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Sports Features of Monday, 26 August 2013

Source: Kwabena Agyekum

Gaisah vs SWAG: Plan to abandon Ghana was ....

* .....set in motion 6 years ago*

For all his accomplishments on the field, Ignisious Gaisah also has the dubious honor of being the only Ghanaian sports man or woman to be stripped of a national award for ingratitude ....

Make no mistake about it; Ignisious Gaisah, formerly known as Issac Essuman (before leaving Ghana), is the greatest long jumper Ghana has ever known. His list of accomplishments is long and honorable and as a country, we must acknowledge and appreciate it. He recently proved his critics wrong by demonstrating his ability to contend with the best and win global medals 10 years apart.

However, too often, sports journalists in Ghana have short memories about significant off-the-field moments in Ghana sports. Therefore when major related issues happen later, we cannot provide our readers or listeners with meaningful context.

Gaisah recently shocked Ghanaians by announcing a switch in competition allegiance immediately after obtaining Netherlands citizenship. Many of his supporters lambasted the current Ghana Athletics Association (GAA) President, Prof Duodoo for not codling Giasah. Others, including Gaisah himself have indirectly accused former GAA President Sandy Osei-Agyemang of not attending to him when he was injured in 2008. For reference, it is important to note that Gaisah is a professional athlete and was competing on his own, not for Ghana, when he injured himself in 2008.

Other critics claim that GAA should have provided the necessary resources to support Gaisah. But, it is curious that an athlete’s decision to leave for greener pastures elsewhere can be solely attributed to an association that has little to no control over purse strings. Given Ghana’s current funding model for sports, the blame lies with our politicians who have no innovative ideas concerning how best to effectively fund sports.

After inheriting a decimated sport with no developmental program from Sandy Osei-Agyemang, who in turn inherited nothing on the development side from his predecessor George Lutterodt, one would have thought Duodoo and co would have had a plan to safe guard progress they made in 2011-2012. Instead, GAA let the perfect storm of unpaid monies owed to GAA and a freeze on government funding for lesser sports bring Ghana Athletics to a screeching halt in 2013.

For those with quick triggers when it comes to criticizing national sporting associations, bear in mind the following; none, absolutely none, of the 15 plus national sporting associations knew beforehand they would not be getting funding this year. Thus, even the suggestion that they should have had backup plans might not be a fair one to make.

But let’s go back to the main topic which is; why did Gaisah really leave Ghana? Remember, that his supporters say it is because of GAA issues. However, a close examination of Gaisah’s history reveals a lot more about his thinking concerning his self-worth that began several years ago. The foundation for his departure was laid over half a decade ago.

For all his accomplishments on the field, Gaisah also has the dubious honor of being the only Ghanaian sports man or woman to be stripped of a national award for ingratitude. One of our greatest athletes also has the worst record when it comes to pride in his country. This is not to say that Gaisah is a bad person. Who are we to judge what a man personally believes he is worth. Who are we to judge what he believes he needs in order to feel supported and appreciated?

However, a person’s believe in his self-worth can help us easily decipher his motives for later actions. Almost exactly 6 years ago Gaisah made it perfectly clear to Ghana, and especially the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG), what he thought of our collective recognition of his accomplishments. He put the nation on notice and lets us in on his psyche.

When informed of his nomination and subsequent selection as the Male Sportsman of the Year in 2007, Gaisah said “he is sick and tired of the 'cheap awards' where winners are presented with Akuaba i.e., dolls as prizes”. Keep in mind that the basic reason for the SWAG awards is to acknowledge significant sporting achievements by Ghanaians. It has nothing to do with financial reward for sporting accomplishments.

Never, in the history of Ghana sports has an athlete or player nominated for a national award rubbished the very people, and by extension the nation, that thought it worthwhile to acknowledge his achievements. For more on “Gaisah versus SWAG” visit http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/athletics/artikel.php?ID=130268.

This brings us back to the question “Why did Gaisah really abandon Ghana”? The answer is simple. The country of his birth, that partly facilitated his rise to stardom, by providing him the initial opportunity to go to Netherlands and supported him from 2004 – 2008 with an IOC scholarship, is too cheap to pay him what he thinks he is worth or will take to secure his financial health. Indeed, in his letter to GAA notifying them of his intention to jump ship, Gaisah explicitly and implicitly cited financial reasons.

His interpretation of what he is worth may be true but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that he abandoned Ghana because of a rocky relationship with current or past national association executives.

For some, sports men and women, national pride overrides the lack of resources and internal politics. For others, maximizing income potential and access to resources overrides national pride i.e., patriotism. After all, patriotism does not pay bills. Gaisah’s case as evidenced by his own words falls in the “financial reasons” category.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being a patriot or a true capitalist. However, it is important for those left behind to accurately reflect on the reasons for his departure even if there is not much we can currently change.

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