The novel coronavirus has affected sports like nothing in history. Usually when there is a significant world event, sports serve as a distraction and a way to unify people. We saw that with 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and many other events throughout history. In the COVID-19 pandemic, sports is a central part of the story, part of the problem. The virus easily spreads in large crowds and I think it will be months, if not years, before people feel comfortable attending events with thousands of people.
Like all sporting disciplines, basketball in Ghana has not been spared of COVID-19 obstruction. With new and exciting basketball programmes to be introduced this year and another BIG NBA Star expected in Ghana sometime June/July, basketball fans would have so much to see, read about and enjoy this year. The novel coronavirus has unfocused the flow of basketball events in Ghana.
Rite Sports, the leading sports events production and management firm in Ghana, partnered with the Mayor of Accra Hon. Mohammed Adjei Sowah to organize the maiden Accra Mayor’s Cup for selected High Schools in Accra last November. The event which was the first basketball event at the Bukom Boxing Arena was won by Presec-Legon. In December 2019, the best basketball players in Accra and Tema clashed in the maiden Africa Basketball Festival (akin to the popular NBA All-Star Game held every February) at the Bukom Boxing Arena which marked the second basketball game to be held at the arena which hitherto was known for just boxing events.
In January 2020, thousands of basketball fans congregated at the El-Wak Sports Stadium for the finals of the 2019/2020 Sprite Ball Championship which was the 14th edition since its inception in January 2007. The boys’ division had Keta Business School winning but were later disqualified and banned indefinitely for fielding unqualified players. Shama Senior High School won in the Girls’ division making it the first Girls’ School from the Western Region to win the prestigious Championship.
The 2020 GUSA Games were successfully hosted by University of Ghana in January producing some exciting moments. University of Ghana won in the basketball competition, repeating the feat chalked in 2010 when they last hosted the prestigious GUSA Games.
With Ghana prospering in 3X3 Basketball Games in recent times, Rite Sports was going to throw the spotlight on the game with the maiden BALL OUT, a national 3×3 Championship in February which will see the winner take home GH10,000 was rescheduled to end of April 2020 (this month) but with the unfolding events, that hangs in a limbo.
The 7th edition of the annual UPAC Basketball Championship, the biggest national University basketball programme, was launched successfully and games played in two Zones. Radford University College won Zone One in Koforidua and Takoradi Technical University emerging winners in Zone 2 over University of Cape Coast, tipped as one of the favourites to win this year’s Championship. Per the schedule, thousands would have gathered at the University of Ghana Basketball Court to witness yet another exciting finals yesterday Saturday 18th April but intricate to say which teams would have been in the final.
A conversation has started late last year with the agent of a popular American NBA Player (name withheld for now) to host him in Ghana in June/July for several projects including a basketball clinic, educational support programme and rural community support. With COVID-19 predicted to linger around for some more months, the visit hangs in a balance.
After all the activities, a night is set aside to celebrate all the stakeholders who excelled during the year under review, the Ghana Basketball Awards. It was scheduled for sometime in June. Need I say more about its destiny?
Beyond the activities of Rite Sports, competitive basketball leagues across the country have been affected by the Corona Virus and eventual ban on social gatherings. The Accra Basketball League (ABL) 2020 season had just commenced with Round One games played out at the Lebanon House Court in Tudu.
With a majority of the participating clubs drafted from Ghana’s security service, the season is likely to be shortened to give security personnel who double as players’ ample time to prepare for the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections.
The Western Basketball Association (WBA) League was close to concluding but the effects of the Corona Virus have forced organizers to suspend the league with no games expected to be played at the Takoradi Technical University league venue.
The calendar for the GSP Basketball League in Sunyani has been disrupted due to the suspension while league players who double as students of Tertiary institutions are likely to miss out on crucial tune up games for the UPAC. GSP League games have been important in preparing participating institutions to star in the UPAC. Sunyani Technical University and Catholic University College, Ghana (CUCG) are GSP teams competing in the 2020 UPAC Basketball Championship.
For now, jobs, opportunities and fun to be derived from these games have to wait- WaterPark and ClockWork (both produce and sell sports apparels) were hoping to sew more jerseys for participating teams, replica jerseys for fans of participating teams and their favourite NBA teams but have to revise their expectations. The food vendors (I was looking forward to drinking ice kenkey produced and sold by Gracefield, former UG Basketball star turned entrepreneur) have to revise their revenue projections, the lady we rent canopies and chairs from might have to wait for some months to enjoy those funds, the painter and his boys who mark the floor ahead of every final must wait for a couple of months and the list continues.
Gail Sheehy, an American author, journalist, and lecturer once said, ”If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living”. Indeed, Ghana Basketball is reeling under COVID-19 but the big question is, has this pandemic changed how we see the sport? Will anything change about how we activate the sport world over and in Ghana?
Yaw Sakyi Afari, Rite Sports