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The Day Muhammad Ali Stormed Ghana, His Longstanding promise to the people of Avatime
 
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07-Jun-2016  
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Late Muhammed Ali
 
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AN EXCLUSIVE REPORT BY KAFUI AMEH
(Formerly of Ghana’s CSIR, MEST and World Vision international)

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14)
That Amedzofe stands out as a tourism destination of choice for any foreign visitor to Ghana is a fact that cannot be disputed.

After all, the coveted hill top town is just about three hours drive from the capital, Accra. One of the most famous visitors to Amedzofe in living memory is the African- American boxing legend, Muhammed Ali, originally known as Cassius Marcellus Clay. The name change occurred when Ali changed his religion from the Christian faith and joined the Nation of Islam.

Ali became the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion of the world when I was in the elementary school (E. P. Middle School) at Amedzofe-Avatime in the Volta Region of Ghana. It was a most exciting and memorable day for the people of Amedzofe and especially for us the kids when the handsome Ali visited the town during a trip to Ghana as part of his world victory tour after demolishing the much-dreaded Sonny Liston by a seven-round technical knockout (TKO) in Miami, Florida, on 25th February 1964 to snatch the WBC heavyweight title. At the tender age of 22, Ali’s name became instant history then, and is now firmly planted in the World Boxing Hall of Fame in the United States.

Ali’s visit to Amedzofe took place in May 1964, 10 years before his famous “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman in 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo aka DR. Congo).

I still remember vividly the ecstatic scenes on the day of Ali’s visit to Amedzofe, with children running helter-skelter, women spreading their cover cloth on the ground in adoration, while pouring or sprinkling powder all over the place (bekpekifoe), amidst the throbbing of the local talking drums (“Atumpan”) and the typical “Borborbor” dance of the Ewes to welcome the African-American hero and his entourage.

On that day, KomisahAmenya, Ayivi Komla, AdjatoPekyi, SewuiahDadikuma, Ahlorsu Komla, Azankede Komla Dagadu and others were busy taking turns displaying their skills on the talking drums, while the likes of AfenyoBoafo, KosikumahAgbemafle (aka “Yezu”), BansawieAbaye, Gbolo Komla Pekyi, DevieAbaye, and Samuel Agbemafle (aka “Akpese Sam”), were also busy dishing out some local borbor tunes in adulation of Muhammed Ali: There was frenzied action and movement everywhere.

It was a delightful sight to watch the likes of OkatsiAbaye, Alice Datsa, Mawuli Tutu, Agbesi Mansa, KegoAbaye, John Datsa (aka “Kwesividi”), Ameh Comfort, Grace Mango (aka Agbana’ Kuwa), BubuamaYawa, AbayeNanawo, and others passionately doing the Borborbor dance with various admirable styles.

I remember how the people of the town gathered goats, sheep, fowls, yams, plantains, bananas, pear, sugar cane, pawpaw, pineapples and anything they could lay hands on to be presented by the chief, OkusieAkyemFoli IV, to the august visitor. Everybody wanted to show some love. Everybody wanted to touch or shake the hands of the new world champion, in the same manner that many people in Accra and Cape Coast scrambled to see or touch President Barack Obama, the first black man to be elected President of the United States of America, when he visited Ghana in July 2009 with his family—Mrs. Michelle Obama,Tasha and Maya.

“Ali stretched forth his hands to greet as many people as could touch him especially the children”, recalls Henry S. K. Agbeko, who was then in the E. P. Primary School with Mr. C. K. Dzegblor as the Head Teacher. “Most of us wanted to see how it feels touching the skin of a white man as we in Ghana referred to anybody from Europe or America. It was during the scramble to touch Ali that I also succeeded in touching him. I felt more elated and taller than the tallest bamboo tree in ‘Vudoeme’, the well from which we used to fetch water at Amedzofe”, Agbeko said.

How Ali ate Unpeeled Bananas

As part of the general excitement, the visitors ate some of the ripe bananas which had just been presented to them without first peeling them. We watched the spectacle in total astonishment, knowing that bananas are usually peeled before being eaten. While still eating the unpeeled banana, Ali drew his junior brother Rahaman closer to himself and did some shadow boxing with him. Then he lifted up his right hand and joked that it was only his brother who could ever beat him in the ring and no one else.

“I am the King of the world”, he said. Whether the people understood, what he was saying in American slangs or not, they responded with loud cheers of “Ali! Ali!! Ali!!!” Many people still remember Ali’s firm promise to the cheering crowd that he would come back and build a tourism centre and hospitality facility at Amedzofe. It is a promise made more than 50 years ago but which those of us who were then in primary and middle school remember very well, though we are now in our fifties or sixties-plus, and are still hoping will be fulfilled in our life-time.

A grand ceremony was held to honour Ali in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, USA, on his 70th birthday in January 2012. It is interesting to note that Ali shares the same birthday with the American First Lady, Michelle Obama, who comes across as a veritable fashion icon, advocate for women and children, and a keen lover of sports. Lady Michelle turned 52 on January 17, 2016, while the legendary Ali turned 74.

Muhammed Ali is the only boxer to have regained the world heavyweight title twice in boxing history. This was against Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Ali’s name reigns supreme in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in New York.

The people of Amedzofe have been praying fervently that God should heal Ali quickly and grant him long life and strength, to enable him and his family come and fulfill his promise made to them over 50 years ago, to build a tourism and hospitality facility at Amedzofe. How can one ever forget the environmentally friendly Amedzofe and Mt. Gemi?

Amedzofe has so much potential as a tourist destination in Ghana that no investor with the requisite resources and proper planning would regret taking the plunge there!

A special sister city relationship could be developed between Louisville, Kentucky in the US and Amedzofe-Avatime as part of the fulfillment of Ali’s 50-year-old promise. The people of Amedzofe are optimistically waiting to welcome back Muhammed Ali and any of his family members or members of Muhammed Ali Foundation from Louisville, Kentucky back to their roots.

Apart from visiting Amedzofe, Ali also entertained cheering crowds with his gimmicks in Kumasi and Accra, where he paid a courtesy call on the President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. In Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional Capital, Ali tried mightily to pull up the legendary OkomfoAnokye sword. The sword was planted in the ground two centuries ago by an Ashanti sorcerer who said the nation he has founded would endure as long as the sword remained in place.

Visitors are usually invited to test their strength against the sword, for the Ashanti are certain nobody-- not even the great Muhammad Ali -- can break its moorings . Ali tried for five minutes and couldn’t bridge it.

Apart from his brother Rahaman, those who accompanied Muhammad Ali on his memorable trip to Ghana included his Business Manager Archie Robinson and Herbert Muhammad, son of the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad .

May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Our Condolences to the entire family of Muhammad Ali, the people of America, the Muhammad Ali Foundation and the entire Boxing fraternity around the world.

REFLECTIONS ON MUHAMMAD ALI:
• THE HISTORIC VICTORY TOUR OF GHANA
• HIS LONG-STANDING PROMISE TO THE PEOPLE OF AMEDZOFE – AVATIME

These are some excerpts from my forthcoming explosive and inspirational book,
‘’ I Refuse to Die’’, which is being published in Indiana, United States of America.

Email : [email protected]
Tel: +233279865821
 
 
 
Source: AN EXCLUSIVE REPORT BY KAFUI AMEH (Formerly of Ghana’s CSIR, MEST and World Vision international)
 
 

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