Be it football, boxing, athletics, or tennis, Ghana has carved a reputation as a passionate sports nation. An interest that has been ingrained in the country’s culture and tradition, driving young people to sporting excellence and bolstering community development and social change.
This national interest notwithstanding, and while the importance of sports as an effective medium of change is not lost on many Governments and private stakeholders, there still exist huge gaps in funding opportunities for many sporting disciplines which have, over decades, proven to wield tremendous physical, social, and economic gain for the country.
It is for this reason that the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Opoku Ahweneeh Danquah, is leading a charge for greater investment and participation of Corporate Entities in growing some of Ghana’s least funded sporting disciplines.
GNPC has, through various strategies and partnerships, inserted itself as a distinguished agent of community and national sports development investing in football through its sponsorship of Ghana’s Senior National Football Team, the Black Stars, and the construction of several football pitches as means to not only boost professional football in the country but also to provide many talented youngsters with an opportunity to showcase their skills, get a chance to earn a living and also inspire them to pursue their dreams.
But to O-A Danquah, there is no end to the possibilities that exist in extending funding support to what he refuses to call ‘lesser-known sports’, explaining that many sporting disciplines in Ghana that are not very well known are just a decent support away from becoming mainstays like football.
Issuing a clarion call on Businesses and Corporate bodies to adopt and invest in at least one sporting discipline, he stressed that potential talents in Ghana are evenly distributed and are not limited to football. Adding that “the lack of an affirmative drive to fund disciplines such as field athletics, boxing or others is stifling the development of budding Ghanaian talent who have the potential to become global icons just like their football counterparts.”
The GNPC CEO’s convictions are well accentuated by his sustained commitment to supporting the harnessing of the potential of young Ghanaian athletes through the Corporation’s investments and sponsorship of the Ghana’s Fastest Human (GFH) Competition which has consistently, from March to August each year since 2013, stirred up passion and interest in Ghana’s sprint sport with 100-meter competitions to find the fastest feet.
The program has nurtured some of the most talented individuals who are currently fast establishing their credentials as world-class athletes like Joseph Paul Amoah, Benjamin Azamati, and Grace Obuor with several others charting incredible paths towards household popularity with names such as Latifa Ali, Hor Horlitsu, Barnabas Aggerh, and last year’s favorite and overall winner in the Under 18 men’s category, Joe Andoh coming to fore as examples of athletes to watch out for in Ghana Sprints.
GNPC’s elaborate involvement in nurturing athletes through the GFH programe is even more elaborate in detail. The competition draws winners from each of the qualifying series across the regions to one location for the final races to determine who emerges winner in the different categories and for the crown as Ghana’s Fastest Human for that category and year after which some selected athletes are supported to try out to for scholarships abroad.
The program also offers a year’s full local scholarship to 4 other selected athletes – 2 male and 2 female – with packages comprising educational scholarship with tuition, contract with a top local nutritionist, technical support with training from the best local coaches and local sports psychologists. They also enjoy the services of a medical doctor and are all kitted by Adidas for the entire year with billboards erected with their pictures close to their schools or home area. These athletes get the rare opportunity of meeting with the the President of the Country, as well as the Asantehene with all the publicity it comes with.
The dedicated focus and attention on these athletes lends them ‘bragging rights,’ thereby increasing the stakes that motivates others to do better.
To GNPC, supporting the GFH program, is in recognition of a crucial need to raise champions in sporting disciplines that could equally bring glory to Ghana in the ways football has, but it means more.
“It has become a tool for promoting gender diversity and enhancing social integration and unity across different backgrounds within all regions and districts,” O-A Danquah said.
O-A Danquah has shown renewed resolve to continue with the program, challenging other corporations to also commit to lesser sponsored sports disciplines as long term commitments, which would feed into the greater drive of advancing sports in Ghana and Africa