Dear incoming Minister of Youth and Sports Honourable Mustapha Ussif, Ghana our beloved country didn’t qualify to play in the qualifiers for the 2021 AfroBasket; An Indoor Arena would have gone a very long way to have prevented this from happening.
What is certain in the upcoming round of Ministerial vetting is a better handle of questions than what we saw in the previous vetting in recent weeks. The sheer display of poor preparation by incoming Ministers and the massive fallout that followed means individuals set to appear before the vetting committee are sure to do their homework very well. Another eventuality to look out for is the rubber stamping of designated individuals to be named substantive Ministers as has been the practice over decades.
With the Sports Minister Designate Mustapha Ussif set to be vetted this week, one sure thing to happen during the vetting is the dominance of football related questions. Football is loved by a huge following in Ghana and the major controversies plus government’s very direct involvement in the sport has made the sector a very touchy issue. Speaking of eventualities, even before Honourable Ussif takes his seat before the vetting committee, the “I will be a Minister for all Sports and not just a Football Minister” statement is one to look out for.
It has been said so many times by the many individuals who have served as the Ministry’s Head that it has become an inevitable part of Ghana’s famed “System”. However, once Honourable Ussif’s position is confirmed, he doesn’t need to do much to show he isn’t a Football Minister but is one who strays from the “bad” norm.
For starters, building an indoor arena is a perfect way to show this and with Ghana set to host the Africa Games in 2023, the country is on the brink of addressing a major challenge that has hampered growth in the sports sector; inadequate infrastructure. Hosting the multisport competition is a can’t miss opportunity to fix one of the lingering problems that has stymied the country’s potential dominance in many sports disciplines. Just as Honourable Ussif’s confirmation as Minister is bound to happen, a gymnasium of international repute at the end of his term however, long or short that is, should also be considered an eventuality.
Arena can save Conference Center
Also, the Accra International Conference Center is on the verge of collapse literally; as stated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Center’s pillars are weak and in need of repairs. The Conference Center is everything to Ghana since the structure hosts events for entertainment, international affairs, national affairs, economics and so much more. In short the Conference Center has been overused and it is so due to the absence of a structure that fits the needs of event organizers.
Having an indoor arena that could easily be transformed from hosting a basketball tournament, boxing bouts or volleyball games to a music concert setting has its use and benefits stakeholders not directly connected to sports.
Hosting international basketball games becomes a regular in Ghana with an arena
Having an edifice close to the Kigali Arena in Rwanda or Dakar Arena in Senegal would be the perfect foundation to get a simmering sport, basketball, off to a hot streak of achievements. Basketball is immensely popular among the youth due to its close ties to the education system especially at the Senior High School and Tertiary levels. Beyond this path, there is virtually nothing aside from a handful of community based amateur league competitions with little or no hope for athletes to compete at the highest level.
Ghana has consistently missed out on participating in international competitions due to lack of funds and this situation has made it difficult to attract sponsors since there is very little to show for at this level. For instance, the Ghana Basketball Association frantic attempts to get Ghana to compete in the pre qualifiers for a chance to play in the main qualifiers of the basketball version of AFCON ended in tears as a budget of $100,000 went unfunded.
Conversely, having an arena gives Ghana a huge chance to correct that by hosting competitions within its borders. Providing infrastructure puts Ghana in position to solve funding challenges because there would be something to show for and in effect kill two birds with one stone.
Serves other sports disciplines well too
Having a swanky indoor arena is also useful to kill two (sports) birds aside from basketball. The multipurpose factor with such buildings means multiple events across sports disciplines could be staged at the said location or locations. In the absence of indoor arenas, generations of Ghanaians have grown to tag a handful of indoor sports as exclusively outdoor sports for instance, volleyball, handball and netball. But these disciplines have lacked the necessary infrastructure to attract more people beyond a limited group to patronize them which could be in the form of participation as fans or active athletes.
Playing in the brutal tropical heat is far from the best selling point of a less popular sports discipline to woo a new audience and build a rabid fan base; very few passionate volleyball followers in Accra risk standing for hours to enjoy games at the Lebanon House Court which has a very small and uncomfortable seating capacity. Providing a prominent infrastructure eliminates such problems and aids the respective Federations to host competitions in the country as a major means to improve the sport’s popularity.
As top modern arenas continue to be built across the continent, Ghana needs to hitch a ride on this bandwagon and produce its Accra or Kumasi (or even both) version of a Kigali Arena Honourable Minister.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter