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Madam Theodosia Okoh - Joan Of Arc Of Ghana Hockey   
 
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26-Jul-2013  
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Madam Theodosia Okoh (née Asihene), wife of the late Mr Enoch Okoh, Secretary to Kwame Nkrumah’s Cabinet in the 1960s, elder sister of Dr Leticia Obeng and the late Professor E.V Asihene, former Dean of the College of Art, KNUST, is unsurpassed in the annals of the development of Ghana Hockey.

She was the Chairman of the Ghana Hockey Association and later President of the Ghana Hockey Federation for over twenty years, and was a mother to all those of us who played hockey in Ghana from the late fifties to the 1980s, and a grandmother to the present crop of hockey players.

It was during her era as President of the Hockey Federation that Ghana first qualified for both the Hockey World Cup and the Olympic Games. If anybody is to be honoured for the construction of the National Hockey Stadium, no one else deserves that honour more than Auntie Theodosia.

Until the late 1960s, most hockey pitches in Ghana were lateritic hockey pitches, located mainly in Military Barracks and Achimota School. There were two pitches at 37 Military Hospital, two at Burma Camp, and two at where the El Wak Stadium currently stands. Achimota School had six lateritic pitches and six grass football pitches that could be converted to hockey pitches as and when necessary. There was also a grass hockey pitch which also doubled as part of the athletics field at Legon.

GSTS Takoradi also used their field in the middle of the school compound as an athletics, cricket, football and grass hockey pitch at different times of the year. There were two other lateritic pitches at the Takoradi Military Barracks close to the GSTS campus.

The lack of standard grass pitches in the country made our participation in international tournaments extremely difficult, in spite of the immense talent that existed in the country at that time, particularly in the secondary schools, the universities, the Armed Forces, the Police and the Workers Brigade.

This is why in the 1960s Mrs Okoh decided that the country needed to have a centrally located National Hockey Pitch at a place which would be public enough to attract more spectators to hockey matches, instead of being hidden in Achimota School or at military barracks and inaccessible locations.

The present site of the National Hockey Stadium was then a deserted waterlogged piece of which even the market women near the Tema station were not attracted to encroach upon. It was Auntie Theodosia who approached government to allocate that piece of land to the Hockey Association to be converted into a National Hockey Pitch.

Single-handedly, she started raising funds first to reclaim the land, and eventually to construct the pitch. The construction started just before the 1966 coup, but was abandoned for a short while after the coup. The project was revived later, and eventually completed around 1972/73, thanks to the immense assistance Auntie Theodosia got from the then Special Assistant in charge of Sports under General Acheampong, Lt Col Simpe Asante, who was himself an ardent hockey player and played for the Armed Forces team during the tenure of Auntie Theodosia as Chairman of the Association.

Construction of that hockey pitch in the centre of Accra was one major act which served to popularise hockey in the country.

Auntie Theodosia initiated several far-reaching policies during her tenure as Chairman of the Hockey Association, later converted to the Hockey Federation. She managed to convince all the national football teams to also form hockey teams, which played curtain raiser matches before every football league match at the Accra and Kumasi Sports Stadia, in addition to the normal hockey league which was played in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and later Winneba. (I was the goalkeeper for Accra Great Olympics at that time, and also kept the goal for the old Achimotan Association team, University of Ghana and the Veterans teams).

After the 1966 coup, the football teams said they could no longer sustain the hockey teams attached to them, and dissolved their teams. That action could have killed hockey in the country. But Auntie Theodosia managed to convince many corporate organizations, the schools and the Armed Forces to found new teams or resurrect their old teams to sustain the national hockey league.

This is how we got most of the current teams such as Golden Sticks of CMB, Exchequers of Bank of Ghana, the Trustees of SIC, Citizens, the Ghana Commercial Bank Team which was supported by another giant in Ghana Hockey, the late Mr KN Owusu who was once the MD of GCB, Veterans, OAA, etc.

We have since been able to participate in many club internationals and national level international competitions in Africa and other parts of the world including Malaysia and India. It was Mrs Okoh who brought us our first internationally qualified hockey coach, Mr Ali Shah from Pakistan to make Ghana a force to reckon with in African hockey. But to me one of her greatest achievements was to raise women’s hockey in Ghana to international standards, which is still the envy of many other African countries.

It was in recognition of her immense contribution to Hockey in Ghana that the late Ohene Djan named her the Joan of Arc of Ghana Hockey, because she rose to the occasion to save Ghana hockey when men were faltering and vacillating about development of the game. This is also the reason why the National Hockey Stadium was named after her in 2004.

Mrs Okoh is now over 90 years. If her designing of the National Flag has not as yet received the recognition it deserves, let us not take away the single most cherished achievement of hers from her. Let us not deny her the honour of the naming of the hockey pitch after her. Whoever took that decision must really think again.
 
 
Source: Professor Emeritus Ivan Addae Mensah, Former Vice-Chancellor, University Of Ghana, Legon
 
 

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