You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2022 05 13Article 1537091

Opinions of Friday, 13 May 2022

Columnist: Princeton Kwabena Wiredu

The College Athletics Conundrum: Ghana’s rise to world prominence a possibility or a mirage?

File Photo File Photo

Ghana currently boasts of a golden generation of athletes. They include Benjamin Azamati, Joseph Paul Amoah, Deborah Acquah, and Abigail Kwarteng and a host of other fast-developing athletes and others setting ablaze track and field.

Some years ago, we witnessed Ignatius Gaisah, Aziz Zakari, Leonard Miles-Mills, Martha Bissa, Nadia Eke, Geema Acheampong and all the gallant athletes who hoisted the flag of Ghana with their strong performances.

A blistering start to the new Athletics season has seen some Ghanaian athletes make the leaderboards in various disciplines, while some hold world leads so far.

This could go down as the most historic year in the history of Ghana Athletics.

Let’s do the facts;

Deborah Acquah's amazing jump of 6.68m is the world leader, Abigail Kwarteng's new national record at the war Eagle invitational Alabama, in the high jump 1.92m is 5th best on the world chart, and at 9.86s and 9.94s, Azamati Benjamin and Paul Amoah top the world rankings so far.

The developments swell up the belief that Ghana could be up to something special at the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the World Athletics Championships in July and probably a force to reckon, on the continent and the World in some time to come.

In as much as the prospects excite us, we are compelled to pin the Athletics structures here, to that of other jurisdictions, while we focus on college and university sports; which have come to be accepted as the hub and spine of Athletics for various countries.

Well, it appears that the exciting line of Ghanaian athletes mentioned above, and many others making great strides overseas, seem to be flourishing elsewhere outside the shores of Ghana.

The college sports system in the US, UK, Canada, and Jamaica has an efficient architecture that facilitates the development of student-athletes, providing them extraordinary guidance and sports scholarships in these universities.

The fruiting of this design is what is maximizing the potential of Ghanaian athletes, some of whom are beneficiaries of an open sports scholarship program and injecting a lot of hope into Ghana athletics, with a lot of them sharpening their talent.

Contrastively, in Ghana, the design has great variation. Athletes groomed here linger in a system where they hardly reach their peak despite the giant efforts of some hardworking trainers and Athletics instructors.

We hardly flame international glory from here, local athletes in colleges usually bow to the high- standards amidst limited substandard infrastructure even though they show glimpses of talent and potential. What do we do?

Many have blamed the inadequacy of Athletics meets as a reason for the struggles for college Athletics in Ghana and the sub-standard performances we deal with on the larger scale but for a few exceptions.

Others are linking it to our systems and the lack of ideas on the part of the Ghana Athletics Federation to play a more active supervisory role in facilitating the design of standardized college, and university Athletic programs as well as beef up the patronage given to the inter-college games in Ghana.

GAA’s failure to advocate or provide the needed standardized infrastructure from corporate Ghana and spearhead a campaign from the government to get appropriate gyms, mondo tracks, and employ or support Athletics coaches to upgrade their skills and sharpen their skills.

At this point, we must understand that it is erroneous to think that it is the GAA that is responsible for ensuring the progress and sustainability of University and College Athletics. Where are the other players and stakeholders hiding?

Coach Elorm Amenakpor, Former Sprint Coach for the University of Ghana Athletics team, now based in the US (West Texas A & M University) carries similar sentiment when in an interview with Godfred Dampte-Larbi on Radio Univers (105.7fm) Sports express show, charged managers of the sport(athletics) to be more innovative in finding funds to invest in athletes. He also advocated for the creation of “Athletic Clubs” to explore the talents in the country.

“There’s no lesser-known sports in Ghana. We always give people who are interested in the title to be in charge of sports. To be a sports manager, you must be innovative, you must find a way to fund the sport.

“We should take advantage of the athlete hubs(Ashanti, Bono region) in Ghana to raise funds for the sport. Over here in Texas, High schools perform every week so the growth is there. Things are made flexible for student-athletes here so when they travel and return, they are able to cover up.

“It is not about Ghana Athletics Association alone, they should give licences to entities to also organise meets. I also want to encourage the formation of clubs like Legon Creative Athletics Club in Accra and other clubs that can come together to have a competition at least every four months.

“When we do that, the athletes are able to transit from one stage to another and they grow steadily. We shouldn’t wait for Inter-Schools competitions and Super Zonals.”

One thing we do know however is that other countries like the US, Italy, Jamaica and the U.K are exploring College sports and maximizing the potential of student Athletes in the Universities and Colleges, making them a hub for National athletes.

The NCAA divisions, the relays and other meets today have been beneficial to Ghanaian Athletes.

But after school, the athletes would go off scholarship and without a professional contract or sponsorship, full-time athletics becomes impossible due to the high cost of training.

The national long jump record holder, Deborah Acquah, revealed to Citisports a month ago that she will quit athletics after the World Championships if she does not get the required support to continue.

The national 100m record holder Benjamin Azamati who is currently a West Texas A&M student is not exempted.

The country loses its top athletes to regular employment systems since they lack the necessary support after a college education.

CEO of the Ghana Athletics Association, Bawa Fuseini in an interview indicated that Ghanaian athletes need financial support to perform on the World stage.

He advocated for a good pay system (around a figure of GH₵5,000) for the National athletes so they do not struggle with financial issues and battle other Ghanaians who do not have Athletics talents for ‘white collar' jobs.

For us, it only elevates and fortifies our ideas that should we rethink, reorganize and perhaps re-structure and invest in our inter-college, University sports in Ghana, we may be one of the biggest Athletics stories in the world.

All Athletes of Ghanaian descent we mentioned are all student Athletes overseas, and we can translate the lessons and structures in the NCAA, the Intercom (Jamaica) US and Italy and the likes into our setting here in Ghana, it will pay off some day!