Ayariga’s Bold Steps

mahama ayariga 1_3The appointment of Mahama Ayariga to one of the nation’s hottest seats Ministry of Youth and Sports, may have come as a huge stunner to many Ghanaians.

Obviously, it was not because the former Information and Media Relations Minister was not capable of running his new portfolio – not at all. Perhaps, it was due to the flight with which his predecessor – Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, was flushed out.

Mr. Afriyie-Ankrah, was ousted barely 48 hours after the Black Stars crashed to a calamitous first round exit at the Brazil 2014 World Cup tournament. Now re-assigned to the Presidency as a Minister of State, he took over from Clement Kofi Humado as Minister of Youth and Sports on February 14, last year.

Indeed, Ghana obtained just a solitary point in Group G after slumping 1-2 to the United States, drawing 2-2 with Germany and bowing 1-2 to Portugal. Ghana’s performance was as catastrophic as heart-rending and disturbing having demonstrated great derring-do in the past two campaigns in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 where they finished at the 1/16 and quarter final stages respectively.

Barely 72 hours or so after ascending onto his new ‘throne,’ Mr. ‘Action man’ Ayariga got down to brass tacks, putting together experts of the game at a two-day retreat aimed at brainstorming on developments in the performance of the country in the area of competitive football and advice on how to carve out a national response strategy.

Ultimately, the idea was geared towards redeeming the battered image of the nation in international football – and make Ghana one of the most formidable teams in the world.

Interestingly, the new sports minister attracted a huge flak from a section of the public, wondering the rationale behind the retreat – with some describing it as waste of resources.

What is the waste about a retreat that aims solely at turning our football around? The nation had just been hit by a football volcano at no other place than the World Cup and people think sitting down and gazing into the thin empty air was the best solution to the Brazil carnage?

One thing about us is that we criticise everything without offering any positive solution to anything.

After the retreat, the Sports Ministry also set up a three-member Committee to investigate matters of player indiscipline and some poor decisions by the management team, and a general poor performance in the tournament. And, again, there is something wrong with it.

Perhaps, the decision by President John Mahama to upgrade the Committee to a Commission of Inquiry – giving it the powers of a High Court – is what seems to be bothering the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA). FIFA has since asked the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to explain the situation to them which the latter had already done. No cause for alarm, so far.

Matter-of-factly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the state instituting an investigation into the affairs of the GFA, or the national team that it finances with the tax payer’s money – so far as it is done in a manner that does not incur FIFA’s displeasure.

If after the Commission’s sitting, it is found that members of the FA or the Black Stars’ Management Committee misconducted themselves, a report could be sent to FIFA for the necessary action to be taken. That would be the most prudent thing to do.

Perhaps, the most invigorating of Ayariga’s ‘revolutionary wheel’ was his visit last week to the decayed Azumah Nelson Sports Complex – pledging government’s resolve to refurbish the facility after donkey years of neglect.

The minister tells us that the project will soon commence and will be co-funded by the Engineers Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces, following a meeting with the management of the National Youth Authority [NYA].

“The Kaneshie Sports Complex will be completed with GH¢ 1m from the Ministry of Youth and Sports. This will be done in collaboration with the Engineers Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces,” he confirmed on his Facebook wall last Thursday morning.

Previously known as the Kaneshie Sports Complex, the Azumah Nelson Sports Complex is a multi-purpose stadium in Accra. The stadium was originally built during the era of the Supreme Military Council (SMC 1) under General I.K Acheampong in the mid-70s.

With a seating capacity of 10,000, the complex was mostly used for competitive football matches and boxing bouts in those halcyon days. Sadly, today, the complex has now been swallowed up by weeds and dangerous reptiles – totally bedraggled.

The interesting thing about the Azumah Nelson Complex is that hordes of sports ministers have toured it, promising to turn the facility into one of the most captivating edifices in West Africa, but left it more ramshackled than they came to meet it.

That is the cheapest thing for a politician to do – talk, talk and talk!

In early April 2013, the immediate past sports minister promised to begin the construction of an ultra-modern boxing facility soon after touring some of the wretched boxing gyms at Bukom – the citadel of Ghana boxing – but after more than a year, he failed to even cut a sod for the project.

Indeed, it is a crying shame that for all the global fame that Ghana has savoured in the sport, it has nothing to call a boxing gymnasium of international repute.

So, though many people are greeting Mahama Ayariga’s proclamation with considerable animation, there are still lingering doubts as to whether he can return the Complex to its glory days – or refurbish it to acceptable standards before exiting.

If he succeeds eventually, Ghanaians will consider him as one of the finest things that has happened to the nation’s sports in over three decades or more. For now, let us give him the benefit of the doubt and keep our fingers crossed. Let us pray that he backs the talk with action for the betterment of our sports. By John Vigah

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