Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ghana 2009 Hockey: debrief (4)

For all my whining before the start of the event, I have been silenced by the thoroughness of the hosting of the Ghana 2009. It is now on record that this has been the most successful African hockey tournament ever. Sound familiar?

The same was said by the football world after Ghana hosted the CAN 2008. It seems the country is getting a knack for organizational prowess. Here’s to more of that.


The new 10 million dollar hockey pitch, a whole organizing committee, world class buses for teams and officials, government support, motorcade leading teams to both training and match venues and a packed stadium.

With the world’s credit crunching nosily under our economic feet, President Mills gave the go ahead for the Theodosia Oko hockey pitch to be refurbished.

And so it was: Michelleti & Co - the same guys who took care of re-doing the Ohene Djan before CAN 2008 – put the place in shape. Also in the fray were the world acclaimed Belgium based group Edel Grass who took care of the turf despite the severe hampering from the rains that poured in the realy days of this month.

In the spirit of patronizing made-in-Ghana companies, Klogg Ghana were given the chance to see to the civil works and they did not disappoint. The result of this short-notice but high quality work ethic stands behind Accra’s Tema Station.

It is, indeed, a beauty.

The games

They say pitches don’t win games but South Africa showed why this may not be true. With total dominance over the sand-based turf, the southern Africans scored 45 goals – that’s more than half of the total 75 recorded overall.

The male and female teams conceded one goal each and were carded only once – the women.

And so after their male and female teams ended winning the series, they’ll represent (South) Africa at the next World Cup in India and Argentina. That would be next February. Lenise Merais won her 100th cap for RSA.

Though placing third, Ghana’s female Black Sticks can make it to the World Cup through the playoffs which would be played at a date to be determined. Egypt’s men lost 1-0 to RSA in the final but would also be in the playoffs.

The Ghanaian ladies started with an 8-0 defeat to RSA, then a 3-0 win over Egypt and a 4-1 romp over Nigeria. That’s before they lost the final. Ghana’s men won a dramatic 3-2 final against Nigeria to take bronze.


The most significant legacy I can think of is the change in philosophy we have about sport in Ghana. For a seeming football-biased country to be seen stuck to their tellies to watch hockey was symptomatic of the interest this tournament generated.

Some may say it was an innate curiosity by people to know what the hype was all about.

Yet, I feel that the people genuinely loved what they saw which can only explain why 3000 people filled the hockey pitch every single time there was a game, whether it was Ghana playing or not.

Going forward

With such a universally acknowledged fine championship behind us, the prospect of climbing the echelons of hosting more tournaments is very tempting indeed. And the great thing is that Ghana is ready. Said Chairman of the Ghana Hockey Association Oko Niikoi Dzani:

“We are positive that we have done a good job with this event.

“And indeed we are looking at possibly lobbying to host the junior hockey tournament.

“Dubai are the scheduled hosts but there are doubts about whether they can do it so let’s hope and see.”

In anticipation of this possibility the President of the International Hockey Federation, Leandro Negre, has cautioned Ghana’s bosses not to use the expensively fitted pitch for any events unless they are of an international nature.

Ghana and the sport’s future

The IPMC hockey league should start like yesterday if the awareness Ghana 2009 has created would be sustained. Otherwise we may yet forget about the development of the game, despite the fact that the Ghana Hockey Association seem keen on targeting the second cycle institutions to catch them young.

In starting the local hockey league, I speak not of the five minute spots we used to see on Sports Highlights once a week. I’m talking television deals with anyone willing to air. Trust me, if we start showing it, people would watch.

And finally, as we witnessed in the 10-day series, a stake by corporate Ghana is the only way the sport can push from strength to strength.