To the aid of deaf football
Mustapha Ussif – Minister of Youth and Sports
Many years ago when I was handed an invitation as a young Sports Reporter to cover a kind of social gathering for a national deaf team, Black Wonders, it aroused my curiosity to try to know how people with disability play sports.
It was the first time I heard about such an ‘adventure’ having joined the Sports Desk from my days with the authoritative Evening News newspaper.
And my mentors in para sports, which was not structured like its present state and was more about football – Charles Arhin, Winfred Chartey Annan and a few others, realised my fascination about seeing deaf people play football to that level, told me a lot about them.
The more I listened to their story, the more enthusiastic I became; waiting for that Friday evening to meet the deaf football heroes that had won a competition within West Africa and were to be rewarded by the leadership of the team.
Quickly, I drew the attention of a Senior Photographer of the Sports Desk, Seth Osabukle (Nii Osa), who I covered most of my assignments with but it appeared he has met them before.
With his affirmation, it was declared a date with a deaf football family.
Finally when the day came, Nii Osa and I were some of the guests that arrived at the venue – a small hotel around Bubiashie, near North Kaneshie.
What we didn’t know was that the team had actually been camped at the hotel and were set to break camp after the gathering.
After a brief wait, they emerged from their rooms, looking very excited and feeling appreciated as that kind of organisation had only been seen with their able counterparts, the Black Stars.
From that small beginning, deaf sports has evolved, leading to the formation of two groups to regulate the sports activities of the deaf – Ghana Deaf Football Association (GDFA) which is solely responsible for deaf football and the Ghana Deaf Sports Federation (GDSF), responsible for the organisation of other deaf sports.
The success of deaf football may have played a role in the expansion of disability sports as Ghana now boast an incredible number of para sports disciplines.
Apart from deaf football, other disciplines including wheelchair tennis, amputee football, para athletics, Para-badminton, Para-cycling, Para-powerlifting, Para-shooting, Para-swimming, Para-sitting volleyball, Para wheelchair basketball among others, have all sprung up.
The rationale behind the organisation of these groups of people with different forms of disability was to get them out of the street and help them use sports to make a living.
With such a brilliant idea, one may expect that they would enjoy some kind of preference in sharing resources but sadly, the system has slightly been unfair to them as most of their events have been sponsored from individual pockets.
The recent struggle by managers of the deaf football team, Black Wonders, to garner resources to take part in what is termed the Deaf Football World Cup readily comes to mind.
With about a month to the championship slated for Malaysia on September 23 to October 27, the privileged Ghanaian deaf team was uncertain about their participation as a result of GH¢846,770 cash they needed for the entire team.
The amount, would take care of return air tickets, accommodation, feeding, allowances and other logistics and miscellaneous expenditure.
Recent checks with the team officials indicated that the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) intervened with the provision of 20 return tickets, meaning a reduction of the team size.
Sadly, the corporate sector which is also considered government’s major partner in sports development has been silent on the pathetic story of our deaf brothers savouring an opportunity to also be measured as some of the famous sports heroes to also cut a slice of history for Ghana.
It is surely a wretched story with no entity standing out for blame because of the obvious resource scarcity but one which the deaf community see as discriminatory. It may be late but a last minute intervention can turn things around for the Black Wonders.
By Andrew Nortey