What drives an individual or group of individuals to excellence in a given field has its tradeoffs; spending hours and hours practicing and perfecting patterns is excruciatingly hard. Little wonder only a few reach that point of excellence while the majority fail to do so but inherent in all humans is the desire to improve and be better than before.
Aside the road to greatness being tough, it is also long and easily frustrates; imagine breaking the pain barrier time after time only to fall short of the mark needed to be great. That is why people flip to the dark side of their competitive drive and engage in methods of cheating to be successful.
Perhaps the greatest story about the quest for greatness that drove an athlete to the dark side is that of Canadian Sprinter Ben Johnson. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, Johnson beat rival Carl Lewis to win the 100 Metre dash with a world record of 9.79 seconds.
However, he tested positive for a banned substance that had him stripped off his medal and become the poster child of cheating in sports.
The drive to be better than Lewis-an all time great sprinter-drove Johnson off the edge and recent happenings in Ghana’s biggest High School basketball championship is a perfect reflection of this dark force.
The countdown had started to a glorious moment in the history of the Sprite Ball Championship because for the first time in the tournament’s storied history, a new champion was about to be crowned. In Keta Business College (KETABUSCO), a new stream of champions had joined the pool of excellence at high school basketball in Ghana; one that had KETABUSCO beat the record winners of Sprite Ball and the best at it-Mfantsipim School- not once but twice.
For many, it was déjà vu all over again as Mfantsipim lost twice to Presbyterian Senior High School (PRESEC Osu) in the 2018 edition PRESEC won. Conversely, the count to crown a champion started almost immediately the prestigious trophy was handed to KETABUSCO with reports emerging of alleged use of non students by KETABUSCO for the competition. After a whirlwind week of investigations, such allegations turned out to be true with as many as five players caught in the net as non students that featured for KETABUSCO in the tournament.
The harrowing aspect of the investigations was that all five ineligible players started in the final game against Mfantsipim at El Wak Stadium on January 4. Imposing presence in the paint Prosper Davor and Finals MVP winner in my view Richmond Dzikunu were fished out by a high powered delegation from the Ghana Education Service (GES). The tournament’s best player Prince Gidisi or Gidisu (depending on who you spoke with or the name on the official team sheet) headlined the busted operation by KETABUSCO to run away with the trophy with unqualified players.
The level of cheating was so bad, the school could be charged on grounds of impersonation with regard to Gidisu who also goes by the name Holali Edem per several accounts and could face jail time should the criminal aspect of the scandal be pressed. The battle to stamp out cheating is still being fought by bigger and resource endowed organizations like the International Olympic Committee but stakeholders (coaches and athletes) come up with new ways to beat the system.
First there was the use of Identification Cards to indentify students but thanks to technology printing such cards is easy and has rendered such detection methods archaic. Publishing index numbers, passport pictures have had their limitations during the verification process as logistical challenges mean Sprite Ball is held when schools are on vacation which puts a cap on the extent investigation can go.
After 14 editions in 13 years, schools spread across all participating regions have been caught cheating in varied degrees. Using unqualified players have popped up in the Western Region and Eastern Region in previous years but KETABUSCO is the third school from the Volta Region to be implicated. At the time of publication, two schools are still serving a two year ban from Sprite Ball for the same offence.
Mawuli Senior High School and Keta Senior High Technical School got banned from 2018 edition after fielding two unqualified players apiece; the ban ends later this year when competition in the zonal championship commences for qualification to the 2021 Sprite Ball. Moving forward a strict enforcement of publication of team rosters for all participating schools two weeks for verification in consultation with the GES should work fine.
Like Ben Johnson, KETABUSCO has been stripped off its Gold medals and the glittering trophy. The quest to bathe in the eternal Championship glory of Sprite Ball keeps pushing young individuals to excel but channeling that drive down the right path is a necessity.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter