NFs worried about All Africa Games preparations

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Presidents of National Federations have expressed concern about the nation's preparation towards 2015 All Africa Games at a press conference in Accra on Thursday, April 16, 2015

Below is a statement signed by all Federation Presidents apart from football, which was delivered to the Ministry of Youth and Sports after the Press Conference. It was read by the President of the Ghana Hockey Federation, Richard Akpokavie.

Article 37 clause (5) of the 1992 Constitution which provides AS FOLLOWS:

“The state shall ensure that adequate facilities for sports are provided throughout Ghana and that sports are promoted as a means of fostering national integration, health and self-discipline as well as international friendship and understanding

 

There are several young men and women, all Ghanaian, whose dreams are being shattered only because they do not play football. Our athletes are Ghanaians who compete for our country, die for the flag and sometimes shed blood for us all. Whenever these athletes go out to compete they represent all the 25 million Ghanaians and that is why the national anthem is played and the flag of Ghana is hoisted. These athletes are our sporting ambassadors and we need to provide deserving support for them as national athletes.

Over the 58 years of our history, have we not been thrilled by several achievements in other sports other than football? Have we not won several international laurels in other sports? Athletics and boxing have always provided us with medals and excitement globally at major international events like, African Championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games.

 

The framers of our constitution recognized the importance of sports and therefore stated unambiguously the provision stated above.

 

During the last State of the Nation address on February 26, 2015, His Excellency the President of Ghana stated:

 

“Government will this year, put a desirable focus on other sporting disciplines other than football, in order to contribute to their growth and the winning of more international medals and competitions”

 

The importance of this statement cannot be overemphasized, because, since 2012, no sport other than football has benefitted from the country’s sports budget!

Over the last three (3) years, apart from the Ghana Football Association, NO national sports federations have received any funds from government. Rather, Federations have been asked to raise money from corporate sponsors. This is regardless of the fact that, all national teams, including football, are entitled to support from the State. Teams have traveled to represent mother Ghana at the World Cup and had to borrow money from financial institutions to pay the airfares of players and coaches. Athletes have won medals wearing the nation’s jersey, even at the Commonwealth Games, and not been paid their promised bonuses. Federation presidents have had to pay themselves to purchase the jerseys that athletes compete for Ghana in, and then had to pay the duties when the jerseys arrived in Ghana.

As has been continually emphasized over the years, the national teams are the property of the State, which has a direct responsibility for national sportsmen and women who represent the country. The responsibility of the State is not only to the Black Stars, but also to all the national athletes in track and field, tennis, badminton, volleyball, hockey, rugby, handball, boxing, basketball, weightlifting, taekwondo, judo, swimming, table tennis, fencing, golf, cricket, volleyball, cycling, shooting, rowing and canoeing, baseball and softball, kick boxing, body building, chess, scrabble, karate – do and netball.

 

Several federations over the last couple of years received approval from the Presidency for national teams travel but the money was never released. Various federations based on these approvals went ahead to borrow money to execute the programs but the Ministry of Sports is yet to make refunds. In 2013 the Ministry of Sports and National Sports Authority wrote to all federations allocating funds but we never received a pesewa yet the sports budget was used in full.

 

This year, 2015, is very important in the global sports calendar as Republic of Congo (Congo Brazaville) hosts the All Africa Games in September and several sports disciplines begin the qualification process also for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Already, national teams have started competing to qualify for the African Games. However, while the football teams (male and female) have been allocated funds to train and travel, other sports disciplines have been left to fend for themselves.

 

The disastrous consequence for sports in Ghana is clearly indicated by the recent debacle (just last week). Lack of funding from the Ministry for the national handball teams to attend a qualifier for the African Games. The national handball team because there was no allocation made for them, had to stay in Accra longer than they should have trying to raise money for the trip, and then had to resort to road travel from Accra to Niger. The consequence was that they arrived in Niger too late to play their first matches on the opening day. They were thus eliminated, simply because of the logistical problems associated with non-support, and Ghanaian youth who had toiled for months preparing for the qualifiers were deprived of an opportunity to qualify for the All African Games.

Colleagues with all due respect we believe this state of affairs cannot continue and is now detrimental to sports development in Ghana.

 

We, the Presidents of the sports federations have no problem with football or its status as the number one sport in Ghana. Every country in the world has a dominant sport(s) and that is why Indians love cricket, Americans - baseball, South Africans - football, Japan – sumo etc. This has not however stopped these countries from supporting other sporting disciplines. Not even in football-crazy Brazil, has football stopped the development or support for other sports. Football is the number one sport in almost every African country but these states still provide state budgetary support for other sports. South Africa is passionate about rugby but supports swimming, athletics (track and field), netball and several other sports. Egypt can easily be described as soccer crazy but it also noted for supporting handball, volleyball.

 

We can list several states including relatively less endowed countries that find the resources to support not only their football teams but other sporting disciplines. Football is the passion of our nation but it is not all the young people in Ghana who play football. Some children of Ghanaians choose to swim, run, play tennis, table tennis, netball, basketball and volleyball. Others prefer cycling, taekwondo, judo, weightlifting and boxing, among other things, rather than play football. But that should not be a reason for their total neglect, and for them to have no support whatsoever from the State. These are young men and women who have sacrificed and continue to do so for Ghana in several ways, but who are never appreciated, even when they win medals for Ghana. What must the other sports disciplines and their athletes do to be recognized and supported?

 

It is very upsetting and unacceptable that with barely four months to the All Africa Games, federations have not received any sort of funding to prepare our national teams. Sadly, the last time any funds were released to us the non-football Associations by government, was as far back as 2012. How are the federations expected to put together formidable teams to represent Ghana at the All Africa Games?

 

While our national teams lack support for LOCAL/DOMESTIC preparations, i.e. camping, local competitions, there is also the key issue of lack of TRAVEL FUNDS to attend international qualifiers, a key prerequisite for participation in the All Africa Games. Disqualification of some federations for the Games also looms due to indebtedness to international federations in respect of affiliation fees.

 

We, the Presidents of the various national sports federations regardless of participation status in the All Africa Games, hereby draw your attention to the critical need for financial support from government to prepare our National Teams for the All Africa Games. This is to ensure that we do not send ill-prepared athletes to the Games expecting miracles.

 

We hope our concerns will be addressed as quickly as possible! Otherwise Ghana may encounter a situation where for the first time in the history of the All Africa Games, we may not have national teams to represent Ghana in sports disciplines other than football. We therefore request, that if the other sports disciplines are to participate in the All Africa Games, then as a matter of urgency the Ministry of Sports should take immediate steps to release money to the federations by the 15th May 2015 to enable federations prepare adequately for the All Africa Games.

Aside from the immediate concern of the All Africa Games, there are serious challenges that we must resolve otherwise very soon there will be no sports in Ghana. If we do not want sports to completely collapse in this country then the Ministry of Sports must look at the concerns we have raised so that permanent solutions can be found. We cannot deceive ourselves that all is fine and continue to do the same old things and hope to get different results.

The Presidents of the national federations wish to point out that the regime where the other sports are ignored with respect to funding, and yet expected to somehow prepare teams for competition should end now. The era is past, where athletes literally kill themselves to win medals for Ghana, and then suffer continuous frustration waiting several months, even years, for UNPAID per diems and bonuses, trivial sums compared to the payments for football.

The federation presidents have suffered for far too long - we are not lazy and we are not visa racketeers

We the federation Presidents respectfully request that the Ministry of Youth and Sports, take steps to pay outstanding debts and bonuses owed federations and athletes and also provide money for the preparation towards the All African Games in 2015.

THANK YOU          

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