This completed project involved the Link engaging major assistance from Plymouth Argyle in passing on knowledge to football officials from Sekondi-Takoradi in preparation for Ghana’s hosting of the African Cup of Nations in early 2008. The main football stadium in Sekondi-Takoradi had been the ageing, run-down Gyandu Park, but the award of the tournament resulted in a new 25,000 seater stadium being built by the Chinese a little way out of town, one of four venues (the others being Accra, Kumasi and Tamale).
Link Member Dudley Tolkien noted the bad state of the pitch at Gyandu Park, and came up with the idea of the groundsman at Sekondi-Takoradi (Malik) acquiring knowledge from Argyle’s head groundsman, Colin Wheatcroft. Malik visited Plymouth in May 2005 for this purpose, and again in January 2006 with former Black Stars captain and now coach and sporting administrator Isaac Paha, who came to learn about stadium management. Malik used his knowledge to dramatic effect in improving the Gyandu Park pitch, effectively as a case study for the tournament.
Elsewhere a groundsman with experience at Fulham was also engaged in the national project, and he and Malik worked together. Handover of the main stadium was only about 2 months before the tournament, so the knowledge gained was employed mostly on the training pitches as it turned out. The building of the stadium was a very good example of how the Chinese carry out projects in Africa, bringing in their own workforce and materials, working strictly to contract without variations or much interaction with the local community, but delivering on time and to budget, perhaps as a direct result as they would see it.
The legacy of the tournament is that the major local teams now have this lovely stadium in which to play their matches, Gyandu Park becoming more available for lower level football, assisting the local problem of shortages of pitches. The main local teams are Hasaacas and Eleven Wise. who both play in the national 16 team Ghanaian Premier League, and Sporting Metro who play in the second tier regionalised Division 1.
Sport Development Project
Young people in Sekondi-Takoradi will have the opportunity to engage in a programme of coaching and competition encouraging activity and developing talent. Sports equipment is very expensive in Ghana, so this way it is hoped small contributions can help a lot. So far, with the aid of 6 Fairtrade footballs kindly donated by Plymouth & Southwest Cooperative Society, a project has been started for boy’s football. Next is girls volleyball (3 volleyballs already donated), and hopefully many other sports subsequently.