No apology for demanding equity: Mensah

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ONE of the most influential men in African rugby, Herbert Mensah, has delivered blunt criticism of the game’s global governing body for releasing paltry coronavirus relief funds to African nations.

World Rugby two months ago gave 5 000 Euros to each of its African member nations in a gesture that astonished many followers of the game on the perennially overlooked continent.  

Ghana’s Mensah, a member of Africa Rugby’s executive committee, said this week that the continent should not “apologise” for questioning such unequal distribution of resources by World Rugby.

“The amount of money given in hard currency, 5 000 (Euros), to support Covid-19, in this period, you and I know that it is small and insignificant,” Mensah, president of his country’s federation, said.

“It is not that one is ungrateful, but one must be realistic and with what has happened throughout the world this year alone, we don’t have to apologise (…laughed). We don’t have to apologise. I think you only have to go through the case of George Floyd and everybody else…we don’t need to apologise! We must ask for equity, and we need to ask why our 39 (African) unions are in the state they are in. We need to make greater demand,” he continued.

“There is need for greater awareness. There is need for greater understanding, from sponsors to the people who run the global game, that we are in a situation where the lack of equity is unacceptable. You can say ‘Black Lives Matter’. I like to say ‘Africa Matters’ because we have different people from black, white, Indian, Chinese, you name it. It’s the lack of equity that separates us.”

Mensah also spoke out against the massive inequality in the allocations of grants by World Rugby, as well as the imbalance in the voting system of the sport’s ruling body.

“It is wrong that Africa has two votes as a continent (in World Rugby elections) where some countries have three individually,” said Mensah.

“It’s wrong. Some smaller unions in Europe get four, five, six, seven million pounds a year and the whole continent of Africa get two million per year. There is so much that is wrong. In this period, I would imagine that the president of Africa Rugby (Khaled Babbou), as usual, is fighting in the corner of all of us to see whether we can get a greater level of support.”

Mensah played club rugby in England and Zimbabwe in the 80s, having learnt the game during his high school and university days in the United Kingdom.

A speedy winger in a strong Old Hararians side of the mid-80s, the Ghanaian was good enough to be selected for one first-class appearance for Zimbabwean provincial team Mashonaland in 1985, scoring the winning try in a shock win over touring Italy in Harare.

In the UK, he turned out for the Sussex and Saracens clubs.  

Mensah is also a successful past chairman of Ghanaian football giants Asante Kotoko, the two-time African champions.

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