Boxing and Soccer have always been the most popular sports in Ghana, with the former frequently playing second fiddle to the so-called most popular sport in the world. But boxing has had its good days in Ghana. Fighters like “Professor” Azumah Nelson, Ike “Bazooka” Quartey, Nana Yaw Konadu, and more recently, The Clottey Brothers and Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko have brought several world titles to the country. Soccer is the most popular sport in Ghana because it has brought a lot of sporting honor. Or could it be that soccer is the most popular sport in Ghana because it brought the country a lot of laurels? Ghana is regarded as a powerhouse in African soccer, having won the continental title four times and hosting the most recent continental soccer fiesta, the African Nations Cup.
The popularity of these two sports is so vast that life comes to a standstill whenever the nation competes in a match, fight, or tournament. (However, in recent years Boxing has lost its crowd-pulling qualities, while that of soccer has increased, mostly due to Ghana’s qualification for the World Cup in Germany). Due to Ghanaians’ perennial fascination with these two sporting disciplines, it has become extremely hard for the so-called “lesser known” sports to move up the popularity ladder.
Last summer the sporting contingent that Ghana sent to the Beijing Olympic Games caught a lot of flack from many Ghanaians, who described the delegation as a disgrace to the natural sporting talent and athleticism of the country. The failure of the Ghanaian soccer team to qualify for the Olympic soccer competition meant that only a handful (about ten) of runners and boxers represented Ghana, and not surprisingly, came back home empty-called. That was how the calls to pay more attention to less popular sports such as hockey and athletics began.
Last weekend Ghana successfully hosted the African Hockey Nations Cup. A lot of infrastructural and other intangible measures went into the event. Several millions of dollars were spent on the tournament preparation, with part of that sum used to upgrade the National Hockey Pitch into a world class Astroturf pitch with a seating capacity of 1,200. As early as May of this year, the tournament’s Local Organizing Committee embarked on a public awareness campaign to raise the citizens’ interest in the sport. This culminated in the formal launching of the 9th edition of the tournament on May 26, 2009, with the country’s Vice President in attendance. The tournament itself kicked off on July 10, 2009 and lasted eight days.
When the final hockey sticks were sheathed, it was the South African team that grabbed gold in both the male and female events. South Africa is virtually the only hockey “superpower” on the continent, thus their sweeping the board came as no surprise. The Ghanaian team didn’t fare badly either, picking up silver in the women’s competition. Ghana also picked up silver in the men’s competition, beating Nigeria in the third place play-off match.
The support that Ghanaian fans displayed at the grounds was immense, and this sent out signals to sporting authorities that Ghanaians were willing to support their country in “non-traditional” sports if they were given the chance to do so. Hopefully, other sports such as swimming, cricket, and rugby would be given shots in the arm so they can also churn out talents that can represent Ghana at future sporting events.