Prince Asante Sefa-Boakye, a former water polo pro player, is on a mission to promote diversity in the sport by introducing it to Ghana. Asante, who grew up in Coronado, California, and is of Ghanaian descent, introduced water polo to a local school in Ghana in 2018. Today, he oversees a seven-team national league that operates under the Awutu Winton Waterpolo Club according to an interview with Olympics.com.
Sefa-Boakye ultimate goal is to create the first-ever all-Black water polo team to compete at the Olympics. He hopes that his efforts will inspire more Black Africans to take up aquatic sports and break down the social stigma that surrounds swimming.
“My reality of being this foreign player as a minority player is beginning to wash away with this new Black Star polo initiative,” the former American pro water polo player said in an interview with Olympics.com from Accra.
Despite being an African American player himself, Asante has often found himself to be the only player of color in a water polo pool. He believes that water sports have cultural connections that keep Black Africans away from participating in aquatic sports. Overcoming this fear and the pillars that have kept Black Africans away from water sports is essential to the success of his initiative.
Swimming is not widely practiced in Ghana despite a quarter of the country’s 32 million people living along the 550-kilometer coastline. Asante recalls that whenever he trained in deep waters, it sparked panic as most locals are terrified of swimming in the ocean or open water. The fear is due to the possibility of drowning in the Gulf of Guinea, which is part of the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean known for its strong and dangerous rip currents.
Asante has been working to change this perception by helping Ghanaians overcome the stigma around water. He hopes to introduce the sport to more African communities and inspire young Black Africans to pursue water sports.
Asante’s initiative has already sparked the promotion of the aquatic discipline in Africa. To date, only two African countries, South Africa and Egypt, have had the opportunity to field men’s water polo teams at the Olympics. With Asante’s efforts, more African nations could participate in future water polo competitions.
Asante’s program has not been without challenges, however. Water polo is a difficult sport, and it has been challenging to introduce it to Ghana and other African communities. Asante has had to overcome systematic oppression, cultural fears, and colonial tools that have kept Black Africans away from water sports.
Despite the challenges, Asante remains optimistic about the future of water polo in Africa. His goal is to see more African athletes on the main stage for water polo and inspire young Black Africans to pursue aquatic sports. Asante’s drive is an excellent example of how sports can bring people together, while also promoting diversity and inclusion in the Olympics.
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