Visa scandal for Ghana at Commonwealth Games in Australia

UnknownA huge problem for African sports is mismanagement. Stadiums are neglected. Bills go unpaid. In the end, athletes pay the price.

The latest example is the Ghanaian visa scandal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Dozens of Ghanaians claiming to be journalists tried to enter the country but were stopped by border officials, who noticed these ‘journalists’ didn’t have laptops, audio recorders, notebooks; you know, stuff journalists use.

Even worse, there’s concern that Ghanaian officials may have helped them obtain the visas.

As a result, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo has suspended two high-ranking government officials in charge of sports management. In addition, he recalled from the Games several other officials, including the president of the Ghana Olympic Committee, to assist with Ghana’s criminal investigation of the matter.

The president’s action is a good start. Ghana is a rightfully proud country and the scandal is an international disgrace.

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games comprises more than 6,600 athletes and team officials from 71 Commonwealth countries and territories. The closing ceremony is Sunday, April 15.

Ghana was still looking for its first medal. In 2014, Ghana won two bronze medals (judo, boxing) at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.


Hand of God? Match in Ghana postponed after church rents stadium

Football may be a religion, but it still takes a back seat to the real thing in Ghana.

Unknown-1A match scheduled for Wednesday (March 28) at Golden City Park in Berekum, Ghana, was postponed because the Church of Pentecost had already rented the facility. Turns out they’re holding a big Easter convention.

Berekum Chelsea FC was due to host the Elmina Sharks in a Ghana Premier League match. The Sharks had already driven eight hours by bus from Elmina north to Berekum.

Ghana Premier League officials have told local media that they don’t oversee the facilities. In other words, ‘don’t blame us.’

But this isn’t the first scheduling problem for the league, which last week changed dates for a match between Accra Hearts of Oak and Ashanti Gold. It was moved back one day to Saturday, March 24, which caused last-minute marketing problems.

Mark Noonan, the managing director of the Accra team, tweeted his displeasure: “With respect, I sincerely believe for club football in Ghana to progress we need to avoid these situations… we must do better for our dedicated players/supporters.”

The start of the season had already been delayed because of court disputes.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino recently said football in Nigeria is “more than” a religion.



Nigerian journalist on quest to bring LeBron James to Africa

Nigerian journalist and TV presenter Oluwafemi Adefeso really wants LeBron James to come to South Africa this summer. Like, a lot.

2544Adefeso, a freelance reporter and analyst, recently went to the United States to cover the NBA. He’s been posting details of his NBA adventure on social media.

The NBA is holding its third ‘Africa Game’ on Aug. 4 in Johannesburg. Adefeso wants the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar to play in it.

“LeBron has to come to Africa,” Adefeso said in a video he posted on his Twitter account, @IncredibleFEMI. “Let’s make this happen. Let’s bring him to South Africa. Let’s bring him to Nigeria. There’s a lot of fan base out there and I’m sure the NBA will really want to cash in the number of people who love the NBA players and NBA stars.”

Adefeso wrote in a March 19 post dedicated to “African youth” that meeting James required years of planning and saving. He used his mobile phone to apply for a U.S. visa, bought an airline ticket, and left for the U.S.

He interviewed LeBron after a recent Cavs game and inquired about a trip to Africa. James did not commit to this summer, but sounded optimistic about going at some point.

James said: “I would love to. I don’t make the schedule. I would love to be a part of that. In the offseason, my schedule is ridiculous but I would definitely love to get to Africa at some point. I heard Johannesburg is amazing, South Africa is amazing, some of these parts of Africa are amazing, So, hopefully someday.”

Adefeso even enlisted the support of Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers. Oladipo’s mother is Nigerian and his father is from Sierra Leone.

Oladipo, in a short video posted by Adefeso, told LeBron: “They need you, bro. It would be great for the continent. Mother Africa would love to have you.”


End of the road for Namibian boxer Julius Indongo?

PXEQfSR5_200x200Namibian boxer Julius Indongo moved to the United States with high hopes, but it’s gone wrong. So wrong, in fact, that his manager is strongly hinting that the 140-pound former champion might retire.

Indongo (22-2, 11 knockouts) was briefly hospitalized after being stopped in the second round by Regis Prograis (21-0, 18 KOs) for the interim WBC title on March 9 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Last August, Indongo was pummeled in three rounds by another American, Terence Crawford.

At age 35 and coming off two bad losses, Indongo’s American dream is fading. It’s too bad, because he has an inspiring back story. He represented his country in the 2008 Summer Olympics before turning professional.

Indongo, a 5-foot-10 southpaw, had height and reach advantages but still couldn’t keep Prograis off balance. Indongo seemed to be dazed after taking a punch to the back of the head; he was knocked down four times.

In a Facebook posting, his American manager hinted at retirement for Indongo. Michael Carter wrote: “So, if this indeed is the end of his career, our team is nothing but proud of our Namibian brother and warrior who has represented his country with the highest level of consideration.”

The manager said Indongo was released from the hospital “after undergoing multiple exams for head trauma.” He said the Namibian will recover, but added, “as you can imagine, he is emotionally down right now.”

Indongo’s star rose when he knocked out Eduard Troyanovsky in Moscow in December 2016, which earned him the IBF belt. A few months later, he beat Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland, to add the WBA title.


Namibian boxer moves to Omaha, gets title shot

PXEQfSR5_200x200Julius Indongo is 0-1 in America and undefeated everywhere else. The 140-pound fighter is hoping to notch his first victory on U.S. soil March 9 when he meets Regis Prograis (20-0, 17 knockouts) for the interim WBC title.

Like most African athletes, Indongo (22-1, 11 KOs) had to do more with less. This Los Angeles Times story described how Indongo didn’t wear boxing gloves until his first fight at age 17. There was no equipment in his village, so he just shadowboxed and jogged.

Indongo, 35, turned pro in 2009 and went 20-0 in Namibia, picking up the WBO Africa Super Lightweight title in the process. He proved he’s no fluke when he knocked out Eduard Troyanovsky in Moscow in December 2016, which earned him the IBF belt. A few months later, he beat Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland, to add the WBA title.

Then, it was on to America. Indongo took on Terence Crawford in the American’s hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, last August. Crawford stopped Indongo in the third round.

Indongo then split from his Namibian trainer, Nestor “Sunshine” Tobias, allegedly over purse money owed to the boxer from the Burns fight, and moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to train for U.S. opportunities.

His opportunity arose when Viktor Postol backed out of the Prograis fight because of a hand injury. Indongo, a 5-foot-10 southpaw, had been training for a possible March bout anyway, so he stepped in for Postol.

The bout will be held in Deadwood, South Dakota.


Zambian footballer’s American dream ends in tragedy

Many athletes in Africa dream of playing professional sports in Europe or the United States, where salaries are big and opportunities await.

DXC3QB3XcAELAmfAaron Simutowe of Zambia was no different. He was a defender for Zambia’s Under 20 national team that played in the 1999 FIFA U20 World Cup. He then moved to the United States and played one season for the Jacksonville Cyclones of the A-League, which later became the USL First Division.

That seemed like a promising start, but Simutowe was killed in a hit-and-run accident Saturday, Feb. 24, in the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut _ a long way from both Zambia and Jacksonville, Florida. He was struck by two cars while walking on a city street at night.

News reports of the fatal accident described Simutowe, 38, as homeless. How a once-promising professional soccer player ended up homeless is unknown. There’s no public information available about Simutowe’s life after the season in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Cyclones were managed by David Viollet, a former striker for Manchester United and England’s national team.

Simutowe was the son of the late Boniface Simutowe, a well-known Zambian midfielder who went on to coach for many years. Aaron’s cousin is Amon Simutowe, who is a chess Grandmaster.



Irish priest held Nigerian marathon record for 46 years

Abraham Kiprotich of Kenya won the recent Lagos City Marathon with a time of 2:15:02, which is a new record.

Congrats. Now, here’s where it gets strange: The prior record holder was a Catholic priest from Ireland. Sean Healy won a marathon in the Nigerian city of Kaduna on Aug. 28, 1971. He was a missionary at the time.


Sean Healy (Sligo Today)

According to the IAAF, Healy’s “all-comers” record time of 2:15:03 stood until Kiprotich broke it Feb. 10. The classification refers to a record in a country without regard to the runner’s nationality. Kiprotich’s record is with electronic “chip time,” as his “gun time” was 2:15:04.

Healy also won the Earth Day Marathon outside New York City on March 16, 1975, when he was a graduate student at Fordham University. As of 1999, Healy was still running marathons, according to this Irish Times feature, which highlighted his work on human rights initiatives in Ireland.

Healy is now director of Social Justice Ireland, a think tank based in Dublin.

As impressive as the record was, keep in mind that Nigeria went decades without holding a marathon. This was just the third Lagos City Marathon, though it has already earned the IAAF “bronze label.” Race organizers want Lagos to become an internationally acclaimed marathon.

Almenesh Herpha of Ethiopia won the women’s race in 2:38:23. Kiprotich is Kenyan but technically runs for France. He became a citizen after serving in the French Foreign Legion.