Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Again on the very starting, proper when the thought of water polo in Ghana began swimming into actuality, Asante Prince acquired out a few balls and caps in entrance of a handful of curious children.

He determined to strive a scrimmage, however he had no nets. So that they put a soccer bench on all sides of the pool.

It was “enthusiastic confusion,” he mentioned. And the caps — which have protecting cups that go over a participant’s ears — nicely, they have been significantly amusing.

“Any person mentioned, ‘Oh, water brassiere, thanks very a lot,’ a water bra,” a chuckling Prince mentioned.

That was one of many first conferences of the Awutu Winton Water Polo Membership, a budding league in a troublesome a part of the world for the Olympics’ oldest workforce sport — and a real ardour undertaking for the energetic Prince.

Rising up in Coronado, California, he was usually the one Black face within the pool or his courses. He went in quest of a water polo that regarded extra like him, and located it within the waters of his father’s homeland.

“That is like my child, and it’s cute as a result of, , it cries and it’s rising up, nevertheless it wants your whole consideration, 24-7,” the 31-year-old Prince mentioned. “At any time when I speak about it, it’s nice, as a result of it’s one thing that I’d have beloved to see as a child.”

In Ghana, harmful rip tides off the nation’s coast have induced numerous drownings over time. That’s led to trepidation about deep waters in a nation the place low- and middle-income households have already got restricted entry to swimming swimming pools.

When Prince first began swimming in African communities, he noticed appears of concern and panic on faces as a result of “all of them have tales of somebody going out and never coming again,” he mentioned.

The Awutu Winton membership has seven groups representing three areas of Ghana. Gamers vary in age from 7 to 25, and the league features a group of about 20 girls. It had 85 athletes and 10 coaches when it opened its new season final month in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

Prince mentioned most of his Ghana gamers had some information of swimming once they joined this system, however not in deep water, the place the game is performed.

“Treading water and the way to deal with the water polo ball was very troublesome once I began taking part in,” mentioned Ishmael Adjei, 20. “However as time goes on, I may see I’m enhancing personally.”

Adjei’s membership is a part of San Diego-based Black Star Polo, a company based by Prince that additionally works on creating aquatic alternatives for African and African-American communities in the USA.

“Once I began taking part in, (my household) thought it was only a waste of time,” Adjei mentioned, “since you had to assist them do the household chores and you’d take a timeout to go and have coaching … however as time goes on, they’re getting .”

Any important progress in Africa can be a welcome improvement for a sport that has wrestled with an absence of range for many years, very similar to aquatics normally. Even within the locations the place water polo is hottest — reminiscent of California, and components of southern Europe — there are only a few gamers of colour.

Egypt and South Africa are the one African international locations which have performed males’s water polo on the Olympics. South Africa turned the primary girls’s workforce from the continent to make it to the Video games when it completed tenth in Tokyo in 2021. World Aquatics mentioned it doesn’t have participant participation figures damaged down by ethnicity.

“I believe it’s very important for the expansion of our sport to interrupt out of the normalcy that it’s been the final century, of conventional water polo nations,” mentioned former U.S. participant Genai Kerr, who serves on the board of the Alliance for Range in Water Polo.

The second of three brothers, Prince acquired into swimming and water polo after his household turned good buddies with the household of five-time U.S. Olympian Jesse Smith.

Prince performed school water polo at California Lutheran College and acquired his diploma in psychology. He competed professionally in Brazil and skilled in Europe.

He usually felt he stood out as a Black man.

“Simply getting used to all people having the ability to see me and standing out,” he mentioned, “and I’m the one all people notices first, on each class, each workforce.”

It was completely different in Ghana, the birthplace of his father, Dr. Kofi Sefa-Boakye. Prince’s mom, Elizabeth, is from Los Angeles, and she or he met Kofi once they have been college students on the College of Southern California.

Prince began going to Ghana together with his father after he graduated from highschool. He usually introduced balls and caps on journeys to go to household. In 2018, he reached out to the nation’s swimming federation, and it held an occasion at Awutu Winton Senior Excessive Faculty — one of many solely faculties within the nation with a pool — the place it made a donation and promoted this system.

“What he’s doing is superior, as a result of it’s so troublesome to begin one thing from scratch,” Smith mentioned.

A comparatively small geographic footprint can put a sport prone to shedding its place on the Olympics, in response to Victoria Jackson, a sports activities historian and scientific assistant professor of historical past at Arizona State College. However, Jackson mentioned, selections about what sports activities to incorporate are laborious to foretell and mirror politics, relationships and subjectivity.

Jackson mentioned an all-Black water polo workforce on the Olympics may have a profound impact on the game.

“I imply, it’s that quote, proper? ‘You may’t be what you’ll be able to’t see,’” she mentioned. “It’s instantly horizon increasing.”

That’s why Prince’s effort in Ghana has attracted consideration in some outstanding corners of the game.

KAP7, an organization that sells swimsuits and different water polo gear, has shipped over targets and different gear. Kerr and five-time U.S. Olympian Tony Azevedo even have donated gear, and former USA Water Polo excessive efficiency director John Abdou did a Zoom coaching session for referees.

“That is one thing the place everybody can see, hey look, that is occurring,” mentioned Wolf Wigo, a three-time U.S. Olympian, one of many co-founders of KAP7 and the boys’s coach at UC Santa Barbara. “It’s not only one Black particular person in a pool with 12 white teammates, or two. It’s an entire pool filled with all Black athletes, all taking part in water polo, having an excellent expertise.”

Prince — whose full identify is Prince Kofi Asante Sefa-Boakye — hustles to maintain the undertaking afloat, taking advantage of his connections within the sport and a GoFundMe web page. However the best way Prince sees it, he has already gained.

He’s serving to promote water security in Ghana and his native Southern California, a serious problem for Black communities. He helped educate swimming classes to kids of Somali refugees at a San Diego YMCA final yr.

“I simply wished to play the sport,” he mentioned, “however now, I’m realizing that is a fair greater and necessary mission than simply earlier than.”

He additionally goals of Ghana competing on the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Essentially the most believable route would run by way of the Africa continental qualification event, however the subsequent step is probably going a few of Ghana’s gamers becoming a member of American school packages. Prince additionally mentioned he plans to discipline an under-12 workforce at a water polo pageant in Italy in June.

Los Angeles appears like a protracted shot, however Prince has a plan — and he already has traveled a great distance.

“My face is in entrance of a portrait, so I don’t see the total image, so I’m in a position to compose myself,” he mentioned. “However that might be actually bringing my two homelands collectively in LA, bringing Ghana to LA.”


Comply with Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap


AP sports activities: https://apnews.com/hub/sports activities and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

By Admin

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