Officials and athletes have hailed the 26th Ghana University Sports Association Legon 2020 as one of the best organised ever in Ghana since its inception in 1964.
Under the theme “Integrating Sports into Academia for Youth Empowerment and Development,” the games for the first time ever brought together 11 public universities to compete for laurels in 12 sports disciplines.
GUSA welcomed two new universities to its fold namely the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).
It was the first time in ten years that the nation’s premier university, the University of Ghana, Legon (UG), was hosting the games having last hosted in 2010.
The games have not been without their problems as host institutions have traditionally struggled to provide the necessary infrastructure and in many instances have had to rent facilities outside their campus to complement what they have, coupled with the organisational structures and the needed visibility to attract corporate Ghana and spectators to the event.
“When I was a student, I was a sportsman myself. Fast track 30 plus or so years, I have witnessed three of such GUSA now. I have never seen anything like this. That is why I wanted to make a statement: this is what I want to achieve, this is the standard we want to set, this is the path we want to carve, to show the way, to lead and to set the pace,” a co-chairman of the Local Organising Committee Dr. Bella Bello Bitugu said.
Dr. Bitugu added, “Perhaps, apart from the first GUSA in the 1960’s I haven’t witnessed or heard about a better, efficiently well organised GUSA than this one. And this is not coming from me, but I am quoting from the print, the internet, radio and from people who have been interacting with me.”
The hosts showed marked improvement in the medal standings improving their gold medal haul to 12 from the 7 they won at the last edition of the games in Tamale 2018. It placed them 4th on the log behind eventual winners the University of Cape Coast who won the games for a 5th consecutive time with a medal haul of 64, made up of 28 gold, 23 silver and 13 bronze medals.
They were followed in second place by the University of Education, Winneba with 43 medals while the University for Development Studies sealed third place with 39 medals.
“We knew we will not be the overall champions because there are different ways of entering the universities. We knew we had some disadvantages there. Despite that we are working hard and we have worked hard with our policy that brings talented athletes to the universities, train them from scratch,” Dr. Bitugu said.
“Apart from for example Grace Obour, there is no athlete we brought from outside. All of them are home grown. So we work very hard. What I call patient investment. Look at Benjamin Azamati: we started from first year and now he is at level 300 and he is an African champion. Look at the pole vault, high jump and so on.
He concluded, “So you realize that we are actually the ones developing the talent and for me that is the essence of sports. We are happy we have equipped the youth to be able to stay on their own to realise their potentials in sports and academia.”
Meanwhile, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology came 5th with a medal haul of 6 while the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) came 6th with a bronze medal to their account. New entrants Ghana Institute of Journalism followed in 7th while the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa, University of Health and Allied Sciences and the University of Professional Studies, Accra followed in that order with no medal.
It seems the games have become a new frontier for sports development in Ghana in recent times as evidenced by the increased media coverage at Legon 2020.
With the best athletes in the country across 12 disciplines paraded at Legon to compete for laurels, the Ghanaian media were curious about university sports and delivered the action across television, radio, online and social media.
The recent performances of three Ghanaian based athletes at the African Games 2019- sprinter Benjamin Kwaku Azamati 4x100m gold medalist, high jump gold medalist Rose Amoanima Yeboah and 400m bronze medalist Grace Obour- is still fresh on the minds of a lot of Ghanaians.
With several universities readily offering student athlete scholarships, many sportsmen/women have enrolled in school again. One such example who received rave reviews in the men’s football tournament was a former captain of Ghana Premier League side Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs, Stephen Aidoo.
Aidoo who is studying for a B.Ed Health, Physical Education and Recreation degree at the University of Cape Coast, was elated to have won his GUSA gold medal in the football tournament.
“It has been very wonderful. This is my first time participating in this event and I am very excited to take part. I will commend Legon for this wonderful organization. I realised that after the third game, most of the teams were tired. I will urge the organisers to look at the fixtures of the tournament again,” he said.
Another great example of the evolving trend is a former Accra Great Olympics striker Abel Manomey who carved a piece of history for himself scoring 10 goals in 10 matches and making him the highest GUSA games goal scorer since 1964, with 39 goals in 35 games.
“I think this is my 6th GUSA games and it has been awesome looking at the accommodation, feeding, the structures and the fixtures,” he said adding that, “This is the first time 11 universities are taking part in the games.”
Abel, who is studying for a Masters of Philosophy in Health Physical Education and Recreation and Sports at the University of Education, Winneba, reckons GUSA is an important platform for footballers.
“It is the biggest platform where academicians come together, share thoughts and reason together. Over the years the GUSA games has become one of the biggest platforms for football. I will urge the other footballers in the premier league, division one and division two to consider going to school again because it is about longevity. How relevant you will be after football.
For the multi-talented UCC athlete Yayra Kluboito, who was competing at her 5th GUSA games, Legon 2020 was quiet special for her winning gold in the women’s volleyball and netball, and silver in basketball.
“GUSA 2020 has been one of the best I have attended in terms of organization and the competition. I think the directors have to talk with their athletes to comport themselves” she said.
For many followers of the games, GUSA has become a very important platform for developing and empowering athletes to achieve their aims in life.
To a great extent, the universities and their sportsmen/women appear to have fully embraced the theme of “Integrating Sports into Academia for Youth Empowerment and Development.”
GUSA is expected to pick up great lessons from its organisation of the 26th edition of the games and make the competition safer and spectator friendly in the subsequent editions.