Ghana is soccer mad, but the new government is aiming for participation in more sports.
“Hockey is a very wonderful game — better than football because there are combinations that players can work out to go and make a goal. It’s so beautiful,” Fynn said. “When you make a good goal, you jubilate. People will cheer you.”
There’s no doubt, however, that soccer is king. The jerseys of Ghanaian soccer heroes Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah are big sellers at an open-air sporting goods shop near busy Danquah Circle in Accra. Samuel Tetteh, who operates the shop, said it’s inevitable that young people are attracted to soccer because of the big money and glamour of the European leagues, whose matches are shown all over Africa.
“In England, you can see what the clubs are paying for players,” Tetteh said. “Everybody’s thinking about football.”
Still, Ghanaians are at least trying out other sports. While Tetteh consistently sells 20 soccer balls a week, sales of volleyballs and basketballs have inched up to about five of each per week. The three different types of balls have the same price, about $8.
Mills has himself played field hockey for many years and frequently swims to stay in shape. And like virtually all Ghanaians, the 64-year-old is an avid soccer fan. So while the new policy also will emphasize other sports, the president said supporting the national soccer team, as it tries to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, is a top priority.
National pride is a motivating factor in the government’s initiative. Ghana, which is working to sustain its democracy and to boost its relatively strong economy, is trying elevate itself to middle-class status, and diversifying sports interests may be a byproduct.
“The ultimate target of the government is to draw up and execute a strategic plan that will aim at Ghana capturing the commanding heights of not only sports in Africa but the world as a whole,” Mills said.