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When the SWAG puts its best foot forward

botchway May 15, 2019


Ebo Quansah in Accra

A late afternoon downpour on Saturday, threatened to derail the 44th Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) Awards ceremony. Do I or do I not. Decision time on attendance was not easy, as I debated the question in the grey matter enclosed in the old skull. Eventually, the love for the association I led for four eventful years, swayed me to risk the treacherous conditions on the road and head for the Accra International Conference Centre, with a nephew, Isaac Adoba Quansah, named after my late father, at the wheels of the old banger.

The sounds of traditional drumming at the entrance to the centre told the story of the beauty of the event about to unfold. Like many such events attracting people perceived by the down-trodden as well-to-do, a number of people exchanging self-designed pennants for a few amount of the notes approved by the Bank of Ghana, as the official currency allowed to circulate in this land of our birth, were in brisk business.

Their modus operandi has always been a bit irritating, but like many things at the centre of the earth, their activities have been tolerated over the period. It is a form of begging with a bit of refined tactics. They stick by and pin their pennants on your dress, expecting you to pay for their services.

My chauffeur, apparently not used to such occasions, was well contented with the idea that a pennant had been pinned to his chest.

It was only when he was chased for money that he turned to me and pleaded that I settle his bill. I remonstrated with him a bit before putting his heart at rest. The pestering did not end there. When I got to the entrance to the centre, traditional drummers and dancers were in their elements. Two women dancers wriggling their bodies to the rhythm of the royal kete dance accosted me. In such a circumstance, the natural thing to do is to part with a few cedis, but I decided to test my feet for a while, before doing what was expected of me.

It was when I entered the conference lobby that I realised that the rain had very little impact on the attendance. The cocktail arranged in place of the usual dinner had been over-subscribed.

When the Master of Ceremonies shouted the invitation to the audience to enter the main hall, it took quite a while for all the guests to assemble for the commencement of the event, which is honoured every year to celebrate the achievements of Ghanaian sportsmen and women.

Since 1974, when the Sports Writers Association of Ghana organised a lavish dinner at the then Ambassador Hotel in Accra to celebrate outstanding sportsmen and women, SWAG has always staged the event every year.

For the records, the annual SWAG Awards pre-dates the Farmers Awards, Teachers Awards and any other event of such nature in the country. It is one event that sportsmen and women look forward to all the time. Sports administrators also do not want to miss the SWAG Awards.

This year’s event had veteran Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah and Gloria Peprah of GTV fame at the Captain’s Bridge. When all was set with the seating of guests, the Guest of Honour, His Royal Majesty Togbe Afede Asor XIV, Agbogbomefia of the Asogli Traditional Area, was escorted in with Minister of Sports, Isaac Asiamah and Joe Aggrey, one-time Minister of Sports, who became Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports in President John Agyekum Kufuor’s regime, for company.

The main event started with the current SWAG President, Kwabena Yeboah, welcoming guests with a litany of woes on the sporting front in the year under review. He was, however, full of praise for Mr. Asiamah, who is renovating sporting infrastructure in the country with dedicated zeal.

The Accra Sports Stadium, for instance, that was turned into a death trap by the previous administration, is now glowing with a beautiful turf and an eye-pleasing structure.

Just before writing this piece, my Editor, Emmanuel Akli, commended the Sports Minister and his staff for the wonderful job they have done on the turf especially. “I watched Accra Hearts of Oak play West African Football Academy (WAFA) and Liberty Professionals at the Accra Sports Stadium, and wow! I was impressed. It was like watching any European game. The turf looked so nice and obviously inspired all the teams to play good football,” said Emmanuel, a staunch arm-chair supporter of Accra Hearts of Oak.

The SWAG President urged sports administrators, players and coach of the national soccer team to die a little bit for the country, and thus ensure that the national team put up a performance worthy of its status as four-time winners of the African Cup of Nations, when they face the best national teams in African in the desert cauldron of Egypt in the next African Cup of Nations Championship next month.

Immediately after his speech, the SWAG President honoured Mr. Osei Asibey, Chairman of the Arm-Wrestling Association of Ghana, for successfully hosting Africa in Accra, and for his effective leadership that ensured that Ghana won a number of medals in the African championship in Accra.

Kwabena surprised everybody by bringing 92-year-old retired broadcaster and first President of SWAG, Mr. Joe Lartey, to the podium to be decorated. In his prime, Mr. Joe Lartey was the voice of Ghana sports. The honour was to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of SWAG in 1968.

Old Joe Lartey cut the 50th SWAG Anniversary cake with Mr. Joe Aggrey lending support. There was my good self looking on as former president of the association.

Joe Lartey commended the association for remembering his role in the formation of SWAG. His voice was as golden as ever, even at 92.

The Ghana National Supporters Union raised the roof when Sports Minister Asiamah took the podium. A man liked by followers of sports, Mr. Asiamah thanked the sporting fraternity in Ghana for lending him the support to meander through the maze of controversy that usually surrounds sports promotion in the country.

That he had survived into his third year, he said, was the manifestation of the co-operation he has enjoyed since taking over the most controversial portfolio in national politics. He appealed for massive support for the Black Stars, as they begin preparation to defend the flag of Ghana in the African Cup of Nations Championship, scheduled to begin in Egypt next month.

He said, to loud cheers, that Ghana had successfully bid to host the All-Africa Games in Accra in 2023, which in itself is remarkable. Ghana was a founding member of the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa, which pioneered the All-Africa Games in Gongo (Brazzaville) in 1965. Unfortunately, since then, this nation, lying exactly at the centre of the earth, has never dreamed of bringing the whole of Africa home to contest the games.

The Minister hoped that lesser known sports in this country would receive enough boost to enable them contest for honours when the rest of Africa assemble in Accra, four years from now.

Togbe Afede received loud cheers from, particularly, followers of Accra Hearts of Oak in the audience, when he rose to deliver his speech. He called for the education of followers of the game to make them understand that football is a game to be enjoyed, and not a source for raining insults on officials.

He told his audience that as a traditional ruler he had to endure being a subject of ridicule and outright insults, in spite of injecting huge capital and managerial acumen into the club. The Chairman of the National House of Chiefs demanded respect for those who put their resources at the disposal of football in the country.

The Chief Executive of MTN Ghana, Selorm Adadevoh, promised that the tele-communications company would continue to support SWAG and the promotion of the Ghanaian society in general. It was a good night laced with a masterful performance by one of this nation’s leading artistes – Samini. The veteran singer and performer had the audience on their feet in his 30 minutes drill.

For once, the old feet of this writer were moving without control, even though I was not dancing.

The SWAG is 50 years old, Halului!  I will like to believe the members of the association would take stock of their roles in making SWAG tick. I believe it is in their own interest to re-energise themselves for the next generation.

Kwabena Yeboah has done well for himself. But I am not happy with the way most members are conducting themselves. I attended the opening ceremony of the Association of International de Press Sportive (AIPS), organised by SWAG in Accra last month.

It is sad to relate, but only a few SWAG members bothered to attend the event they themselves were hosting. The numbers on the opening day were so appalling that members of the Ghana Sports Supporters Union had to be drafted in to shore it up. The reason for the mass boycott of SWAG members is sickening, to state the least.

One wishes that members of this noble association would reflect on the reason for the association’s existence.  The SWAG does not exist to enrich members. It is a pressure group on sports promotion in the country. It is not a bank, nor a savings and loans company for its members.

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