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Sports Features of Wednesday, 15 February 2017


Posterity will demand answers for poor show at AFCON!

I am calling for serious stock-taking of what has transpired our sporting front within the 60 years of independence from colonial rule as we celebrate our diamond jubilee on March 6, 2017. The challenges we have are there for all to see, and as such taking stock will bring to the fore the ills bedeviling our sports and that will give us a wake-up call to institute the requisite measures to salvage our sports.

A typical example is our unimpressive outing at the just ended African Nations Cup (AFCON) in Gabon where we failed to redeem our image not winning it for the fifth time since we won the fourth 35 years ago.

Besides that, can we say we have done well at the Africa Games, Commonwealth and Olympic Games as well as Africa club championships?

All nations take stock of such occasions, and in most cases the credit is supposed to be better than the deficit, looking at their achievements. In Africa, since the sixties when most of the nations had their independence people tend to feel there is no time to waste in looking back, but then, we shall have ourselves to blame if we brush aside what has been done in our lifetime, since posterity will demand answers for our positives and negatives.

For our part, can we pin-point any positive signs of progress from the days when our high-jumper E.A. Kotei and others won medals at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome to today that we attend such games with large contingents but come back home empty-handed?

Of course, critics and observers have been wide awake, watching what has been happening in our day-to-day activities and it is gratifying that politicians and historians have kept records, even right from the colonial days.

Is it any surprise that at the recent inauguration of His Excellency Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo as President at the Independence Square, the two foreign presidents who delivered their speeches, Liberia's Johnson Sirleaf and Ouatara of Cote d'Ivoire made reference to the historical background of Ghana from the Gold Coast era we saw before the 1957 independence?

In other words, outsiders watch what we achieve in this country even better than we do, and to them the comparison is more positive in those days when the sporting bell was ringing louder than we have now.

And when the future generation ask what achievement we have had within the 60 years, one of the answers we will talk about is the four-time African Champions which was last recorded just before the silver jubilee of our independence.

Is it not interesting that after the fourth glory in 1982, things have not been that bad as we have had the opportunity to take part in several finals with some of them taking us to the grand-finale such as 1992 in Senegal, 2010 in Angola and 2015 in Equatorial Guinea. Do we see ourselves as great today as we were in those days when we were masters in the 13th edition?

It must be noted that it took a whole 36 years from the time FIFA allowed the African continent to have a single slot at the World Cup for the country Ghana to qualify for the mundial, and even then at the end of the day it was when Africa had done so well to make an impact to deserve five slots that Ghana took advantage to enter the World Cup in 2006 after 49 years of independence.

May I say that it is just not right to boast three qualifiers on the trot when our closest football rivals and neighbours, Nigeria had done it earlier in 1994 in USA, 1998 in France and 2002 in Japan/Korea. Perhaps what they could not achieve was the ability to reach the quarter-finals which only two African countries, Cameroun and Ghana had been credited with.

On the African Club Championship front, the record is worse. The championship has been going on annually for the past 53 years, starting from the days of Real Republicans when a Camerounian club, Oryx, won it in Accra in 1964.

It is on record that our clubs, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, won it twice in 1971 in the days of Ibrahim Sunday and 1983 in the days of Papa Arko and Opoku Nti and co and the baton was handed over to Accra Hearts of Oak who had to wait till the year 2000 and topped it up with the Super-Cup. Four years later, they won the maiden continental Confederation Cup, and that is what has been achieved so far.

These achievements of the nation's top clubs are on the down side compared to others like Zamalek and Al-Ahly of Egypt and some clubs in other countries like Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, Cameroun, Cote d'Ivoire, South Africa, among others, within the 53 years of the competition.

Other clubs from this land have tried but the results have not favoured them. So, on counting our achievements in the past 60 years, you can imagine where we have fallen off the ladder while others who were nowhere near us are climbing to the top.

Today, come to think of our local clubs like Wa All Stars who are in the continental Champions League and Bechem United in the Confederation Cup, and checkup where they will reach in the current exercise.

Last Sunday, All Stars in their maiden attempt were hit hard with a 1 - 3 loss to Al Ahli Tripoli and Bechem United had to struggle to chalk a 2 - 1 victory over MC Alger of Algeria. You can imagine what will happen in the second leg of the two clubs on foreign grounds.

Indeed, the world is watching, but posterity is all ready to ask questions as to whether we have any right to hit our chests and claim any credit positively and say the past 60 years are worth celebrating.