Sports Business Professional Mr. Neil Armstrong-Mortagbe was called upon to address the audience during the 10th Edition of Achimota Speaks, as he went on to give evident means of Sports in Ghana which could be of a Comparative advantage when critical attention is given to our various sports disciplines in the country. Below is a detailed speech of his address;
“It has always been a source of pride for students of schools whose athletes attained national prominence; and Inter-Co, Super-Zonals and Regional Sports Gatherings were convocations of colour, organized and disorganized noise, and intense competition…
And underpinning all these elements was the pride and honour that we, students, and alumni derived from the achievements of our sports men and women. These achievements became landmarks, which we would refer to at every given opportunity… these, indeed, became our sources of claims to having some comparative advantage over the next school….and so some schools would become renowned for Soccer….and others for sprints in track-and-field….and yet others in hockey and cricket…..Was there ever a Chaskele Inter-Schools??? I can’t remember but I daresay “chaskele” was the early form of cricket and baseball!!!!
So we derived pride and sought to claim comparative advantage in those sports in which our Schools excelled…
Over the decades of Ghana’s existence as a nation, we have seen generations of Sports Professionals who have left indelible footprints in the sands of time and given us so much reason to be proud as a people. I am sure that this holds true for our brothers and sisters from other countries who have joined us this evening. Whilst we hold this conversation, I am sure that they would also be casting their minds to their countries of origin and also playing back in their minds the memories of some wonderful Sports achievements chalked by their countrymen and women.
For the purposes of this conversation, I will pick on a couple of Sporting Disciplines in which Ghana has truly excelled and also draw some perspectives from observed trends in some other countries.
Have we ever wondered why we observe the following about these countries???
Why Kenyans are perennial achievers in middle and long-distance running, dominating most international competitions in these events? And so, in most middle and long distance races, you would find several Kenyans dominating.
Why Americans and Jamaicans have dominated the Sprints at international competitions? And so, in most international Sprint finals, you would find Jamaicans and Americans…
Why China dominates in gymnastics? And so, at the Olympic and Asian Games, you would find so many Chinese gymnasts dominating.
Why the likes of the USA typically dominate in Swimming?
Why archery appears to the preserve of certain countries?
Why some countries send several teams of “kayakers” to international sporting events and they win laurels for them?
Why New Zealand has been a dominant force in Rugby?
Why Basketball is typically dominated by the USA?
Why Amateur boxing is typically dominated by Cuba and some Eastern European countries?
These are but a few instances I have cited to draw our attention to the concept of comparative advantage and how it applies to the Sporting life of a nation….
So, somewhere in the mid 1980s, with the attention of the entire nation focused a diminutive young Ga man from Bukom, we picked up a Black-and-White television set from the house of one of our masters [I hesitate to mention the name for fear of retroactive retribution] and placed it in a cubicle in Aggrey House, Achimota School. Deep into the night, after lights out, we stood, squatted and lay spellbound as we watched Azumah Nelson annex the WBC World Featherweight Title as he beat Wilfredo Gomez!!! That night, there was nothing like “official lights out”….that night, official sanction was given to night “jama” as we celebrated Ghana’s greatest Boxer of all time and one of Africa’s and the World’s finest boxers!!!
Even several years after his retirement, Azumah Nelson continues to bring honour to our nation as he continues receiving awards for his prowess in the ring and his selfless service to the Sport of Boxing out of the ring……We could also talk of David Kotei “Poison”…and Ike “Bazooka” Quartey…and Alfred “Cobra” Kotey and Nana Yaw Konadu, all of whom at one point or the other held aloft the flag of Ghana as they won World titles, all in the noble art of boxing.
The Black Stars of Ghana, our nation’s pride, have also given us several moments and memories to savour…..Four-time African Champions [oh, how we yearn for a fifth and we have come so close over the last decade or so]…. Africa’s best performing team at the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, coming within 4 inches of becoming Africa’s first country to qualify for the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup…the feats of several of our Soccer stars have certainly been a source of honour to many a Ghanaian…..
