I’ve been back in Ghana for six weeks now and as I acclimatise to the heat, the work culture and living with my family, I am also trying to piece together the elements of my previous life that I love.
A big part of my life back in England was sport. So I have gotten access to a 25m pool close by, I bike indoors and (when I am feeling brave) with the Ghana Cycling Association. Running has also proven successful, on a track for my interval sessions and around the neighbourhood for endurance. The difference between running and the other two though, is that it is out on full display for everyone to see, and mock.
The heckling I have received include:
1. White, why you sweat so?
2. Obroni*, you no have money for taxi? I go take you for free.
3. Small boy, why you wear pampers?
The list goes on. Non-track running, let alone cycling or swimming (in any form), isn’t very popular in Ghana.
When I first got to Ghana in December, I stopped by the Ministry of Youth & Sports to enquire about the Ghanaian Olympic team. I was directed to the Accra Stadium where I have since met with members of the Ghanaian Athletics, Cycling and Swimming Associations. Being lost with what I wanted to do with my life, one of the avenues I was exploring was sport, so I asked them “what would it take to send 20 athletes to Rio as opposed to the 3 we had in London”. The answer was obvious: more funding.
We set off on a series of emails, I offered to put together an informal fundraising committee of corporates in Ghana and in return asked for numbers. The heads of those associations responded pretty quickly over the course of a month to let me know what they needed. From security costs to flights to equipment to events. But to pitch the document, I needed to speak to the head of the Ghanaian Olympics Committee, a gentleman who overseas all the sports committees in Ghana. And to prepare properly for the pitch, I needed the funding requirements from all the associations. How many are there, you ask? 32. There are 32 associations. Can you even name 32 sports?
Now it has been almost 6 months since we first started corresponding and nothing has happened since my first meeting with the incredible duo (swimming and cycling is covered by one man) who set me up here in Ghana.
I am sure I can launch into a major Moyo-esque rant about government aid, hand-me-downs, colonial repercussions and what have you, but I’m not going to. All I want to say is that my offer came at no cost at all but with the hope that talent (and there lots of it in Ghana) could have been discovered, a positive global PR message could have catalysed (look at Jamaica with Bolt) and a small fragment of poverty for those looking at sports scholarships could have been alleviated.
All because a mis-managed and decentralised 32 associations exist in a country where government funding into sports is under-valued. Where laziness and bureaucracy trumps foresight.
As I finished off my last run for the week, I bumped into the first runner I have seen since I moved back to Ghana. And although he was ethnically black, he wore lycra and a GPS watch (he knew what he was doing). We both grinned at each other, acknowledging the obstacles we have to go through, as Obronis.
I look forward to the day where there are more endurance runners in streets of my neighbourhood. Until then, I rest my hopes on the officials I met, to go beyond their formal duties and support those that are willing to help.
*A formerly derogatory term used to describe a white-person/foreigner as “someone who cannot be trusted”, now a common term for a non-Ghanaian (white or black).