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Sports Features of Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Source: Joe Aggrey/Finder Sports

The column has lost an admirer

At the risk of sounding immodest, I can claim that this column has lost one of its most avid readers and unabashed admirers. “Joe, you write very well and I never miss your column on Saturdays, unless I’m out of the country”, he never seemed tired of telling me in his usual soft-spoken manner, whenever our paths crossed.

Of course, that was before then Prof. John Atta-Mills became President of the Republic and the column was a regular feature on back page of The Mirror.

I must confess I rarely had the occasion to meet him personally during his tenure as the number one gentleman of the land and I can’t swear to the fact that he even knew about the current abode of the column.

But back in those days, it was heart-warming to know that people of his standing and stature found time to read the column and much more appreciate what was being done through it, that is, helping to build Ghana sports. That told me a lot about the man Atta-Mills, the sports lover and the sportsman to the hilt.

Since the sad and shocking news of our President’s passing broke last Tuesday, I have heard and read from people who knew him more intimately than I ever had the opportunity of doing. Close relatives, classmates, friends and politicians etc. have waxed eloquent about his many virtues, of course in all spheres of his life, in accordance with Ghanaian tradition and norms.

Not surprisingly, the aspect that referred to the sporting life of the late President was what fascinated me most. Former Finance Minister Yaw Osafo-Marf o, who was Prof’s classmate and housemate at Achimota School, for instance, recalled with fond memories some of the sporting exploits of the then young Atta-Mills, especially on the hockey pitch.

At the University of Ghana, Legon, he would continue with his sporting activities, which included the chairmanship of the Amalgamated Sports Club. It was there, we are reminded, that he formed a long-lasting bond of friendship with Worlanyo Agrah, then a coach and outgoing Director- General of the National Sports Authority.

Outside the University campus, the late President carried on with his sporting life, joining the Veterans Hockey Club, of which he was an active player.

He became a chairman of the National Sports Council for a brief while, resigning the position, for what he said were for personal reasons.

He was chairman of the management committee and it was during his tenure that Ghana won Africa’s first Olympic soccer medal, a bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The late President’s love for sports saw him becoming the chairman of the board of directors of Accra Hearts of Oak, only relinquishing the post when he assumed the high office of Vice President of Ghana in in 1996.

It was during that period that following agitation, championed by the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG), Government appointed the Gbadegbe Commission of Enquiry into allegations of malpractices in player transfer in Ghana football.

Even though, in the eyes of some of us, most of the characters involved in what was a sordid chapter in the history of Ghana football, escaped with just a tap on the wrist, the report introduced some reforms which eventually inured to the benefit of the sport.

But, perhaps, the biggest legacy that the late President left for Ghana sports was the refurbishment of the National Hockey Pitch in what should have been a record time for the country to host successfully the African Cup of Nations in 2009. That was a true reflection of the man’s love for sports and hockey in particular.

Perhaps, it was that love that led him to show so much appreciation and support for the work this column was doing back then. And in this period that the whole nation is in deep mourning for his demise, this column can do no more than say, ”Fare thee well, Prof. We will miss your words of encouragement and appreciation”.

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