“Ghana only likes football”

This was a comment made by one of the seniors at the judo class I am training with on my second day out. We were discussing sports and martial arts in general and he started to talk about how difficult it is to get any kind of funding for any sport that doesn’t involve grown men kicking around a small plastic ball.

In the time I’ve been here, I’ve become aware of how well individual Ghanaians do in other sports besides football. We have a weightlifting team that won gold at Last year’s commonwealth games but were unable to compete in the Olympic qualifiers because they couldn’t get transit visas through the USA. We apparently also have one of the best cricket teams in West Africa, the fastest female sprinter in Africa, one of the longest jumpers and martial arts teams in Judo, Karate and Tae Kwon Do that are known for being very good at what they do. On the boxing front we have a very good amateur squad and have produced several world champions. I’m now starting to hear about a Rugby team too.

The problem? Publicity and money, both government and private, seems to be aimed purely at football. The club I train with field a large part of the national Judo team. They have won several medals in the past and are currently in training for the All Africa Games happening in Algeirs in July. With almost no sponsorship at all.

They all work full time and train daily out of a classroom/eating area in the Prison Officers training grounds. Sometimes while the trainee officers are eating. At this point they should already be off in a training camp sharpening up their skills under the eye of coaches, nutritionists and physical therapists. They aren’t even sure how much funding they will have to make the trip. And yet they will train religiously for the love of the sport and because they believe in giving their all. Honestly, I will be surprised if this is any different for a host of other sports in this country.

Still, the degree to which we seem to ignore or undervalue immense athletic talent in this country seems to mirror how much we ignore our intellectual talent as well. Its sad and more than a bit infuriating how little we seem to value this stuff.

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