Just six days after his 95th birthday, Joachim Awuley Lartey, a legend of African sports journalism, received a befitting A Life in Sport honour from the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) at the AIPS Sport Media Awards ceremony held on June 12 in Doha, Qatar.
Wheeled onto the stage by the president of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG), Kwabena Yeboah, Lartey drew admiration from the audience with his smiling face, eloquent voice and grateful heart. He received an overwhelming standing ovation.
“Thank you very much for bringing me all the way from Ghana to receive this wonderful honour. I came into contact with this organisation (AIPS) in early 1971 thereabout and the people who made it possible … both of them have passed on. Since the establishement of Sports Writers Association in Ghana, progress has been made and I think we will continue to make progress until the end of time.
“I thank those of you who have been responsible for my journey to this place and the award you have given me. Since I arrived I have been saying thank you everywhere. I want to say thank you again to those of you who have been responsible for this presentation and believe me, I am very grateful and I extend to you a hearty handshake of thank you,” said Lartey, who received an outstanding ovation by awardees and guests.
Popularly known as ‘Over To You’ Joe Lartey, the iconic broadcaster, born on June 6, 1927 in Accra, was the first president of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG).
“At 95 my only problem is with my knee, resulting from an accident I had in 1976 it’s still bothering me but I think on the whole I feel very good. I am strong I can stand a lot of stress otherwise I won’t be here. We’ve had to go through a lot of stress and inconvenience but we managed to make it so I’m happy to be here,” he said, adding that the Awards are noteworthy. “Let it stay on. Every year, we should have this gathering. It would keep all the National Associations very encouraged and going. It’s a good idea and I’m happy to be in this particular one.”
Lartey’s journey in journalism began at the Ghana Broadcasting Cooperation (GBC) in 1961 after an old mate of his recommended him. He started with the Talks and Features Department before moving to the Sports Department, where he flourished as football commentator.
After over a decade, he joined Radio Nigeria, where he stayed until 1990 before rejoining GBC and hosting programmes such as Sports Digest and Hall of Fame on GTV.
Many Ghanaian football commentators cannot speak about their careers without mentioning the influence of Lartey. And Lartey is also never tired of sharing his experiences with the younger generations. Little wonder he hosted some young sports journalists in his home to mark his 95th birthday, sharing some of his fond memories.
Speaking on how he celebrated his birthday last week, Lartey said: “I had a small party with my family. And friends were calling on the telephone, they were putting things online and it was great. I felt exalted and at 95, sports journalists in Ghana are asking me to organise classes for them and lectures and I’ve already started telling them about the ingredients that make a good commentary. It’s all part of life and I’m enjoying it. I’m happy to be alive.”
His advice for young journalists is to remain committed. “I’d advise them to be committed to what they are doing. When I started participation in sports, I never dreamt that I’d come this far. My mother used to tell me, she insisted, “a good name is better than riches”, and I think I’ve proved it. A good name is really better than all the riches – with a bit of qualification in today’s world where money plays a very major role in life. But a good name is better than riches and that’s why I’m here.”
Recalling some of the memorable moments in his career, Lartey said: “I remember my participation in sports commentaries from Surulere Stadium in Nigeria. And I remember when I joined people like the late Ernest Okonkwo, Sebastian Ofuru and the rest giving commentary on sports, I will never forget that, I will never forget. Kevin Ejiofor is still alive, I think he’s no longer in sports but the sporting blood is in him and we speak once in a while on the telephone. I’m sorry that one or two of them are no longer alive but all of us are going, you get to a point where you knock on the door, It opens and you disappear, never to be seen again.”