“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun or fester like a sore and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat or crust and sugar over, like a syrupy sweet?”
These words, from the poem A Dream Deferred by celebrated American poet and social activist Langston Hughes, sums up the pain of every city kid who dreamt of growing up into Michael Jordan.
That Ghana is a goldmine of massive basketball talents is no news. But inexplicably, the players’ desire to scale the ladder of excellence and shine beyond Ghana’s borders like their peers in football, rugby and athletics remains a dream deferred — a pipe dream.
For those who have managed to scale the blocks and plying their trade in Europe little are heard about their prospect.
Apart from the Sprite Ball Championship which has received consistent funding from giant beverage company, Coca-Cola, there rest of the various competitions is beginning to ask begging questions.
My focus for this piece is centred on the lack of financial support for the Ghana Basketball Association and for that matter the only vibrant league in Ghana: the Greater Accra Basketball League.
When did the downslide begin?
Celebrated basketball icon, Mathias Ocloo, told BASKETBALLghana.com that the game was at one point such a premium that many people even got jobs for being players.
“Many of the players were absorbed by the security agencies due to their talents in basketball,” he said
“ In the 80’s, a record high number got attachment with almost all the security agencies in Ghana to form the nucleus of their basketball teams.
Even though the practice has not totally widen out, the interest shown by these agencies in ‘poaching’ these players have dwindled.
A number of parastatals have have withdrawn financial sponsorships while corporate firms now shy away from the sport.
According to Ghana basketball Federation Secretary General Rafiq, it has become almost impossible to effectively run basketball in the country without a regular source of income.
“We are not short of basketball talent or technical knowledge of the sport. It is just officials have concentrated on the game at the expense of the game’s commercial value.
“We have the players, the officials and the coaches but we don’t have many people or organizations to market the sport or give it a commercial value,” Rafiq is quoted as saying.
There are critics who also believe the federation must change tack because the people who run basketball are killing the sport because of poor management and making it difficult to attract sponsors.
The association has no youth structures and lacks the capacity to keep track of players who fly out after high school upon being lured by lucrative scholarship deals overseas.
Such players would boost the national team due to superior level of the game foreign countries, especially the US.
Even though officials have been quick to rebuff such suggestions, there are those who feel the past and current managers have not done enough to wean the sport of their financial predicaments.
Hard-working Greater Accra chairman of the sports, Benjamin Baafi, has observed that unless a basketball gymnasium was built in the country, stakeholders, including the state and fans, must forget about the growth and development of the game in the country.
He has observed that unless such a facility is built major stakeholders, including the state and fans, must forget not expect too much from the sport.
According to him, for an indoor sport like basketball with its attendant mass popularity it currently enjoys in the country, the non-existence of any and state-constructed indoor or outdoor infrastructure clearly inhibits its future prospects.
”Almost all West African nations that surround us have indoor basketball courts that prevent players and fans from adverse weather but Ghana is yet to boast even a single outdoor basketball court” Baafi said.
”Our biggest problem is the facilities on which we play, as I speak to you we have none,” Mr. Baafi stressed this to the paper.
He continued that ”all over the West African sub-region, ,there basketball arenas and gymnasiums”
Basketball has been labelled as one of the so-called lesser-known sports despite the tremendous patronage it enjoys in the country.
Despite the lack of infrastructure and equipment to facilitate the play of the game, the greater Accra League is still being organized and over 20 clubs represent in the first and second divisions, as well as the women’s division.
But the start reality is if government do not come to the aid of the sport and fast, it could cripple the already non-attractiveness at that level.