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Boxing News of Sunday, 12 November 2006

Source: kabral blay []

A Tribute To Eddie Blay


All great men by their contribution to society, to human civilisation write their own tributes before they leave this earth, and so it may be said that, Eddy Blay, a great Ghanaian athlete in his 60 plus years on this earth wrote his own.

And yet I too want to write an ode to Eddy, my brother. I am compelled to break my long sabbathical from the world of journalism to say something about a great human being who now belongs to the ages.

As a way of an introduction let me say that Eddy Blay was my brother. In Western cultural parlance the right way to describe our relationship will be that we were first cousins, his mother and my mother being full blooded sisters. But I choose to describe Eddy as my brother, because never once did he see me in this cousin-first cousin, third cousin prism. Never once did he let me or any of my siblings feel we were cousins. We were brothers true and true in the Akan sense. He called me a brother and I called him my elder brother.


My lasting impression of Eddy from this bloodline is one of a very loving family man, who loved his nuclear family, particularly his wife, Daniella, a true and loving companion of Eddy for about 30 years. His love for his children Barbara, Junior and Sabrina could be a chapter from any of the great loving family tales you have read.

But Eddy Blay did not shower his love and care on only his nuclear family and siblings- Tanoe, Ebba, Leo, Moses, Lucy, Abbey, Sammy and Elizabeth(Mame Makoh) but to everybody in the extended Blay-Harrison family. As the first of his siblings, he proved a solid rock that all could lean on in good and bad times.

Eddy was always there for the family and I recall he was present at the outdooring of my kids-Zandile Yaaba, Zeba, Blaychee and Reba Yaaba. To my eldest son, Markus, he showed great love that can only come from somebody who believed in family as the bedrock of human society. He made it a point no matter how busy he was to honour family occasions. His large frame filled with warmth and friendship was something to behold.


Eddy Blay was the very epitome of kindness, always willing to share the little he had with all and sundry. I remember my days at Legon, when any visit from Eddy Blay, then based in Forli, Italy meant that Freddy Blay, the current First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Prof Sammy Blay, and myself could add to our collection of good Italian shoes. Luckily I wear the same size as Eddy and so I knew that I would always get something extra

On his return after 12 years sojourn in Italy, Eddy and Daniella opened an Italian Resturant, Il Cosaro and later Sole Mio. The generous man that he was, we could always stop there for a drink and some good Italian cooking, all on the house. His kindness in this respect was also extended to many of his old and new friends.


Eddy Blay did not have the benefit of secondary education but he educated himself through his voracious appetite for books and could hold his own against any so-called booklong people. Fluent in English, Italian, Ga, Fante and of course Nzima, you should have seen Eddy debating and discussing isues from archaelogy to boxing, which was his first love with many of his clients and us at his reatuarants. Dennis Akummu, one time Secretary General of OAATU, the pan-African trade union and lawyer Amarkai Amarteifio, former Secrtary for Youth and Sports were some of the many big guns Eddy did mental sparring with.Eddy kept abreast with current affairss by reading all the newspapers, a habit he passed on to his wife Daniella. The two followed the vicissitudes of my writing career in the turbulent days of Culture of Silence and that of many other journalists. It wsa thorugh his love for reading that Eddy made friends with young reporters like Sammy Okaitey of Graphic and Kwabena Yeboah of Africa Sports.


Obviously, Eddy Blay made his name in the world of boxing. In his career as an amateur boxer from the late 50s to 1968 when he turned professional,Eddy fought and beat some of the best boxers in his generation. He went to the 1960 Olympic Games where he made friends withg the legendary Muhammed Ali, then called Csssius Clay. He did not grab a medal there but went on to Tokyo in 1960 where he won the bronze. Eddy won several top prizes at several Commonwealth Games, Perth, Kingston and at the Africa level. As a professional boxer based in Italy, Eddy won more laurels for himself and Ghana.

He was simply one of the best boxers that Ghana ever produced, the class of Ike Quarteys, Azuma Nelsons and Floyd Robertson and of course Ray Ankrah, his trainr and mentor. After his return from Italy and professional boxing, he devoted much of his time, energy and resources to the future of boxing in Ghana. His eyes dazzled with passion and excitement when he talked boxing and when you saw him training his boys. The political system of the times did not create the necessary enabling environment for Eddy to give his best to the sport he loved but he fought every problem that came his way and was happy with every round he won in post boxing life even if he did not clinch the final result of success. He was happy and excited when any of his boys like Umaru Sanda won a fight. Many aspiring boxers from Nima and Bukom turned to Eddy for inspiration and he gave it to them in abundance. He was their mentor and friend.

My memory of Eddy Blay as a fighter is not of the Eddy we all associate with the boxing ring. Once a fighter always a fighter. The expereince you gain as a fighter can be applied to every stage of one's career outside the ring and Eddy did just that.

Operating a private business in the 80s was no easy task and as Eddy set out to open and run his restaurant business alongside his boxing promotion, he ran into all kinds of troubles but he never gave up.

He exhbited the same resilience, stamina and determination that made him a great boxer and at the end Eddy won his many battles in the difficult business world of Ghana just as he won scores of boxing bouts.

I could go on and on about Eddy Blay, mny brother, his humility, patriotsim which explains why he stayed an amateur for so long instead of going for the green bucks at a younger age, his impact on the sports he loved so much etc etc. but besides boxing he had a great human quality, magnanimity, which he showed in the ring and outside.


One of the most remarkable things I remember about Eddy was his preparadness to forgive and get on with relationships. Eddy hurt when fo some reasons or not I did not visit as regulary as I the junior one should have done. But when when he was hurt he never hid his frustration and anger but chose the matured way of confronting the offender in order to settle matters. Thus Eddy never hid his anger or disappointment with me or any members of the family. He was bighearted and magnaninmous.


But let me pause here for others to add to the story of Eddy Blay. I know many tributes will be written. The boxing world may even name a tournament or a trophy after him as has been hinted.

He surely deserves all such recognition, those he lived to see and read about and those that will come after he is gone.

My only regret is that I did not write a profile of Eddy when he was around. He would have called me for a hug and of course a drink to celebrate a good article which he did when even I did not write that masterpiece I had promised.

As I looked back on the years that we had him breathing and kicking all over, I remember Eddy Blay-(Ettie), as we called him, as a great brother,a great friend, and indeed a fantastic human being who will be missed by all who knew him.

Eddy Blay will of course be always remembered because he succeeded on his own to make a name for himself through his contribution to sports development in Ghana. He wrote his own story.

History never forgets such great souls.