Monday, March 15, 2010

Netball Continues Revival with Exciting 53rd Independence Anniversary Netball Tournament

Having won international laurels for Ghana in 2009, Ghana Netball took another momentous step towards regaining its lost glory with the successful organization of the 53rd Independence Anniversary Netball Tournament held at the Azumah Nelson Sports Complex, Kaneshie, on the 11th and 12th of March, 2010.

The exciting tournament, which had Krypton Ghana Limited, a Sports Marketing and Management firm, as Headline Sponsors, saw four Netball Clubs and five representative sides from five Sub-Metros in Accra participating in vigorous competition.

At the end of the two-day competition, the Clubs Category was won by New Diamond Hands who beat Golden Pods by the narrowest of margins in a hotly contested final which ended 33-32 in favour of the New Diamond Hands ladies. Fairpoint Ladies came third in the Clubs Category with the fourth place going to New Golden Hands.

The Schools Category was won by Okaikoi Sub-Metro, who actualized their “Host-And-Win” slogan, with which they had earlier on welcomed their counterparts from four other Sub-Metros in the Greater Accra Region. Okaikoi beat Ablekuma North 4-2 in the Schools finals. Osu Klottey came third with Ashiedu Keteke coming fourth. The other participating Sub-Metro was La.

All in all, the competition highlighted the precocious talent of Ghanaian women when it comes to the game of Netball. All participating teams exhibited very high levels of enthusiasm for the Sport and it was the unanimous view of all the spectators, officials, dignitaries and Media personnel that Ghana Netball deserves a lot of attention so as to give more exposure to Netball players and the entire Netball fraternity.

The final day of action was graced with the presence of the Chief Executive of the National Sports Council, Mr. Worlanyo Agra, who commended the Executive Board of the Netball Association of Ghana, led by Rev. Nikoi, for their untiring efforts towards lifting the game of Netball in Ghana to a very high pedestal.

Rev. Nikoi, on his part, thanked Mr. Agra for the support given to the Netball Association by the National Sports Council and assured the Council that the Netball Association would not relent in its efforts to rebuild Ghana Netball. Rev. Nikoi also thanked Krypton Ghana Limited for the support that the company had given the Netball Association. He also thanked Voltic Mineral Water who supported the tournament with several boxes of mineral water.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Neil Armstrong-Mortagbe, Chief Executive Officer of Krypton Ghana Limited (Headline Sponsors of the 53rd Independence Anniversary Netball Tournament), praised the Netball Association for taking the initiative to organize a tournament to commemorate Ghana’s Independence Anniversary. He spoke of his company’s desire that Ghanaians who had talents in all sporting disciplines be encouraged to develop these talents and use them to better their lot in life.

He stated that, although Krypton’s core business was to source Sponsorship for her Clients, the company had decided to sponsor the 53rd Independence Day Anniversary Netball Tournament because of the obvious need that Krypton had identified. He encouraged other corporate bodies and international organizations to come to the aid of Ghana Netball and other so-called “lesser known sports” so as to bring more vibrancy into Ghana Sports in general. Krypton Ghana Limited provided Trophies, Cash prizes and general logistics for the tournament. Prizes were awarded to deserving winners at the end of the friendly but energetic hostilities.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Bosnia - Ghana: crucial peek into coach Milo's mind


This is Edin Dzeko, the Wolfsburg man linked variously with Arsenal, Manchester (both City and United), Chelsea and ...yes, you get my drift. Ghana play his country, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The game would be played in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Strange, I can’t remember the last time we played in someplace like that and we haven’t had any history with them either. Meaning that we have nothing to compare, generally.

But we do know a few things.

They are affectionately called the Lilies or Dragons. They were 2nd in their WC qualifying group for SA 2010. That they have some very good lads: Vedad Ibisevic (has been named Bosnia and Herzegovina's Player of the Year), Edin Dzeko, Elvir Rahimić and a few others. I know we chose them because they may have a similar playing style to Serbia, who'll be our group opponents in South Africa.

The peek
It will be interesting to see how the Serbian coach approaches this one. Would he opt for the defensive tactics that characterized Ghana’s player during Angola 2010? Or would he fashion a fluid attack? Maybe even introduce some new players or he’ll assign new roles to others? That is why this game is so crucial, because it is potentially the only friendly we’ll play before the final World Cup squad for SA is named.

Team News
Richard Kingson is reported not to have taken part in training this morming in Sarajevo. Not sure why but I hope it’s not too serious.

