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Annual SWAG AWARDS: Sports Minister Hon Mustapha Ussif’s Full speech

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SPEECH FROM THE HON. MINISTER, MUSTAPHA USSIF ON THE OCCASION OF THE 46TH SWAG AWARDS HELD AT THE ACCRA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE ON FRIDAY, 17TH DECEMBER, 2021

Mr. Chairman,
H. E. Vice President of the Republic.
President of SWAG,
Your Excellencies,
Heads of Sporting Bodies, and Associations in Ghana,
Friends from the media,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

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I’m honoured and delighted to be here tonight for this very monumental event honouring excellence in an exciting sports season.

Recognizing and rewarding accomplishment is an essential component of any endeavour that requires hard work, and in sports, it is even more necessary to acknowledge and reward excellence, given the daily efforts and devotion of athletes.

For this reason, I commend SWAG for successfully organising this award event to recognise the hard work of our Ghanaian sportsmen across the globe over the years. I say “Ayekoo” to them.

Considering the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on many aspects of our life, I feel the topic for this year’s awards, “Ghana sports in the post-COVID age, a business approach,” was well thought out.

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COVID-19 Pandemic has had a severe impact on sports across the globe and Ghana sports isn’t an exception. All sporting disciplines have had their fair share of the negative impact of the pandemic. The government is determined to provide the necessary assistance to enable our sports industry to get back on track.

The previous sporting season was exciting for Ghana, despite the fact that COVID-19 disrupted sports at all levels, both home and abroad.

At the international level, Samuel Takyi broke our 29-year medal drought at the Olympic Games with a bronze medal in the men’s featherweight division, and our valiant Black Satellites gave us enough to rejoice about after winning the African Under 20 Cup of Nations in Mauritania. The Black Stars also had to overcome adversity to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup Qualifiers Play-off, among other things.

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A lot of Ghanaian sportsmen excelled in Europe, and the tale has been similar on the domestic front in all disciplines.

All these exciting moments were made possible by hardworking athletes, coaches and teams, which make every nominee this evening a winner, regardless of who is crowned winner of each category.

We may have reduced our focus to just a few athletes for this evening’s celebration, but our footballers and other athletes will continue to be our heroes, deserving of respect and honor long after they retire.

As a Minister for Youth and Sports, I have taken efforts to guarantee that our heroes’ honor and dignity are preserved long after they have retired.

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As a government, we don’t want to see the stars we’re honouring today in absolute agony afterwards, as we’ve seen with some of our legends.

As an immediate response to the troubling tendency of some of our sporting icons becoming paupers in retirement, I have implemented a pension program for all our athletes, particularly national team athletes.

The suggestion is for all our national team players and athletes is for the Ministry to withhold part of their earnings while on national duty, which would be placed in a special retirement fund in their names.

This was accomplished through the development of a comprehensive policy in collaboration with the athletes and other key stakeholders.

Such pension programs begin modestly with small donations, but with time and dedication, they grow to be large and a solid source of decent income for retired athletes.

Can you imagine how much money a player who has played consistently for the Black Stars for 5 to 10 years would have saved in his pension scheme account if we had such a program a decade ago?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Individual players or athletes would be encouraged, in addition to the contribution of earnings from playing for national teams, to decide on their own contributions into their pension scheme accounts, if they so desired.

We have successfully implemented this concept with our gallant Black Satellites players, and I am convinced that with everyone’s support, it will be the catalyst for a brighter retirement future for our athletes.

I therefore, entreat all to welcome and support this initiative.

I also encourage the Ghana Football Association to aggressively enforce footballers’ SSNIT contributions by our local clubs.

Professional footballers are just like any other Ghanaian worker, and we must ensure that their employers, the clubs, pay their SSNIT payments. The procedure should be simplified even more now that SSNIT has begun the process of converting all national identity numbers into SSNIT identification numbers.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Ministry of Youth and Sports recognizes the great contribution that sport has made to the growth and global image of the country. The Ministry has begun to engage stakeholders in the sports ecosystem in order to collaborate, discuss, contribute, and establish the necessary coalition in order to recover our sports’ global image and position the sector as a major economic driver.

In order for us to fully reap the advantages of sports in the country, my ministry is working on developing a Sports for Jobs Initiative, which will ensure that the youth do not just participate in sports as a source of entertainment, but also as a source of employment and income generation. We are presently drafting it and will shortly seek input from SWAG and other stakeholders.

Mr. Chairperson, Sportswriters have played an important part in the development of sports in our country throughout the years. Their criticisms, proposals, commendations, pleas, and, of course, “baptism of fire” have all played an important role in our contemporary sports era. As a result, I congratulate them on their accomplishments and encourage them to maintain patriotism in all that they do.

Before I conclude, let me congratulate all nominees for their impressive displays in the period under review.

As I said earlier, you are all winners.

Congratulations.

Thank you very much, and may God bless our homeland Ghana

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