Ghana is soccer mad, but the new government is aiming for participation in more sports.
Field hockey players practice on Ghana's dusty national pitch in the capital, Accra. (Ken Maguire/GlobalPost)
ACCRA, Ghana — A country is officially soccer crazed when its gold mines reduce production during World Cup matches to preserve electricity so that people can watch their team on television without interruption.
That happened in 2006, when Ghana competed in its first World Cup, boosting national pride with victories over the Czech Republic and the United States.
Now Ghana’s new president says it’s time for soccer to share the spotlight. President John Atta Mills is pledging to spark interest in more sports, including track and field, basketball and field hockey, in hopes of making Ghana — already one of Africa's most promising democracies — a well-rounded sports nation.
At Ghana’s official field hockey pitch in downtown Accra, national team captain Ebenezer Frimpong said school children deserve more opportunities.
“There are so many young ones who want to play other sports but due to publicity they have all shifted to football,” Frimpong said. “They need to promote the other sports better.”
The plan involves overhauling sports programming in schools, while also promoting sports such as track and field at the collegiate level.
“Our goal is to move away from the over-concentration on soccer and to some extent boxing,” Mills said in his recent state of the nation address.
Paying for the initiative will require creativity, especially as Ghana and other developing states feel the effects of the global financial crisis. The Mills administration will set aside funds in its new budget, but officials also want to raise revenue by selling advertisements at the four new stadiums built for the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament held last summer.
Henry Fynn, coach of the men’s national field hockey team and spokesman for the Greater Accra Hockey Association, said corporate sponsors are vital for lesser-known sports.
“Everybody wants to play football because it’s cheaper,” Fynn said. “When you have one ball, 30 people can play. But in hockey, you need to have the equipment before you can play.”
A field hockey stick costs about $75, and that’s in addition to specialized padding for shins, elbows and chest, as well as a helmet. Without help, it’s impossible for people living in poverty to afford such luxuries.
Ghana is hosting the African Hockey Cup of Nations this summer and the government has pledged to support the tournament. Construction crews are busy building new stands at the national hockey pitch, and the turf is to be replaced this spring.
Culled from more than 100,000 submissions, these photos represent the best in photojournalism from the past year.
Wpp 01 paul hansen
Nov. 20, 2012, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories: 2-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and his older brother Muhammad were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. Their father, Fouad, was also killed and their mother was put in intensive care. Fouad’s brothers carry his children to the mosque for the burial ceremony as his body is carried behind on a stretcher.
- [Paul Hansen, Sweden, Dagens Nyheter/Courtesy]
Wpp 02 emin ozmen
July 31, 2012, Aleppo, Syria: Opposition fighters regularly launched operations to seize government informants after dark. Two informants were captured, declared guilty under interrogation, and tortured throughout the night; tired soldiers had to be replaced so the torture could continue. After 48 hours, the captives were released.
- [Emin Özmen, Turkey/Courtesy]
Wpp 03 fabio bucciarelli
Oct. 10, 2012, Aleppo, Syria: A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position during the clashes against Syrian government forces in Sulemain Halabi district in Aleppo.
- [Fabio Bucciarelli, Italy/ AFP/Courtesy]
Wpp 04 rodrigo abd
March 10, 2012, Idib, Syria: Aida cries while recovering from severe injuries she received when her house was shelled by the Syrian Army. Her husband and two children were fatally wounded during the shelling.
- [Rodrigo Abd, Argentina/ The Associated Press/Courtesy]
Wpp 05 daniel berehulak
March 7, 2012, Rikuzentakata, Japan: Pine trees uprooted during the tsunami lay strewn over the beach. One year later, areas of Japan most impacted by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that left 15,848 dead and 3,305 missing, continue to struggle. Thousands of people remain living in temporary dwellings. The government faces an uphill battle with the need to dispose of rubble as it works to rebuild economies and livelihoods.
- [Daniel Berehulak, Australia/Getty Images]
Wpp 06 wei seng chen
Feb. 12, 2012, Batu Sangkar, West Sumatra, Indonesia: A jockey, his feet stepped into a harness strapped to the bulls and clutching their tails, shows relief and joy at the end of a dangerous run across rice fields. The Pacu Jawi (bull race) is a popular competition at the end of harvest season keenly contested between villages.
- [Wei Seng Chen, Malaysia//Courtesy]
Wpp 08 jan grarup
Feb. 21, 2012, Mogadishu, Somalia: The Somali basketball association pays armed guards to watch over and protect Suweys and her team when they play. In Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, young women risk their lives to play basketball. Suweys, the 19-year-old captain of a women's basketball team, and her friends defy radical Islamist views on women’s rights.
- [Jan Grarup, Denmark, Laif/Courtesy]
Wpp 09 micah albert
Apr. 3, 2012, Nairobi, Kenya: Pausing in the rain, a woman working as a trash picker at the 30-acre dump, which literally spills into households of 1 million people living in nearby slums, wishes she had more time to look at the books she comes across. She even likes the industrial parts catalogs. “It gives me something else to do in the day besides picking [trash],” she said.
- [Micah Albert, USA/ Redux Images/Courtesy]
Wpp 10 maika elan
June 22, 2012, Da Nang, Vietnam: Phan Thi Thuy Vy and Dang Thi Bich Bay, who have been together for one year, watch television to relax after studying at school. Vietnam has historically been unwelcoming to same-sex relationships. But its Communist government is considering recognizing same-sex marriage, a move that would make it the first Asian country to do so, despite past human rights issues and a long-standing stigma.
- [Maika Elan, Vietnam, Most/Courtesy]
Wpp 11 soren bidstrup
July 8, 2012, Jeselo, Italy: A family prepares to go camping on a summer holiday, but someone is up too early.
- [Søren Bidstrup, Denmark, Berlingske/Courtesy]
Wpp 12 fausto podavini
June 1, 2010, Rome, Italy: Despite her husband's life-threatening disease, Mirella devoted her life to assisting Luigi, trying to be positive and reassuring, looking after him with intense love and respect. Mirella, 71, spent 43 years of her life with the only person she loved, with all of life's difficulties, laughter, and beautiful moments. But over the last six years things changed: Mirella lived with her husband Luigi’s illness, Alzheimer’s, and devoted her life to him as his caregiver.
- [Fausto Podavini, Italy/Courtesy]
Wpp 14 ananda van der pluijm
Feb. 15, 2011, Tilburg, the Netherlands: After living with his father for 10 years and staying in a youth shelter, Martin, 18, returned home two years ago to live with his mother. He arrived with some clothes in a bag and no work or degree.
- [Ananda van der Pluijm, The Netherlands/Courtesy]
Wpp 17 christian ziegler
Nov. 16, 2012, Black Mountain Road, Australia: The endangered Southern Cassowary feeds on the fruit of the Blue Quandang tree. Cassowaries are a keystone species in northern Australian rainforests because of their ability to carry so many big seeds such long distances.
- [Christian Ziegler, Germany, National Geographic Magazine/Courtesy]
Wpp 18 paul nicklen
Nov. 18, 2011, Ross Sea, Antarctica: New science shows that Emperor Penguins are capable of tripling their swimming speed by releasing millions of bubbles from their feathers. These bubbles reduce the friction between their feathers and the icy seawater, allowing them to accelerate in the water. They use speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour to avoid leopard seals and to launch themselves up onto the ice.
- [Paul Nicklen, Canada, National Geographic magazine/Courtesy]