Ghana and Swansea attacking midfielder, Andre Ayew, swept the Sports Personality of the Year and Footballer of the Year awards at the 41st Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) annual awards held at the State Banquet Hall on Saturday.
It was a proud moment for fans of the deputy Black Stars skipper whose award was received by Rahim Ayew, having been beaten to it in the previous edition by compatriot Harrison Afful.
The only adverse effect was his absence on the evening to pick the awards as he led the Black Stars to defeat Mauritius 2-0 in the penultimate clash of the AFCON 2017 qualifiers.
In the same group with skipper Asamoah Gyan, and coaches Basigi Yusif who guided the Black Queens to their first All Africa Games gold medal and Bashiru Hayford who guided Ashgold to Premier League gold medal, there was a huge anticipation that the stranglehold of footballers on the flagship award was about to be broken.
That was, however, not the case as Ayew’s silver from the previous year’s AFCON proved superior in the eyes of the selectors.
Ayew defeated Gyan and Harrison Afful again for the Footballer of the Year award.
Basigi returned stronger in the Coach of the Year award category where he emerged tops against Bashiru Hayford and Henry Quansah who guided the national tennis team, the Golden Rackets to Ghana’s first gold medal in tennis.
Coach Quansah, however, took consolation in his Golden Rackets team being adjudged together with the Black Queens as the National Teams of the Year for their exploits.
Ashantigold’s Eric Opoku won the Premier League Star of the Year, beating the likes of Liberty Professionals’ Kennedy Ashia and goalkeeper Richard Ofori from Wa All Stars.
Lightweight boxing prospect, Richard Commey, retained the Professional Boxer of the Year award with a good display in the year under review while David Bawa won the amateur version of the award.
John Ampomah and Nadia Eke were also crowned Best Athletes of the Year in the male and female categories respectively just as Johnny Botsio and Nafisatu Umaru did in the field of hockey with Patrick Yaw Obeng winning the Para-Athlete of the Year award.
In table tennis, special awards were presented to Felix Lartey, Bernard Joe Sam, Emmanuel Commey and Derrick Abrefa for their outstanding performance with Szandra Szogoli and Emmanuel Nartey winning the Judoka of the Year awards in the female and male divisions in that order.
The Taekwondo Star of the Year award went to David Adjetey while the hard work of his federation President, Frederick Lartey Otu was duly recognised as he snatched the Federation President of the Year Award.
In other awards, Richard Seklowu was adjudged the Discovery of the Year; Joel Famiyeh as the Most Promising Star; Kumasi Asante Kotoko’s veteran midfielder as winner of Dedication and Valour award, a Lifetime Achievement Award to Sophia Okuley and Portia Boakye as Female Footballer of the Year.
Special Awards also went to Asamoah Gyan (Sports philanthropy), Eben Annang Whyte (Development of table tennis) and Police Women’s Hockey team (silver medalist, African Clubs Championship).
Guest-of-Honour for the occasion, Mr. Jon Benjamin, British Ambassador to Ghana, urged sports journalists to seek and report the truth while calling on employers to pay decent wages to practitioners.
He said sports go beyond just football, expressing the need to give equal attention to other least financed sporting disciplines.
SWAG President, Kwabena Yeboah, called on the government to move away from the era of offering lip service to the development of sports, adding that, ‘sports is moving very fast and it is time we approach it the right way.’
Mr. Eli Hini, a representative from MTN, expressed his outfit’s pride at associating with the awards that seek to reward excellence in sports.
By Andrew Nortey