Ghana tops Africa at Youth Olympics

Nanjing, China, August 24, 2014 – It wasn’t their placement that had Philip Amissah and Nicholas Tetteh excited here Sunday after playing their final Beach Volleyball match at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
Yes, the two 16-year old players were ”honored” to finish as the top African team in the men’s event at the Nanjing Sports Park Complex after reaching the elimination rounds in the inaugural Beach Volleyball competition at the Youth Olympics.
Yes, Amissah and Tetteh were “pleased” by winning three matches over teams from the Virgin Islands, Peru and Iran after being initially “disappointed” in losing their first two pool play confrontations to more experienced teams from France and Puerto Rico.
What really “excited” Amissah and Tetteh was the “experience” they gained on-and-off the sand in playing in their first-ever international event outside of their continent where they qualified as the No. 2 men’s team for the Youth Olympics from Africa.
“This was a great experience for Philip and Nicholas,” said Edward Seidu Ajanako, who coached both the Ghana men’s and women’s teams in the competition. “On the court, Phillip and Nicholas learned were how to play under pressure before a crowd. Off the court, they learned many things about traveling. Competing in the Youth Olympics in a big country like China is an eye-opening experience for them,”
After losing their final match to Jake MacNeil and Andrew Richards of Canada in the opening elimination round Sunday, Tetteh said his team was “disappointed, but still pleased with our overall performance. We have been playing together for less than a year. We are still very new to the sport and learning more about Beach Volleyball every day. It is something you do not master immediately.”
Ajanako, who played in a FIVB World Tour event this season with Jonathan Sarpong and will be participating in the qualifying process for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, echoes his player’s statement. “It is not easy to become proficient in this sport when you live in a country where you do not have a beach culture,” said Ajanako. “I attended college in the United States and learned what it meant to live in a beach culture. I loved it and I hope my experience will benefit my players.”
A Volleyball and soccer player in college, Ajanako said “it will take resources and time to develop players in Ghana. Beach Volleyball is very new in our country were soccer is the main sport. The funding is very important as we need the experience of playing teams from other countries. That is why competing in the Youth Olympics was important as the players experience so many new things in their young lives.”
In developing teams for the Youth Olympics, Ajanako drafted players from an indoor Volleyball club in Ghana capital of Accra where he started the process with 15 boys and 10 girls. “It was difficult at first since we were teaching the players the very basics of the sport,” said the 36-year old Ajanako. “Everything was new to the players from competing in the sand, in the elements (weather) and with only two people on a side.”
Ajanako also said Ghana benefited from hosting the qualifying rounds for the Youth Olympics. “This was very important as the people of Ghana saw how the sport was played,” said Ajanako. “When developing a sport, young people and their families need to see how the sport is played. As I said, there is no beach culture in Ghana, so everything is new and we needed to bring events like the qualifier to our country to expose our people to Beach Volleyball.”
For Ajanako and his two players, the excitement of the Olympics is appealing. While Ajanako will be seeking a berth in the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Ghana coach feels that Amissah and Tetteh have a legitimate chance of qualifying for the Beach Volleyball competition at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.
“For me, the time is now,” said Ajanako about seeking an Olympic berth. “For Philip and Nicholas, the goal is to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. It will take time and a great deal of commitment for them to achieve their goal. The experience of qualifying for the Youth Olympics and playing six matches against players from other countries in Nanjing was a great start for Phillip and Nicholas’ career in Beach Volleyball. Now, we just need the funding for them to continue their development and the experience of playing at international events.”