Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Matter Of What You Sow - Ghana Loses Hockey Cup

Ebo Quansah

When the dust finally settled on the 1983 African Hockey championship in Cairo, Egypt, the two West African representatives, Ghana and Nigeria, were without honours. They placed third and fourth respectively.

They had five points each but Ghana edged out Nigeria on account of superior goals aggregate. Egypt won this all-play-all six-nation competition, ending Ghana's almost 10 year domination as African champions. They grabbed eight points.

Kenya also had eight points but an inferior goals aggregate could only eam them the second spot. Zimbabwe, with four points to their credit, took the fifth position while Tanzania drew the rear with no point.

For the Black Sticks of Ghana and millions of followers of the team back home, the outcome of the tournament must be a disappointing piece of news especially when the winners are billed to represent the African continent in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Viewed against the impediments that nearly prevented them from even going to Egypt. the third place they claimed is a tribute to the players' fighting spirit and the enthusiasm of the men who direct the game of hockey in a country where priorities are all wrong.

Since time immemorial, hockey has never been counted among those disciplines that receive favours from the Sports Council of Ghana. And inspite of the fact that the Black Sticks had been champions of the whole of Africa since 1974 and even represented the continent in the World Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hockey has been almost neglected by the men whose duty it is to direct sports in Ghana.

But for the dedication of the players and a great sacrificial job by officials like Mr. K.N. Owusu, former Chairman of the Ghana Hockey Association and Vice-President of the African Hockey Federation, Mrs. Theodesia Okoh, W. been sung in the corridors of the National sports Council Secretariat in Accra, long before the Egypt championship.

Two years ago, when the junior national team, then, defending champions of Africa went to Kenya for the defence of their title, the Sports Council aided by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, by deed, created the impression that they were doing the game a special favour by sending them to Nairobi to defend the flag of Ghana.

Camping arrangements were haphazard and to crown a comedy of errors, they sent along an official of the Ministry, in the person of Dr. Ofosuhene, who has no idea of the game, as the group leader and imprest holder.

The end result was that the team lost the championship, failed to buy any valuable equipment but arrived in Accra, broke.


Incidentally, the Secretary to the Ghana Hockey Association who was to attend a meeting of the African Hockey Federation was prevented from making the trip on the flimsy excuse that money released for the trip could not cater for him.

The hockey association raised a storm over the Kenya issue but nothing concrete came out of it. In fact, the history of the Black Sticks' preparation for the just ended championship in Egypt only goes to strengthen the notion that officials at the NSC Secretariat and the Ministry of Youth and Sports treated their protest with contempt.

When players of the national hockey team were invited for camping at the University of Ghana, Legon, no provision had been made.

It was Dr. Mills, who had tendered in his resignation as Chairman of the NSC and lecturer of the closed down University and team manager W. Agrah, and used his influence to get the players accepted at Mensah Sarbah Hall.

Several attempts by the two gentlemen to get the Ministry and Sports Council officials to release money to defray camping expenses proved futile. And with food shortages in Ghana at its peak, players in camp had to do a lot of sacrificial job on their stomachs to be able to stand the ordeal.

When the camping riddle was solved, another problem cropped up. This bordered on the trip to Cairo itself.

The Sports Council Secretariat asked the Ghana Hockey Association to abandon the defence of the title in Cairo because the entire vote for the promotion of sports in the country had been exhausted by the Ministry of Sports' decision to send athletes to compete in the World Athletics Championship in Helsinki, Finland.

The persuasive argument was that the trip, that cost the Ghanaian tax payer, nearly one and a half million cedis in foreign exchange, had left nothing for the Cairo title defence.

The Hockey Association lodged a strong protest and a great deal of lobbying had to go on before the team was finally given the green light.

The Black Sticks therefore left for Cairo physically and mentally unprepared. And like unprepared examination candidates, the players did not do well.

The harm has already been done. In future, if authorities want hockey to ride the crest of waves, then attitude towards the game must change.

Players and officials of the team as well as those of Nigeria, who represented West Africa in the just ended games are welcome back home.

Though success did not crown their efforts, the third and fourth position they claimed in a competition involving the whole of Africa, cannot be said to be very disappointing. Once more, bravo!

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