President, John Evans Atta Mills.

As the official at the Tamale Sports Stadium put it “Ever since the visit of the former Minister of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Rashid Pelpuo, it is still not clear up till now whether there is some kind of decision being taken about the rest of the uncompleted facilities or not”.

The writer is a freelance journalist and a social media fanatic based in Tamale. Views or comments may be sent to him via ziemjoseph@yahoo.com or +233 207344104.

Columnist: Ziem, Joseph