Opinions Thu, 8 Jan 2015

Why Patronize Golf And Not Soccer, Osagyefo?

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Garden City, New York

Dec. 29, 2014

E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net

I love my relative, His Majesty The Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori-Panyin II; I also know that the man loves and respects me pretty much and values a slew of opinions and observations that I have had the chance to broach with him over the phone in the not-too-distant past. Nevertheless, I expected that he would deeply and fully immerse himself in Ghana's national pasttime of soccer. Instead, The Osagyefo has been curiously drumming his great love of, perhaps, the most individualistic, aristocratic and elitist of sports in the world all over the place and extolling its purported virtues in a manner that even most middle-class Americans would find to be rather strange, coming from a traditional ruler of a seemingly eternally lower-middle-class-stuck country like ours (See "Don't Feel Good If Your Wealth Is Via Corrupt Means - Okyenhene" Ghanaweb.com 12/29/14).

To be certain, one of my irreparable griefs as a citizen of Akyem-Abuakwa is the collapse of the Abuakwa Susubiribi Sporting Club. And with his accession to the Ofori-Panyin Stool, I had hoped that Osagyefo Amoatia would have revived the once proud Akyem Tafo-based club. You see, with our kind of communal culture, it makes better sense for the Okyenhene to be promoting soccer rather than golf. For soccer is a team sport. And, by the way, The Okyenhene is also widely known to be a great fan of baseball, which is also a team sport and America's foremost professional sport, followed by basketball.

Several years ago, Omar Teodoro Antonio Minaya y Sanchez (aka Omar Minaya), the former General Manager of the New York Mets, took a team of baseball players to Ghana for several weeks and, reportedly, held several baseball clinics in the country. The belief was that the game would catch on with our sport-loving nation. Unfortunately, nothing substantive appears to have come out of this historic trip. Both soccer and baseball attract more fans and spectators than any of the other sports and are therefore more commercially viable, especially in small economies like Ghana. And so it boggles my imagination why The Okyenhene is not out there promoting any of these three team sports - and on the latter score, of course, I am referring to soccer, basketball and baseball.

His Majesty could even be out there promoting cricket, which my late father, and his uncle, reportedly once played with distinction, as well as field hockey, at the then-Government Technical-Teachers' Training College, later Government Secondary Technical School (GSTS) and, still later, Ghana Secondary Technical School, in the twin-cities of Sekondi-Takoradi, between 1948 and 1952.

Well, this is what the Paramount King - not Chief, by the way - of Akyem-Abuakwa is widely reported to have said about the essence and value of the sport of golf: "Golf is a game of truth, integrity, transparency, frustration, excellence, satisfaction, but most importantly an enduring character; it's a game in which one player goes onto the field all alone, plays and comes back to report that 'I played nine on that hole and eight on another.'"

Is the logical presumption here, therefore, that, somehow, sports like baseball, field hockey and soccer are devoid of these preceding qualities? I would be gobsmacked if The Okyenhene should turn out to also believe in such philosophical and functional fallacy. The stark fact of the matter is that the sport of golf shares most of the qualities enumerated above with the above-referenced team sports. But even more significantly, it bears pointing out that a team sport is indisputably a notch above an individualistic and elitist sport like golf, partly because unlike the latter sport, truth telling about what actually occurred on the field does not depend on the one man or woman who went to the field, solo, to play the game. This is not in any way to imply that the lonesome golf player may not or cannot be a credible witness and/or reporter of his or her own game or performance. It is just that, as our elders have for ages maintained, "Two heads are often better than one."

What also puzzles me quite a bit is the fact that of all sports, The Okyenhene would pick the most notorious of American sports to promote in Ghana. For starters, golf is largely sponsored by predominantly white-owned private clubs that have been widely known to routinely preclude potential and prospective members on the gratuitous basis of race and gender. It is also the most poor-exclusive of all sporting sctivities. A golf kit, the last time that I checked nearly twenty years ago, was worth $3,000 (Three-Thousand U.S. Dollars). What is more, to qualify to play in a tournament, one also needs to hire/employ a caddy, one who is paid to carry the golfer's kit and also mark up the various spots landed in hits of the golf ball by a golf club. This is also where The Okyenhene's description of golf as an individual sport falls apart a tad.

For even as the globally renowned professional golfer Tiger Woods would readily concur, good golf caddies are also often expert consultants and advisers of the game - a good caddy often helps the golfer to decide what golf club to use at what hole and from what angles.

In view of the inescapably aristocratic and elitist nature of the sport of golf, it is rather ironic for the Okyenhene to be talking about a life "lived in honest poverty" and also the great courage it takes "to watch your friends get rich by fraud" in association with the typical avid golf player, professional or amateur. For most habitual golf players are politicians and entrepreneurs who are not well known for their integrity. They are almost invariably known for their fraudulent wheeling and dealing ways.

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame