Ghana’s women qualified for the Commonwealth Games for the first time without any financial support or assistance.
Ghana’s women’s beach volleyball team will make its Commonwealth Games debut against Canada on Saturday, but the road to the event has not been easy.
The mood was depressing for a team preparing for its first major event, primarily because the government stipend for the camp had yet to arrive.
This wasn’t the first time the team had suffered a financial setback. As a result, motivation was low, exacerbated by the scorching summer sun.
The team members told Al Jazeera that their perseverance for three months without government funding was due to their “genuine love for the game” and determination to succeed against all odds.
Ghana, ranked 104th in the world, has been placed in Pool A with Canada, gold medalists in the inaugural beach volleyball event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Kenya, and New Zealand.
The team qualified for the event after a hard-fought battle with the best on the continent.
Juliana Otcherewaa and Rashaka Katadat fought valiantly to secure the team’s place in the event, defeating tough opponents such as Nigeria, Seychelles, Kenya, and Mauritius.
“The qualification wasn’t easy, but we persevered,” Otcherewaa said. “I told my partner that we’d made a lot of sacrifices to get to this point, so we needed to give it our all and do our best.”
Even qualifying for the Commonwealth Games surprised Katadat.
“We didn’t think we’d win this [qualifying tournament],” Katadat told Al Jazeera.
“These emotions were primarily caused by the abysmal preparations for the qualifiers.” There was no help, no sponsorship, nothing. We didn’t even have transportation, but we saw it from the standpoint that we were doing it for ourselves, so whether support came in or not, we went ahead.”
Congratulations to the national nominated #beachvolleyball team for winning the #GoldMedal at the #CommonwealthGames Beach Volleyball Africa Qualifiers held on home soil. Ghana will be Africa’s sole representative. 2022 Birmingham #CWGames qualification after defeating Mauritius 2-1. pic.twitter.com/QdsHfN75z8 | March 29, 2022 — Ghana Sports History (@GSportsHistory)
Otcherewaa began her volleyball career in 2014, after graduating from senior high school in Ghana’s eastern region. She began training with the La Pioneers Volleyball Club, an indoor volleyball team based in Labadi, a coastal town in Accra, when she was 15 years old.
Her switch to beach volleyball happened by accident.
In 2014, she went to the beach to train by herself, and the national beach volleyball team happened to be there as well, piqued Otcherewaa’s interest.
She hung out at practice, gathering balls for the team. Later, the team’s head coach, Seidu Ajanako, approached her and asked if she wanted to try beach volleyball, which she eagerly accepted.
“They taught me the fundamentals of the game, and the rest is history,” she explained.
Katadat’s first love was indoor volleyball, which she discovered while in high school. Katadat grew up in Ejura, Ashanti Region, wanting to be a lawyer. Her parents were initially unsupportive of her involvement in volleyball as a high school student.
“My parents didn’t approve of me participating in sports. “They always told me that because I was a woman, I shouldn’t play sports because people would gossip,” Katadat told Al Jazeera.
However, a stellar performance while representing Highlanders Volley Club against TI Amass Senior High School drew the attention of the opponents, who offered her a scholarship to play for their team.
Her parents gradually warmed up to her enthusiasm for the sport.
“I started making a name for myself in Kumasi as the best volleyball player in the region, so my father just stopped and let me play.”
Katadat had to choose between a university sports scholarship and joining the army as an indoor volleyball player after high school.
She was at a fork in the road that would determine the course of her life.
“I eventually chose the army because the school is permanent, but the army is not.”
Meanwhile, Otcherewaa was drafted by the Ghana Police Service and now plays for the Police volleyball team in the Accra Volleyball League.
Financial difficulties persist.
While the girls’ careers on the court progressed smoothly, a lack of financial assistance remained a hindrance.
Ghana Volleyball Association (GVA) submitted an official budget for the qualifying tournament to the National Sports Authority in January of this year (NSA).
After being postponed in December 2021 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Ghana was chosen to host the tournament in March.
GVA general secretary Alhassan Sumani told Al Jazeera that after receiving no support, the organization decided to cover the costs of the tournament and also fund the girls.
However, after winning the tournament and qualifying for the Commonwealth Games, the players believed their fortunes would improve.
But nothing has changed, they claim, adding that their salaries cover the training costs.
“Right now, I use the money I get as a police officer to pay for my training,” Otcherewaa explained.
“This lack of support is nothing new to us,” Katadata said. “Ghana is all about football, and no other sports have sponsors.” This is a major issue because many people are giving up.”
Bawa Iddrisu, the national team’s team manager, echoed the players’ concerns about a lack of financial support.
“The money the sports ministry gave us for a youth championship in Benin last February was only enough to board a bus from Accra to the location,” he told Al Jazeera. “If it were up to us, we’d take the team to every tournament, but the funds aren’t there.”
Spend some time and join team Ghana beach volleyball as we face the great Canadian beach volleyball team on Saturday at 2:00pm. | July 28, 2022 — Moro Mumuni (@moro mumuni5)
Coach Moro Mumuni remembered a time when the women’s team was overlooked.
“The team competed in zonal qualifiers in Ghana and advanced to the continental finals in Morocco,” Mumuni explained.
The continental cup served as a qualifier for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“The sports ministry later informed us that they could only provide funding for the men’s team.”
The Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) said little about the situation.
Fred Achie, the Commonwealth Games’ Chef de Mission and a member of the GOC, told Al Jazeera that the other qualified national teams were also facing funding issues.
“Just because money hasn’t been released for the athletes doesn’t mean they should stop training,” Achie explained. “The GOC does not handle ministry funds.” We are simply facilitators of budgets for athletes, and even that is handled by the International Games Committee.”
Concerning funding, he stated that the government will work on it when the time comes, but no date was given.
However, Kenneth Annan, the PRO for the Sports Ministry, said it was unfair to place all of the blame on the ministry.
“The ministry does not rely solely on government funding, but it simply isn’t enough,” Annan explained, adding that private corporate bodies also contribute to their survival.
The government provides a quarterly stipend to the ministry, but according to Annan, it has not been released since the beginning of the year, leaving athletes to fend for themselves.
“I am not speaking from a defeatist standpoint, but we cannot reap what we have not sown,” GVA vice president George Tetteh told Al Jazeera.