I hold the view that if there is any aspect of our national life that has served as the glue that binds us as a nation………that inspires a sense of nationhood and stimulates national pride…that serves as a powerful point of introduction when you travel outside Ghana to the countries of the world, it has to be our Sports! Our Sportsmen have typically been worthy Ambassadors of our dear nation and they deserve tons of commendation and I take this opportunity to celebrate all of them!
Apart from Soccer, Boxing and Track-and-field Athletics, quite a number of Ghanaian are also endowed with talent in other Sporting disciplines. What is there to show that we cannot get world beaters in the likes of Swimming [with the coastline we have from Aflao to Axim and the other numerous water bodies strewn across our country], Basketball [which is steadily rising to become one of Ghana’s most popular sports], Long distance running [for our citizens from the mountains of the Eastern and Volta regions and also applying the endurance that running long distances on the flat stretches of land from the Brong Ahafo Regions into our northern territories], to Archery [a sport to which those of us who prefer to use the catapult to hunt could be guided to adopt]?
Yes, we, as a people, are endowed with talents in these and several more areas of Sporting endeavor…
The question one would ask is why we have seen limited success in quite a number of these Sporting disciplines despite our comparative advantage in the area of talent?
Time without number, the lamentation has been one of “No Money!”…
The questions I ask are these:
Where does Sports fit into our agenda as Ghana Incorporated?
Do we, as a people, view Sports as recreation or as a potential source of comparative advantage?
Do we not see the pride that Sporting achievements have brought to us and to other nations?
Do we not see the millions of dollars that the Sports and related industries bring to the economies of countries who have tapped into Sports as a source of Revenue generation and Job creation?
It would amaze us to note that only the Sport of Association Football, played across four divisions, could directly engage over one hundred thousand Ghanaian in responsible gainful employment with huge possibilities of “exporting” our talents. And that is only one out of about 34 Sporting disciplines. And we say, there are no jobs????
So, is there a cause to strategically invest in the development of our Sports, as a nation? Can those who say that our spending on Sports is unnecessary expenditure when you juxtapose the benefits I have highlighted above against the investments made to aid the achievements that generated these benefits?
It is my considered opinion that a nation’s investment in Sports Development can never be classified as being “unnecessary expenditure”. Investment in Sports development, when strategically made, shall always ensure that our Achievements in Sports, deriving from these strategic investments, remain a source of comparative advantage and tangible pride to our nation.
When we, through painstaking study and observation, identify the Sports that give us, as Ghana, our comparative advantage, then we must dominate in them and appear in the finals of these Sporting events. So, for the likes of Soccer, Boxing, Basketball, Track-and-Field Athletics, Swimming…..and those other disciplines in which we have comparative advantage, WE MUST INVEST STRATEGICALLY TO ENSURE THAT WE CONTINUOUSLY EXCEL IN THEM AND DERIVE ENORMOUS BENEFITS FROM THESE INVESTMENTS.
So, let us as Ghanaian, continue to “play the games” that give Ghana her source of comparative advantage……
Let us ensure that our Sporting success inspires the nations of this world to…… continue to ”shout the name” of Ghana…just as the continent of Africa united during the South Africa 2010 World Cup to call our national team..”The Black Stars of Africa” …and thus spreading our “fame afar”
May our strategic investment in Ghana Sports ensure that Ghana assumes and maintains the position of “Head of all the Host”…the “nation of whom we boast” and “the glory of this well-endowed Coast”…
May God indeed bless our homeland, Ghana!!!!!!
Mr. Mortagbe is a renowned Football administrator who has worked a lot in promoting sports in Ghana, working as Managing Director at Accra Hearts of Oak Football Club, the Ghana Football Association on nationwide football activities as well as the World football governing body FIFA on administrational platforms.
By: Cobby Jonah ( @jocobinah )