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2016-06-28 19:14:00 CET

Ghanaians inspiring beach volleyball hope in Africa

We talk to African men’s only entrants at the Poreč Major

Thumbs up from Scott Sarpong (left) and Seidu Ajanako (right). Photocredit: Swatch Major SeriesThumbs up from Scott Sarpong (left) and Seidu Ajanako (right). Photocredit: Swatch Major Series

Ghanaians Seidu Ajanako and Scott Sarpong might have lost in the first qualification round for the Poreč Major – but it is all part of a journey to open the eyes of Africa to the wonderful world of beach volleyball.

You would be wrong to think that after a straight sets defeat to Spain’s Francisco Alfredo Marco and Christian Garciá that the likeable duo would be disheartened. Not so.

“We don’t take the defeat with disappointment, it’s an opportunity for us to play against the best teams in the world,” says Sarpong, who was born and bred in the USA and now lives in Germany. He only arrived in Poreč at 03:00 CET on Tuesday – just 11 hours before their game started.

“We want to help introduce a new sport to Ghana. Most of Africa struggles to finance sports except soccer, but beach volleyball should be easy to fund…it’s a team of just two people. Our goal is to open the eyes of the Sports Council and Ghana’s Olympic Committee to help improve the sport in Ghana.”

For 38-year-old Ajanako he hopes he and his teammates’ exploits on the World Tour can help shape the future of the game in Ghana and beyond.

“It’s important for our country being here – people will see pictures of us and read news about us on the internet,” says the Accra native, who has to ask for the Ghanaian embassy for a travel visa every time he leaves his country to play beach volleyball.

“We want to inspire children to go and play beach volleyball. Beach volleyball can get them places; scholarships in the US and Canada to study, or to play professionally and with it the chance to change their lives.”

Only “a miracle” brought the pair together, says Ajanako. “I got a scholarship to go to America in 2002 and I met Scott at a volleyball festival. After we spoke we said one day we should represent Ghana on the beach and now we’re playing on the Main Tour.”

However, with Sarpong living in Germany in recent years, training together has been difficult.

“It’s almost impossible,” says Sarpong. “It took about three years until Seidu could get a visa and the longest we’ve ever trained together is two weeks before the last World Championships.”

But despite the difficulties they face – they will never give up spreading the word of game back home.

“We have a beach in Ghana!” they both laugh. “We have over 300km of it and a country of 25m people,” continues Ajanako. “It is a country full of athleticism, beach volleyball is one of the most-watched sports in the world and we are exposing Ghana for the next generation.

“It’s a long journey but we are now starting it for Africa.”   

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