In the current trend of sports administration in the world, former sportsmen and sportswomen have proven to be better at the helm than ‘outsiders’. This stems from the experience they gained as ‘the ruled’ during their career days. The likes of Michel Platini of UEFA and Lamine Diack of IAAF are doing good jobs with the organizations they handle as a result of their involvement once upon a time in the sport they administrate. I have to say that their efforts are crucially complemented by those from technocrats.
The trend is gradually wearing on in Ghana as heads of some sports bodies are former ‘protégés’. The Ghana Athletics Association affords the ready example as its president, Prof Francis Nii Amu Dodoo, has seen it all as a former national athlete. Indeed, I daresay he has given a good account of himself, so far, as head of the Ghana Athletics Association.
A current athlete, who bodes well of becoming a great administrator in the not-too-distant future, is Anthony Essuman popularly and commonly known as Ignisious Gaisah. In the few past weeks that I have monitored athletics closely, the long jumper’s actions and utterances have smacked of optimism for the sport if he is roped into administration.
Prior to Benin 2012
I watched Ignisious Gaisah on national television in the build-up to this year’s African Athletics Championship. Gaisah was on the programme with a promising sprinter, Janet Amponsah, and the conversation was mostly centered on how best the locally-based athletes can be motivated to perform well for the country. The host, Jerry Kwame Ayensu, a senior colleague, gave Gaisah the final word to wrap the interview regarding what the officials can do to help a budding star like Janet Amponsah. Gaisah conceded he was not thinking for the officers at the helm but he would have sent Janet Amponsah to the London 2012 Olympics just to serve as an eye-opener for her though she obviously will not compete. Honestly, any keen follower of athletics will consider Gaisah’s submission as admiringly prudent. He obviously thought into the future and saw the outstanding Janet Amponsah as a potential star in future competitions. Indeed, as young as Janet is, she was the only Ghanaian sprinter to have made it into both the 100m and 200m finals at the just-ended Africa Athletics Championship in Porto-Novo, Benin. Seemingly needless to say, she was a finalist in the 200m at the IAAF World Junior Championship in Barcelona, Spain. Gaisah’s word to the wise is enough!
On one occasion, I was with Ghana’s athletes before they left for the 18th Africa Athletics Championship in Porto-Novo, Benin. As a result of inadequate funds, some of the athletes, who have been in camp for a substantial period of time, were asked to go home. It was just to cut down the size of the contingent to Benin. Obviously, the announcement did not go down well with the athletes, who felt shortchanged. They had been hit by ‘the bomb’, as is their jargon. These disgruntled fellows remonstrated bitterly as according to them the Association had wasted their times. In their ranting and raving, Ignisious Gaisah, on his way to his hostel, stopped over to talk up the spirits of these athletes. I overheard him advise the junior ones not to be discouraged but rather forge ahead with better performances on the track and field and embrace the bright future. He offered his life experiences as examples. This gesture apparently calmed most of the irate ones down, and from where I was standing, I was overly impressed.
Ghana in Porto-Novo
I was privileged to join Ghana’s contingent to Benin for the African Athletics Championship. The trip to that West African country was made by road. As it turned out, it took more time than we all anticipated. Apparently, there was miscommunication with regard to where exactly Team Ghana will base. As a result, the entire contingent had to still be crammed in the National Sports Authority Coaster buses till the next day. While stranded in Porto-Novo, we received news that Ghana’s contingent will base in Cotonou. Obviously, no one knew where the hotel was situated and so your guess is as good as mine regarding what suggestions will be tabled by the over twenty athletes. As Team Ghana captain, Gaisah promised to give a guy, who had admitted knowing the hotel, $20 to take us to the Cotonou-based hotel. This did not occur to any of the athletes and officials on the bus. It calmed fears.
We got to the hotel and the bombshell was that Team Ghana was supposed to rather lodge in a different hotel. The hotel the Ghanaian contingent was sent to rather left much to be desired. Surprisingly, leaders of the team raised no objection to the Local Organising Committee’s new choice. Suddenly, I saw Gaisah lead a few of the foreign-based athletes to nudge the team’s leaders to reject the hotel. To be sincere, that hotel would not even pass as a 1-star hotel. Team Ghana’s leaders bought into Gaisah’s ideas and rejected the new hotel. It was after that that the Beninois Athletics Federation called to give the contingent their assigned lodging.
Benin 2012 post mortem
The team, in my estimation, performed well at the Benin championship given the ordeal they went through from Ghana to their final destination. As part of post-mortem of the athletics championship, Gaisah was on Hot FM together with ex-sprinter-now-turned-coach Leonard Myles-Mills. When asked whether he saw any semblance of greatness in any of the junior athletes, Gaisah mentioned Isaac Nkansah and further promised helping him with techniques and training equipment. Indeed, for any keen follower like me of junior athletics in Ghana, there is no doubting of Gaisah’s prognosis regarding spotting Nkansah for greatness. Fanta, as Isaac Nkansah is affectionately called, definitely has a bright future in long jump. Discipline and hardwork are the only trademarks he has to cultivate. He has every potential to step in the big shoes of Ignisious Gaisah, who will leave the sports scene in reverence.
If it ever occurs to the national long jumper to take up any role in coaching and, perhaps sports administration, after the London 2012 Olympics, he’s got my backing. Go Gaisah!