Exactly a week ago, four brave Ghanaians were making their country proud with all their strength and with all their hearts as it’s said in the National Pledge.
The four, in the persons of Benjamin Azamati Kafui, Joseph Amoah, Martin Owusu-Antwi and Sean Safo-Antwi, saw their competition, rose to the occasion and 38.30 seconds later, they were the African champions of the 4x100m relay at the African Games.
Their exploits, which ended with them winning Gold, made headlines here in Ghana… Four men, whom many have never heard of or knew little about them, were raising our flag high while our National Anthem was played so that other nations can pay their respects.
Meanwhile, 1,686 miles away at home in Ghana, Ghanaians took a minute from their schedule to feel proud, send a social media post and quickly move on from what was an amazing victory.
That speaks much about how we feel about what we have come to call “lesser-known sports.”
We love football, scratch that… we adored the Black Stars and left all other sporting disciplines and other football divisions behind.
When the Black Stars started “disappointing us” we somehow managed to give them another chance during this year’s AFCON only for us to be angered again after it was revealed that the AFCON cost us $4.5m.
All that… and it still didn’t put an end to our 38-year old drought of the African Cup.
Meanwhile, here we were last week… given the bragging rights to call ourselves African champions in 4x100m men’s relay.
We were curious to know how the Golden Quartet (as we have decided to call them) have been supported by the same government that had a $6.3 million budget for the Black Stars.
Below is our conversation with Martin Owusu-Anti, a member of the Golden Quartet, who is currently in America
We started by asking him whether he’s had any weird (celebrity) experiences or encounters since he became an African champion.
Kuulpeeps: What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you since you became an African Champion?
Martin: Nothing weird has happened. I am happy actually. I am happy that Ghanaians are now interested in athletics.
Kuulpeeps: Going into the African Games, did you think you would become the African Champion?
Martin: I went in with the confidence that we were going to shake the stadium. I didn’t think it was going to be this perfect but I knew we were going to win. We had about 5 days to prepare for that. I felt that we were going to win but it was going to be a little bit shaky.
Kuulpeeps: As a team, did you know each other before heading into the African Games? If yes… what are some of your prior encounters?
Martin: We kinda knew each other. The only person that was new to the group is Benjamin Azamati. Joseph Amoah and I have been running since 2014, Sean was with us at the Commonwealth games last year. He was actually our roommate so we have that bond. We met Benjamin at Morroco and we just kicked it off. We just bonded like we’ve known each other for long.
Kuulpeeps: Can you tell us what the strategy was? What was the strategy going into the final?
Martin: The strategy going into the final was kinda simple, cos Nigeria had Raymond and Devine upfront; first leg and second leg and they are like two of the fastest people in Africa. Nigeria put their best guys forward. Our strategy was that we just had to make sure we hold off the first two legs and we take it from there. Everybody did a pretty good job.
Kuulpeeps: You have been running for Ghana for some time now, how did it all start?
Martin: It started from Bishop Bowers, we used to play Touch and Run and all that. I realised that I was good at Touch and Run then it grew into Track and Field at Opoku Ware. However, I wasn’t really into it because I used to play Basketball. I think I took Track and Field serious when I went to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and even that I was kinda slacking off until I made my first National team and I was kinda like yeah… I can do something with this.
Kuulpeeps: You and the guys made Ghana proud. Has there been any form of government support?
Martin: In terms of funding I wouldn’t say no… I wouldn’t say yes… but I would say I feel like they can do a better job. Not to compare ourselves with other sports but I feel that other sports are getting the love, they are getting what they need out there. Whenever we raise our voice and we’re like “we need this we need that” the government is like, “you’re going to be alright just get this for now”. I am just glad that we have this platform and hopefully the next succession games, the government will actually come in and fund and support us.
Kuulpeeps: Is there any particular way you think the government could support the team?
Martin: Some other countries have monthly pays for top-notch athletes. So if you’re putting Ghana on the map out there you should get monthly stipends and all that. I know Canada does that. I know Great Britain does that too. They pay for insurance as well and stuff like that because for some of us when we run and get injured that’s our own insurance. We are the ones taking care of our own hospital bills. They [government] can support us in terms of funding and influence. For example, if you want to go somewhere like Italy for athletic purposes and we all need to get a visa… the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration can step in and tell the embassies that these are our guys they need permission to be in Italy for a race and they can hook us up. Pretty much that’s how I feel that that government can support the team.
These guys are processing their own visas to compete for Ghana on the international stage… Surely the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Youth and Sports can help them out without raising a huge budget.