By Napoleon Ato Kittoe
An undeniable truth about sports is how they have now become means to the jackpot, underlining this is fame. The industry, amateur and professional, having become so massive, has entered every avenue of life. Huge monies are paid to satisfy people’s insatiable appetite for sports. Sports involve labour law, sociology and politics. Dilating the political connection, the male national soccer team of Ghana, Black Stars had a particular way of celebrating their winning streak at the African Cup of Nations tourney in 2008. The style was adopted by the governing Political Party, as it sought to cash in on the football season in the election year. It is going to be a huge political capital for the political party in whose tenure Ghana may win a fifth title, amidst the drought that hit the team from 1982.
Distinctions are drawn in many endeavours but not in sports where a level playing field is accorded contestants in the competition. Bad officiating distorts scale though and unfair arrangements of fixtures vitiate or lower standards. In sports, provided a collective team qualifies or an individual’s talent thrusts one into the circle to be counted, an even ground is fairly guaranteed for all, irrespective of contestants’ backgrounds. It is unlike politics.
Football teams with multinationals as their playing body have warmed many hearts In the unsegregated nature of their goal jubilations. Another version of the United Nations, the geopolitical organization. Sports doesn’t know political colours and in some instances where politics and sports appeared to telescope into each other, they have proven to be chemically insoluble. In extreme cases, political fanatics who belonged to political parties diametrically opposed to each other, had closed ranks to celebrate sports victories. Magical isn’t it?
Seeing Ghana play United States in Soccer World Cups, and several other such examples sent a powerful message about sports as a leveller and a means of escaping prejudices and the segregations which have come to characterize other endeavours. Some of the world’s most prosperous destinations, Canada had participated in the soccer world cup only once prior to her second 2022 edition in Qatar. Japan has seen more of the tourney but is surpassed in mileage by countries far below Japan’s industrialization and economic clout. Even a juggernaut like China has made no appearance at all in the football Mundial and any qualification to this stage might initially go with the badge, minnows. Strengths and comparative advantages are unique to nations, thus even in sports the economically stronger nations have their own areas of mastery.
The gender aspect of sports have male-dominated disciplines directly confrontational and combative (wrestling, rugby boxing etc). The female ones are usually individualized (gymnastics for example). In the contemporary sense, the stereotypes are erased as female versions of male sports have been introduced.
The set of twenty-two players who chase the single football on a stadium field could all be millionaires. Soccer is now a gold mine, and any footballer who rises above his peers, in terms of capabilities of goal scoring, tendering the goal posts or positive contributions to other departments of the game, is readily baited with money. Sometimes, the staggering amounts are mind-blowing, and those bestowed with the favour simply live like Wealthy Arabian Monarchs. They are enriched and they have become very influential in society.
In using soccer to pitch thoughts on the theme, it is without any prejudice except the fact that it is the most visible and famous sport. Others are making waves in lesser-known sports in equal or to greater magnitudes. One of the bravest and mightiest ascensions ever made by a sports personality is the climb made to the Presidency of Liberia by Former AC Milan star, George Oppon Weah who after chalking up some wonderful laurels in the new kingdom of millionaires, got the cutting edge, enough to catapult him to the vital political position in his country. However, the attempt by The Philippines Boxing Legend, Manny Pacquiao, to emulate Weah did not work. The eight-division champion in world boxing, placed third in the 2022 Presidential Elections of his country.
French soccer star up to the mid-80s, Michel Platini, became President of European football.
American Boxer Floyd Mayweather has acquired a sea of cars, aircraft, businesses and real estates, out of the pugilists sport. He bought one of the most expensive wristwatches from a company called Jacob and co, at an eye-watering cost of eighteen million dollars. For a period, the whole of Ghana paused to make time for television, anytime boxing icon Azumah Nelson had a bout in Las Vegas or elsewhere. The man who began life in the streets of Accra as a coconut seller was perhaps one of the foremost or few to own a Limousine in Ghana. Some of Ghana’s rich of different endeavours have the means to acquire Limos. Their absence on the roads could be interpreted to be sheer decision or not to make a show of them if it is part of their fleet. Azumah got it at the time Ghana had very few millionaires.
Unlike other careers where the conferment of academic titles is in the domain of academic institutions, some sports personalities have by their own proclamations or public acclamation, been affixed with superlative titles. Thus, Professor Azumah Nelson (professor of boxing) and Ghana’s football hero in the 1970s/80s, Soccer Professor Mohammed Ahmed Polo, have their appellations unchallenged and publicly acclaimed.
In boxing, where the monies paid have always been staggering, a certain Leonard-Duran “fight” in Las Vegas produced over seven million dollars for the punchless Duran and over fifteen million dollars for the punched-out Leonard. Promoters said they will promote more Duran fights. As long as the public embraces the megastars, it will continue, and the bucks will roll in. With the advent of Pay-TV, boxing purse may be headed for the stratosphere. It happened in all big bouts including those by Tyson, Foreman, Cooney and Mohammed Ali.
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is an Olympiad who long reigned as the world’s fastest person, with a record time in hundred metres. Bolt was a fielder on tracks, not a footballer yet in the twilight of his career, he was signed on by a football club in Australia. This was exhibitionist and for bragging rights.
Successful sports personalities live in fashionable suburbs. They enjoy the typical trappings of affluence. Private twin-engine planes, expensive cars, game rooms for their kids- complete with electronic video games, salaried staff members of their businesses and fat portfolios of investment.
Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzima are among footballers whose lives are luxuriated with such perks while they still earn juicy advertising contracts. Corporate world are in a hot chase for their brands. A golfer who made the sport what it is today, turned his back on a multi-million dollar Saudi offer. The story of the man who had made so much from career will be revisited as we continue treading this line of hope.
When Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan launched his book, the venue was one of the cosiest, attended by society’s creme de la creme. This was a footballer who broke the nation’s heart, shooting wide a penalty kick that was on threshold of Hall of Fame, and to have pioneered Ghana and Africa into soccer world cup semis. This does not take anything from Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s record goal scorer in international games. Gaffes in other professions had submerged some people; they were unable to swim through the opposite currents, the pushback. Most sports personalities are thrust in the spotlight giving them stardom and celebrity status. They are easily granted an audience by Presidents and royals, and they hobnob within exclusive groups of achievers and/or rich people. A farmer who grows crops and husbands animals for meat protein may probably get a shot at a nation’s president by just a happenstance, in special events and not in the near casual sense.
Sports have now become the industry for only their kind. This might suggest a contradiction with the opening account of this passage, not in the broader sense where the statement situates. The booming sports business, for players, coaches, marketers, referees, kit producers, event promoters, betting groups, administrators, journalists, financiers and as tourist card, has served as recycle bin full of nectar for actors in the field, as they hit twilight. That is why past sportsmen and women easily find a job within the industry.
A notable personality in the domain of sports auxiliaries in Ghana looks very much like the heart of the industry. He is ace soccer commentator Kwabena Yeboah who performed in the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa. History will reflect, that the FIFA recognized Kwabena Yeboah is easily the dominant sportscaster of all time in a soccer-crazy nation like Ghana and certainly the most famous. He has become an institution and everyone knows that the “sports highlights” programme which he hosts on Ghana Television, won’t be the same without him. He has done more to popularize sports on television than anyone else, arguably. His public presence in the sports industry and without discrediting his capabilities in other fields could have made the Akufo-Addo administration appoint him to membership of company boards.
Many East African athletes gained easy nationality switches to countries with some of the most stringent immigration rules
Bahrain, Qatar, the United States and Turkey are some of the countries that have won the hearts of many Kenyan athletes.
More than ten Kenyan runners including three thousand metres steeplechase fast-rising star Winfred Mutile Yavi, Rose Chelimo, Eunice Kirwa, Miriam Jeptoo and John Koech opted to run for Bahrain..
Former Five thousand metres race champion Benard Lagat, Jonah Koech, Hillary Bor, and Marius Kimutai are other athletes who were previously adopted by foreign nations.
Some of the reasons that make Kenyan athletes switch nationality are the presence of stiff competition in Kenya, lack of quality training facilities, and lack of motivation in terms of bonuses and welfare.
Sports put their destinies in their hands and granted them the ticket to places, which remain a fantasy or tantalizing mirage to crowds out there. These athletes become coaches when they retire.
Senegal’s celebrated footballer Sadio Mane earns an annual figure of twenty-two million euros at Bayern Munich. After his purchase from Liverpool, he earned more than key German national team players in the champion club, such as Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller, by one to two million euros. Mane contributes to important projects back home and makes donations to every compound in his village.
Roger Federer is reported to have passed Woods as the highest-paid athlete ever from a nonteam sport.
Golfer Tiger Woods is on the Forbes rich list with a net worth of at least one billion dollars, based on his lifetime earnings, making him one of just three known athlete billionaires. The others are NBA superstar LeBron James, who has leveraged his fame and fortune by taking equity stakes in a number of businesses, and Michael Jordan, who hit ten digits after he retired, thanks to a well-timed investment i the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
For all his cool, low-key style, it is clear fierce competitive fires burn inside the golfer, and perhaps it is the will to compete and win that makes his athletic background such a natural training ground for success in other businesses.
Woods is the Founder and CEO of TGR, a multi-brand enterprise comprised of his various companies and philanthropic endeavours, including TGR Design, the golf course design company; The TGR Foundation, a charitable foundation; TGR Live, an events production company; and The Woods Jupiter, an upscale sports restaurant.
You may have so much in your make-up, but the fire which may burn brightest could be the sport in you. Exoticism, Fame, Money. Interestingly several success stories in sports give back to society in several outlets.
Studious and ebullient upstarts or youngsters, groping to find the handle in early life, and are passionate about sports, may take a cue from others to make giant leaps, that may land them in the other world. Not the world of our ancestors but a third world, the newest of the third worlds where milk and honey flows. The Eldorado of sports.
Sports personalities join authors, inventors, historians and international figures, as institutions from where some of the best quotes have emanated.
Some people say I have attitude – maybe I do…but I think you have to. You have to believe in yourself when no one else does – that makes you a winner right there.” – Venus Williams
“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” – Muhammad Ali
“If you do the work you get rewarded. There are no shortcuts in life.” – Michael Jordan
The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” – Kobe Bryant
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi
“The only person who can stop you from reaching your goals is you.” – Jackie Joyner Kersee
“Without goals, training has no direction.” – Natalie Coughlin
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong.
“You have to be positive, and I’m not just talking about athletics, this also applies to life.” – Sheryl Swoopes.
These are just but a few from the sports collection. The door is open to everybody but sadly only few are able to ran the full course to be counted as contester.