Jonathan Mensah was called in to replace Isaac Vorsah who sustained an injury last weekend. Jonathan Mensah is a solid player as well so I don’t have fears in that area. The 19-year-old centre-back was an unused substitute at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. Mensah was a member of Ghana's 2009 Fifa Under-20 World Cup winning team and he is on-loan at Spanish Segunda division side Granada from Udinese.

Yaw Antwi was called in to replace Quincy Owusu Abeyie, who is injured. Yaw Antwi plays in Serbia so it was the most conveneinet short hop. He has not featured for Ghana since CHAN 2009 in Ivory Coast, if my memory serves me right. I know him personally and he’s a very decent chap.

Ghana squad
Goalkeepers: Richard Kingson-Daniel Agyei
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom, David Addy, Jonathan Mensah, Eric Addo, Lee Arday, Ibrahim Ayew

Midfielders: Emmanuel Agyeman-Badu, Anthony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Dede Ayew, Sulley Muntari, Haminu Draman

Bosnia squad
1. Kenan Hasagic GK Istanbul BB SK,
2. Asmir Begovic GK Stoke City FC
3. Emir Spahic DF Monpellier Herault SC
4. Safet Nadarevic DF FC Eskisehispor
5. Sanel Jahic DF AEK Athens
6. Boris Pandža DF NK Hajduk Split
7. Džemal Berberovic DF FC Denizlispor
8. Zvjezdan Misimovic MF VfL Wolfsburg
9. Samir Muratovic MF SK Sturm Graz
10. Elvir Rahimic MF CSKA Moskva
11. Dario Damjanovic MF FC Kaiserslautern
12. Sejad Salihovic MF TsG Hoffenheim
13. Miralem Pjanic MF FC Olympique Lyon
14. Haris Medunjanin MF FC Valladolid
15. Edin Džeko FW VfL Wolfsburg
16. Zlatan Muslimovic FW PAOK FC
17. Vedad Ibiševic FW TsG Hoffenheim
18. Admir Vladavic FW FC Red Bull Salzburg
19. Ermin Zec FW NK Šibenik
20. Senijad Ibricic MF NK Hajduk Split

Looking forward to it. It's 4:30pm GMT on Metro TV here in Ghana. Sorry, I cant LiveBlog. Work issues.

Till later.

Hockey, money and CSR

Gary Al-Smith explains, using hockey in Ghana, that pushing money into sport could not always be about instant returns but can be an issue of national pride too.

Many businesses are interested in a double bottom line. They want to make a profit, and they also want to be involved in contributing to solving significant social problems. Some people call it Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Some call it corporate citizenship and others, community involvement. I call it giving back.

For the past two weeks, football has occupied this column. This time, let’s shift gears a bit to something else that stirred my memory when I heard the President, John Evans Atta Mills, reading his State of the Nation address last week.

He mentioned that the government was committed to the development of football and heaped praise on the Black Satellites and Black Satellites for their good performances last year. That was in the open. Yet, privately there is no doubt where his personal passion lay. It is in hockey.

As the father of the nation, it is prudent that the President keeps tabs on every sport because he is, well, the father of the nation. However any realist will tell you that every human being has a direction where he leans more than most. For the President, he leans toward the hockey stick and the hockey ball.

Somewhere in 2007, the Ghana Hockey Association and the then government decided to go for the bid to host the African Cup for Nations in 2009. To the surprise of many on the continent, Ghana won the bid. And so the financial race to put everything in order began.

The race against time
The new 10 million dollar hockey pitch, a whole organizing committee, world class buses for teams and officials, government support and a motorcade leading teams to both training and match venues are not staple sights in the game of hockey in Ghana. Yet, it happened.

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

And refurbished it was. Michelleti & Co - the same guys who took care of making over the Ohene Djan Stadium before CAN 2008 – put the place in shape. Also in the fray was the world acclaimed Belgium based group Edel Grass who took care of the turf. In the spirit of patronizing made-in-Ghana companies, Klogg Ghana was 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 and it got ready before the continent came to town. The facility is now a 1,200 capacity stadium with a two storey roofed VIP Stand, a 64-room three storey hostel, as well as a technical building, floodlights, a media centre and mixed zone among others.

Many argued that $10 million dollars could easily resettle the miscreants at Sodom and Gomorrah or the Buduburam camp (slums in Ghana), yet I’ll argue the psychological benefits this hockey pitch gives the nation is priceless.

