Sports Features of Sunday, 17 June 2012
Source: mawuli Viwotor
By Theodore M. K. Viwotor (Multi Sports Columnist)
The auditorium of the Banquet Hall exploded with shouts of joy and excitement when the MCs announced that the Sports Personality of the year 2011 was Ajara Mohammed, Ghana’s power cyclist.
It was a moment everyone gathered for the Sports Writers’ Association (SWAG) Awards Night was waiting for and it was therefore not surprising that the MCs called her as the sports personality who distinguished herself in the year 2011. This award came after she had won the Female Athlete of the year, making her one of the greatest sports personalities of our times. Her feat was in recognition of the two gold medals she won last year at the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique that further raised the image of Ghana.
Two other disabled or Persons With Disability (PWDs) also received prizes for excelling in their various fields of sports endeavors: Mr. Francis Adjetey Sowah-Chairman of the Year and Patrick Obeng-Male Athlete of the Year. Mr. Francis Adjetey Sowah achieved this feat by successfully organizing the 3rd Cup of African Nations for Amputee Football (CANAF 2011) tournament in Accra and also leading the Ghana National Amputee Football Team, The Black Challenge, to win silver medal at the said tournament. He also got re-elected at the President of the Amputee Football Federation of Africa (AFFA).
Patrick Obeng, an amputee power cyclist, won one of Ghana’s gold medals at the Maputo Games, and stands out as one of the persons who made Ghana proud at the African sports event.
These three disabled sports personalities have once again demonstrated in practical terms the saying that, “Disability is not inability” and also sent signals to the entire nation that, the disabled deserve better than they have received so far.
It was saddening to hear from Ajara at the awards ceremony that she was still looking forward to sponsorship from government and other institutions to enable her engage in competitive and training programmes to enable her qualify to the Paralympic Games in London. To her, the award is an impetus to her determined resolve to do something for her nation, in spite of her disability. The fact that she is not deterred by the challenges she faces is enough testimony of her tenacity that has led to this special crowning moment. It would be a little unfair for anyone to try drawing a parallel between what is done for such heroes in the Western world and a country like Ghana because of the huge disparities between the two world; however, despite the discrepancies, we have no excuse marginalizing our unfortunate brothers and sisters who are constantly achieving great things for us as a nation. Heroes like Ajara, Patrick and Francis are elsewhere always celebrated by their countries and given the utmost support to ensure that they do not only participate in sports with ease, but they are physiologically and psychologically stable enough to focus on the disciplines to win more medals. One significant feature of their sport is the fact that they always compete in the name of Ghana and any medal they win is credited to the nation, unlike other sports personalities whose achievements are personal. For instance, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Mikel Obi won the UEFA Cup for themselves, even though their fellow citizens share in the joy some way. This is not the case for the Ajaras and Patricks who always represent Ghana at any event. Yet, they are most often left to search for logistical and financial support to make it to such sports gatherings. If Ajara fails to make it to the Paralympics as a result of the reasons she enumerated, then the nation should not at any time expect any sports man or woman to die for it, and perhaps, no one should ever criticize an athlete at any competition for failing to live up to expectation. These three personalities have made a strong case for the nation to start giving more attention to disabled sports men and women who, in addition to the challenges of disability, continually strive to compete at events for their nation. And even when they succeed in taking part, they are hardly paid their per diem or allowances, thereby compounding their situation. At a time she should be expressing joy over the honour done her, Ajara couldn’t help using the medium to rather seek assistance for her to attend the Paralympics, which other athletes in other countries are already equipped and prepared to participate in. This is the state of disability sports in Ghana (a fact most of us know of). The time has truly come for the authorities to take a second look at attitude towards Persons With Disability (PWDs), especially in the areas of sports, employment and access in its entirety. In an earlier article, this writer drew attention to the need for a disability sports centre in Ghana to serve not only as a recreation centre for PWDs but also as a place for preparing them for sporting competitions like the Paralympics and All Africa Games. The call is once again being echoed here for those who have ears to hear what is being said about the disabled. One does not need any extraordinary feat to become conscious of what the disabled are doing for the nation in the area of sports. The records are there for all to see. Alem Mumuni, a paracyclist, is the three times African Champion in the C2 category and became the first cyclist from Ghana to ever qualify to the Olympic Games. He will be participating in the Paralympic Games this year as one of the only two African cyclists in the C2 category to participate in the games, with the other athlete coming from South Africa. If this feat is not worthy of honor, then what else? However, Alem had to face serious challenges to even take part in some competitions. But for a sponsorship deal from Right To Dream, an NGO, he would have failed to attend this year’s Paralympics. All those who won awards at the Sports Writers Association (SWAG) Awards Night are worthy recipients who excelled in the year 2011 but for PWDs who made a mark during the same period, they deserve tons of appreciation for uplifting the image of Ghana in their own small way. SWAG has duly recognized them for what they have done but the authorities cannot escape from their responsibility. The Disability Act spells out many provisions that need to be made for PWDs but lack of the will to implement them remains the main problem. Hopefully, when they win Ghana’s first Paralympic medal, things will change for the better and we shall all experience a new attitude towards PWDs. They have made a case for themselves and their colleagues. The ball is now in the court of the authorities. The writer is the Administrative Secretary of the Ghana Amputee Football Federation as well as the News Editor of the Daily Democra.