Sports Features of Thursday, 11 March 2004
A GNA feature by Caesar Abagali
Tamale, March 11, GNA - There is a common saying that, "A nation which fails to honour its heroes is not worth dying for". There is a persistent demand cutting across our public life to instil the attitude of appreciation for national heroes in an organised and concerted way to show a national level of understanding and appreciation for the effort that individuals put into our national life, which ensures our growth and development.
This self-less, self-denial and sacrificial output must be clearly reciprocated by the nation and in a definite way designed to place value on these individual efforts. The State of the Union Address by the United States of America is often punctuated with the mention of individual names, granting of medals and heaping of praises on individuals by the various Presidents.
Again, the establishment of Academies of Halls of Fame are institutional mechanisms designed by various countries like the US and Britain to single out individual feats and direct national attention at such national contributions.
This is a sure way of societal appreciation for worthwhile efforts. The tendency therefore, is for others to aspire to such levels for just the purpose of its inherent value and not for any material gain. It is only through this way that society can continue to advance. A society advances when its nationals give off their best but not often for any obvious gain even sometimes at the peril of their lives.
In the Ghanaian context, however, the presence of such national tributes must be enhanced, pushed further and institutionalised to inculcate a sense of nationalism in the Ghanaian.
Individuals, either in sports, poetry, traditional medicine practice, journalism, technology or academic laurels, no matter where they are found, must be brought to the limelight of national praise and respect. It is sad that even past presidents of this country are least recognized.
It is against this background that our segment of sports men and women in football since historical times, both dead and living who under very trying conditions should be the focus of national honour. The nation has on various occasions lamented the fast receding success of sports, particularly football. One of the main reasons for this trend among many others is the tendency to ignore or even forget the role the retired footballers have played in carving Ghana's historical good image of soccer.
It was therefore, heart warming when under the minister-ship of E. T. Mensah, retired footballers were given recognition and assembled at the Accra Sports Stadium and given verbal honour, apart from the coaching courses some of them had to undergo in 2000 as a result. This initial but significant effort should be pushed further to entrench our sporting system. Much more needs to be done on retired footballers. No wonder the legendary Osei Kofi wept in frustration at the lack of progress of what E. T. Mensah commenced under the previous administration.
The distinguished diminutive skilful player turned Reverend Osei Kofi recently wept openly at a forum in Tamale in protest to what he called unfair treatment meted out to retired footballers in the country. Admittedly the nation has not sufficiently honoured its football heroes.
For instance, the greatest footballer ever to emerge on the African continent, the magnificent crowd puller, unique and indubitably, the finest star, The Maestro, Abedi Ayew Pele had conclusively been recognized by both FIFA and luminaries of world soccer. Personalities like Brazilian Pele and coach Bekenbuer of West Germany have generally recognized the greatness of this star and would accord him the needed respect where ever Abedi emerges.
In the just ended selection of 100 world-leading players of all time, Abedi Pele emerged as number one on the African continent. So, while the world is busily recognizing our stars, we are immorally understating their value and refusing to give them their worth in terms of national honour.
It's instructive to mention players like Opoku Nti, Abdul Razak, Robert Mensah, George Alhassan, Adolf Armah, Opoku Afriyie, Emmanuel Quarshie, Owusu Mensah, Albert Assase, Mohammed Choo and Kwame Danger among others. These names stand tall all over the world and makes Ghana a proud nation on the African soil but nothing had been done for the up and coming generation to recognize their importance.
While the living legendary Maradona was in active form playing in Italy, Abedi Pele was voted the best foreign player in the Italian Serie - A, dwarfing such great players like Maradona and the rest. Arguably, Abedi occupies a major place in the centre of the scheme of world soccer alongside players like Brazilian Pele, Maradona, Zinadine Zidane and Opon Weah.
The time has now come for the nation to honourably honour her retired footballers as well as other sports personalities, who under unfavourable and critical moments pledged and exhibited their nationalism and honour and fought hard to cast the name of the country on conceptual maps in the minds of many people all over the world. The time to show love and appreciation and to instil patriotism and nationalism in retired footballers is now!
It is only when retired footballers and other sports personalities are well organised, recognized and honoured that other sports men and women called upon to perform national duty would prove their best to gain glory for themselves and the nation. It is therefore instructive and appropriate at this period in our chequered history to call on the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and tell him "the time to act is now!." "Lets glorify and show appreciation for those who sacrificed for the benefit of the nation".