Not all about trophies
For 35 years, Ghana has not won the African Nations’ Cup. In 1974 Ghana conquered Africa and a year later played in the competition for the last time. Last year’s tournament, held from July 10 to 18, was the 9th in the series and people expected Ghana, as hosts, to host-and-win.

We did not. Yet, Oko-Nikoi Dzani (pictured), President of the Ghana Hockey Association and Chairman of the Board of Directors of NDK Financial Services believes Ghanaians should not be alarmed by the failure to win gold.

“It is true to generally say that we haven’t won but we must say it in respect of the facilities we have. How could we be expected to win when we don’t have a turf? We couldn’t have hosted anything if we didn’t have the turf. We had the turf only since last year’s so surely it is the infrastructure that gives us the impetus to make an impact in the series of events.”

So the government did its part by providing a lot of money for what has been called one of the best Hockey Nations’ Cups ever and as a result the private sector is taking notice.

During the 2 week long continental tournament, a Sponsors Dinner was held where some of the large companies in Ghana were baited to put their money in hockey. Oko-Nikoi Dzani believes this is paying off.

“The companies themselves saw how serious we were and I can tell you that there would be a lot of involvement soon. They were particularly impressed with the way the games were attended and in the interest.”

Money makes sport go round
For a long time, the involvement of corporate Ghana has been on the low side but companies some companies should be given the golden handshake: IPMC, Bank of Ghana, SSNIT, Ghana Commercial Bank, State Insurance Company (SIC), Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), NDK Financial Services, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Army, Ghana Fire Service, Ghana Prisons Service and Customs Excise & Preventive Service (CEPS).

While interviewing Mr. Dzani, news filtered in from South Africa that Ghana’s under-17 male hockey team was playing well against South Africa. A smile of satisfaction spread across his face. That kind of smile comes only when a man sees progress.

“The Government, past and present believed in the administration of hockey in this country and so they put their weight behind us. We have not, and will not disappoint them.”

This past Monday, the teams returned. The national U-17 male team picked the sole ticket to the maiden Youth Hockey Olympics to be held in Singapore in August this year after they beat host country South Africa 3-1 while the ladies whacked their Zimbabwean counterparts 3-0 to pick the bronze medal at East London, South Africa. Now, that is national progress that instant monetary profits cannot buy.

The domestic Hockey League starts very soon and this is a time where young and emerging talent is scheduled to be tapped. It is also a time to rope in the involvement of the Corporate Ghana. Leading by example, NDK Financiers are pushing up to 45,000 Ghana cedis into sponsorship for the season.

For the business mind the question is how do they recoup their money? “We all need to have a bias,” Mr. Dzani said, adding that “we all need to support a special event in one form or the other. Why are people going in for soccer? Ask me not why NDK is sponsoring hockey because hockey is not a bad sport at all and therefore we don’t think we are the losers. Indeed we will gain. And it is a social responsibility generally as the benefits are not necessarily seen from a financial benefit. Somebody must take that sponsorship mantle point of view the social point of view.”

It is this kind of help that hockey needs to move from where we are to be true world champions. As the former Sports Minister Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak said: “Government alone can't fund sports -an avenue which provides and engages the youth of our dear land.”

Corporate CSR: what to do
Last year’s tournament left a legacy, not only of a standing sporting complex but of a lasting memory of good hockey sportsmanship among the estimated eight thousand people (or more) who, in total, witnessed the games. Not forgetting the tens of millions who watched proceedings on Metro TV.

“The legacy is hockey. People think of it, people dream of it. They may have come for curiously but there’s no doubt we have generated interest among new and even old lovers of the good.”

That is Mr. Dzani again. But he concedes that this may not be enough to keep the hockey flames burning. According to him, for the game to develop Ghana needs pitches in all regional capitals or at least the focal towns and cities in the country.

“For a pitch, two to three million dollars should give us a decent one with a capacity of about sixty thousand. I expect us to have one in Kumasi, Cape Coast and other places”

Alternatively if your company wishes to aid in efforts in this sport, try doing what many outfits have done in the past: sponsor a hockey team and name it after your company, much like NDK Financiers did in February 2003.

Money in, money out. That’s the easiest way I can explain the principle of business to my younger siblings. Yes, the same applies to sport but as we can see, sometimes it’s all not all about making more money. Sometimes it’s about the timeless art of putting back into the community.