Sports
Photo by Hakeem Adam.

In Photos: This Is What Africa's First Baseball Olympic Pre-Qualifier Looked Like

Burkina Faso establishes themselves as a thrilling prospect at the first African pre-qualifier for the 2020 Olympics.

It's no secret that sporting talent is well distributed among Africans, both at home on the continent and in the diaspora. Across all disciplines including football, tennis, sprinting, long distance running and now to winter sports like bobsled, you will find African athletes displaying stellar physical and mental performances at the top level and simply thriving. Baseball, which has traditionally been an American sport, might soon be the next place where African athletes will display their magnificence.

Back in March at the KOSHIEN Baseball Field in Accra, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ghana's national baseball teams in locked horns for a chance to qualify for the only African spot in baseball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The tournament which was organized by the Ghana Baseball and Softball Federation.

Ghana, the host team, were the top-seeded team coming into the tournament, ranked at number three in Africa. With a healthy home support cheering on, the Rising Stars approached the contest with the same fierce spirit of song and dance that their colleagues in football have made the nation known for globally. However, it did not quite come together for them with Burkina Faso, the underdogs, proving to be the much more tactically disciplined opponent, taking advantage of Ghana's lack of pace on the field. The Upright Men, which were also the youngest team, completely dominated the event—beating both teams they faced to top the group and make it to the next round of qualifiers as champions of West Africa. They exhibited a high level of professionalism and teamwork, making intelligent plays to get past the more experienced Ghanaian and Nigerian teams while thoroughly enjoying themselves in the process. Nigeria also recovered from their loss to Burkina Faso on the first day of the tournament and made it through at Ghana's expense, beating them in a closely contested final game.

Regardless of the results, the qualifiers proved to be a great exposition for the sport that is very much on the fringes in these parts. For someone completely new to baseball like myself, it was refreshing to witness the young men from Burkina Faso send the crowd wild with their home runs. Photographing the event gave me a deeper appreciation of the efforts of all involved who are keen to make the most of the opportunities the game could provide them.

It's still a long road ahead to Tokyo, but take a look at the possible African history-makers at the Olympics in 2020 below.


Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Hakeem Adam is an instinct creative in love with beautiful sentences and the angst of communicating complex ideas in poetry. He frequently expresses this angst in simple sentences on his blog. He also loves to talk about African film and music classics on his platform, Dandano. Keep up with Hakeem on Twitter at @mansah_hakeem.

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.