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.