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Volleyball of Thursday, 4 July 2019


The untold story of a volleyball gem, Wise Kwami Adzokpa

Wise being presented with the best defender award at the 1999 Nations Cup in Egypt

On July 3, the nation will mark the fourth anniversary of the death of one of its greatest volleyball players in the history of the sport, as his achievements on the courts brought enormous credit to Ghana at international events.

“Selfless”, “Dedicated” and “Universal” were the attributes given to the late Wise Kwami Adzokpa by the President of the Ghana Volleyball Association (GVA), Paul Atchoe when asked about his exploits in volleyball during his heyday.

Mr Atchoe told the Graphic Sports in an interview that the late Adzokpa could be described as one of the greatest volleyball players in the country’s history who won it all both on the local scene and on the international stage.

He noted that the late former Black Spikers’ captain was renowned for his ability to excellently play every position on the court aside his immense contributions to volleyball in Ghana which saw him win individual accolades as well as for the teams he played until his demise on July 3, 2015.

“Wise was very instrumental during his hey days. He was very dedicated to the sport and even though he was a very good attacker he enjoyed playing in defence just to dig the opponent’s attacks and allow his teammates to win points.

“This made him a selfless leader who was sometimes deployed as a ‘libero’ because that position requires someone with the best passing and defensive skills in the team,” Mr Atchoe said.

Accordingly, Atchoe sees the game as one which is difficult for a player to play very well in all positions but Adzokpa had the ability to play every role on the court.

“Volleyball is a game where players specialise in a particular position but Wise was universal. His exceptional talent could allow him to play in every position and always did excellently. His attack and defence were second to none,” he added.

Birth and Early Childhood

Wise, the sixth child of the late Mr Gordon Olympic Kofi Mensah and Madam Peace Afiwor Womoo, was born on June 20, 1971. He had his elementary education at Agbozume Saint Paul’s Anglican Primary and Middle School and completed in 1987. He was admitted to Saint Paul’s Secondary School, Denu, on sports bursary during the 1988/1989 academic year.

First steps into Volleyball

While nurturing his passion for football by playing as a goalkeeper and a centre-back for his school team, not many could envisage his transition from the pitch to the court as a volleyball player.

But as fate would have it, Wise once tried his skill on the court and that was the beginning of what would become one of Ghana’s greatest volleyball stars.

After attempting to help his school team during one of their inter-schools competition, his amazing prowess caught the admiration of organisers who selected him to the Ketu District Volleyball team.

He excelled in his newly-found sport and soared higher as he was selected into the Volta Regional volleyball team that participated in the National Sports Festival for Elementary Schools hosted by the Greater Accra Region.

Through the instrumentality and immense contribution of Wise and others, the Volta Regional volleyball team brushed aside all oppositions and eventually won the volleyball trophy for the Volta Region.

Doors began to open for the young lad after he was admitted to the Saint Paul’s Secondary School.

Ghana Police Team

During the 1989 National Sports Festival for Secondary Schools hosted at the Ho Sports Stadium, Wise was on the court for the Volta regional team that won the volleyball trophy.

It was during one of the stellar performances that he caught the eyes of the Ghana Police Service volleyball team officials who invited him to join the service.

He obliged and was subsequently recruited into the Ghana Police Service on June 15, 1990, and passed out on May 31, 1991.
Shortly after his enlistment, he broke into the Police volleyball team in 1993 and never looked back till his death in 2015, helping them to win the Greater Accra Volleyball League as a player and a captain from 1993 till he passed away.

Joshua Zinsu, former teammate and coach of the Ghana Police team and the National team, extolled the qualities of Wise in an interview, describing him as an extraordinary talent who had to be promoted to the senior team within a short period after he joining the Police team.

“Wise was a novice in volleyball when he was enlisted in Ghana Police. He was a setter then and at that time I was a player/coach. He used to come along with his senior brother, Victor Adzokpa, to train with us when he was with our juvenile side and that was when I saw a big potential in him.

“I identified that he would be a very good attacker rather than a setter so I quickly changed his position and worked on him and he loved his new position.

“A year later, he was promoted to the senior police team because of his hard work, dedication, determination and extraordinary talent. He was a very talented young player at the time such that he easily broke into our team,” Zinsu said.

His dedication and performance would later be recognised as he was elevated to become the captain of the Police team in 2003.

Ghana National Team

As a member of the national team, Wise’s extraordinary defensive skills saw him win the best defender at the 1999 Nations Cup in Egypt. He was the first and still the only Ghanaian to have achieved this feat at the continental level.

Due to that feat, the Ghana Police Service promoted him to his next rank (Sergent) at that time.

Mr Zinsu, who also coached the national team from 2011 to 2018 following his retirement, reiterated the attributes given to Wise by Mr Paul Atchoe, adding that Wise was a player with strong winning mentality who acquired many nicknames because of how amazingly he performed on the court.

“When you have Wise in your team, the sky is your limit because he was very good and hated to lose so he was always striving and fighting for the team, which helped a lot,” he said

“We nicknamed him ‘the Cat’ because he was very good in attack. He was very fast in attack like a cat. He also acquired the nickname ‘Rubber’ because in defence he could stretch to any length to receive an attack from an opponent and I am sure that explains why he won the best defender at the 1999 Nations Cup in Egypt,” Zinsu recalled.

He continued that the versatility of Wise to be able to play very good in attack and defence was the difference between him and other players and even the current crop of players.

“The ability of Wise to play well in every position is what set him apart from other players. For me, he was the best attacker and receiver the country has ever had.

“I can say that he was the greatest volleyball player we have ever seen in the history of the sports,” said the former national team coach.

Wise played the national team for 10 solid years from 1997 to 2007 and played a remarkable role to become the captain of the Black Spikers.

Indeed, Wise was a genius whose exploits in the field of volleyball gave recognition to the Black Spikers on the continental level. He represented the nation at the All African Games in Algeria, Tunisia and South Africa.

Social Life

Wise was very affable, intelligent, helpful and very generous to not only the family members but also to everyone met him at home or at the workplace.