By Ken Bediako
This is the third instalment of my campaign to honour our sports heroes as envisaged in 2004 by the late Hon Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, then Minister in charge of sports.
You may recall Mr Baah Wiredu set up a powerful seven body committee to identify the nation’s outstanding sports personalities and honour them by naming certain sports facilities after them and in addition create a sports hall of fame.
The committee worked assiduously and some of the recommendations gave us the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi; Azumah Nelson Sports Complex and D.G. Hathiramani Sports Hall both in Accra. Never mind Sports Director Ohene Djan’s name was forcibly removed by a gang of faceless hooligans and that was it. I know time will tell.
The committee headed by astute sports administrator, Dr Owusu Ansah and including yours truly, called for the establishment of a sports hall of fame and painstakingly named legends in the various sports disciplines to be honoured.
My first two articles dealt with the administrators to be honoured followed by the high performers in athletics, and table tennis. Today’s focus is on tennis, tae-kwan-do, hockey, cricket, amateur and professional boxing.
Top of the Tennis list is S.P.O. Kumi, an outstanding pioneer tennis player who represented Ghana in many international competitions especially along the West Coast.
Next is Odartey Annan, one of the finest post-independence players. He captained Ghana to many international laurels.
The last but not the least is Frank Ofori, the youngster who dominated men’s tennis in the late 80s and 90s. Incidentally he was the son of my good friend and colleague veteran sports journalist, Nelson Ofori of the Daily Graphic fame who later retired as PRO of the National Sports Authority.
For women’s tennis it’s Georgina Anim-Addo who also dominated women’s tennis in the 80s and 90s.
Tae-kwon-do has Anthony Amoo-Mensah who won gold medal in the fin-weight at the 1987 African Games in Nairobi, Kenya.
Anthony teamed up with Charles Hanson Adu who also won gold in the 1990 Africa Games in Cairo, Egypt.
Andy Sam tops the hockey legends’ list. The gentleman coached and captained the Ghana Armed Forces to win six championships. He also captained Ghana to win the African hockey championships in1974. He again captained the Ghana hockey team to the world cup in 1975 and was incidentally the top scorer.
Still on hockey, J.K. Atiemo, K.N. Owusu, Kwame Sarah-Mensah and Mrs Theodosia Okoh are picked as dedicated hockey players of high repute who promoted the image of Ghana internationally through the game of hockey.
Cricket has five great players of the game to get honours. They are Attoh Okine, Johnny Francois, J.J. Janney, E A. Haizel and Joel Hyde. Although Cricket was not a well patronised sport in the country these gentlemen made tremendous efforts to keep the game afloat here.
Amateur boxing highlights Ike Quartey Snr, silver medallist 1960 Rome Olympics as tops. He is followed by Eddie Blay, bronze medallist 1964 Tokyo Olympics; gold medallist 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia; another gold in 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston Jamaica.
Third on the list is Prince Amartey, Olympic bronze in the 1972 Games in Munich, Germany. The rest are Sulley Shittu, gold at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica; and another gold in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.
7. Joe Darkey, gold medallist 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.
8. Flash Emma; gold 1970 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
9. Raymond Narh, gold 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
10. Adama Mensah, gold 1978 Africa Games in Algeria.
11. Steve Dotse; gold 1990 Africa Games in Cairo, Egypt.
The professional boxing category comprises Surpriser Sowah, an outstanding pioneer of professional boxing in Ghana. He unearthed many champions including D.K Poison the acclaimed Ghana’s first world featherweight champion.
2. Vincent Okine; affectionately called ‘London Kid’ one of the greatest pound for pound boxers the nation has produced.
3. Billy Wells: The only Ghanaian boxer to hold every title from welterweight to heavyweight in the 50s.
3. Roy Ankrah; dirst Ghanaian Commonwealth featherweight champion. Popularly called ‘The Black Flash,’ he really raised the national flag in the pre-independence days. On retirement from the ring, he became national coach and produced two Olympians, Ike Quartey Snr and Eddie Blay. He also produced numerous Africa and Commonwealth Games medallists in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia under Roy Ankrah. Ghana was adjudged the best Commonwealth amateur boxing nation with two gold and four silver medals.
4. Floyd Robertson. First Ghanaian to fight for the world featherweight title. Even though he lost in a hotly disputed verdict to Sugar Ramos in Accra in 1964, he continued to be ranked one of the best boxers in his generation. On retirement from the ring he assisted in unearthing a lot of budding talents for the nation.
5. Attuquaye Clottey: One of the busiest boxers in his generation. He was repeatedly robbed in fights at his adopted base in Australia. Indeed, he successfully sold the name of Ghana in faraway Australia. Back home on retirement, he established a boxing club at Bukom Square in Accra known as Akotoku Academy where a number of talented boxers were produced. He is on record as the man who steered D.K. Poison to become the first Ghanaian world featherweight champion with a convincing points victory over Mexican Reuben Olivares in Los Angeles in 1975. As a matter of interest, yours truly was at the ringside that night to cover the event for the Daily Graphic.
6. D.K. Poison: First Ghanaian to win the world featherweight title. Unfortunately, after a successful title defence against Fukuyama in Japan, he lost painfully at home to Danny ‘Little Red’ Lopez in Accra in November 1976.
7. Azumah Nelson. A long reigning world champion and former Africa and Commonwealth Games gold medallist who was acknowledged as one of the top ten pound for pound professional boxers in the world.
8. Ike Bazooka Quartey, hard hitting WBA world welterweight champion who reigned for three years.
9. Nana Yaw Konadu. He was known as the fighting computer for his speed and dexterity. He won the WBC flyweight championship in 1989 against Gilberto Roma of Mexico only to lose it a few months later to Sung Kim Moon of South Korea.
Dear readers this ends the third batch of selected heroes for the proposed Hall of Fame.
The next and final instalment will cover football the acknowledged passion of the nation.
It must be noted that this list was compiled in 2004. It should not be taken as the final list because the exercise of identifying sports heroes would always be ongoing and possibly inexhaustible. For instance since 2004 the nation has got one more heroic Olympian in boxer Samuel Takyi at Tokyo 2020. I am expecting the football list to attract a lot of attention for obvious reasons.
Till we meet again. Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.
Credit: Ken Bediako