Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 28, 2015 – Ghana’s Jonathan Scott and Edward Seidu Ajanko may have felt some trepidation ahead of facing Ricardo Santos and three-time world champion Emanuel Rego “a man so good they built a statue of him,” according to Scott, but they certainly didn’t show any hint of it when they faced the Brazilians in their opening Netherlands 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships match on Saturday.
The Ghanaian duo may have lost 2-0 (21-10, 21-16), but they lapped up the applause from the crowd at the end, who gave them a standing ovation after a performance in which they mixed determination, endeavour and lots and lots of heart with a good sprinkling of skill that at times left the 2003 world champions flat-footed.
“We had a plan when we came to Holland; we want to make an impression for Africa and Ghana, to make an impact,” Seidu Ajanko said. “I told my partner they’ve got two arms and two legs like us. They have history and we both wanted to make an impression. It was like two bulls fighting each other.
“When you get on the court you try to forget those things,” Scott added. “It takes a few points for that to happen, but it was a great match and great to play against these legends. They are on a different end of history than we are – we’re trying to start one and they’re trying close out one and they’re awesome.”
For Emanuel and Ricardo the match was a tough opening fixture, but one in which their experience shone through.
World Championships debut
Emanuel, whose statue does indeed stand tall over the Amsterdam centre court, is eyeing a fourth world title after success in 1999, 2003 and 2011, but he was quick to praise Scott and Seidu Ajanko.
“I’m very glad sad to see that beach volleyball has gone to Africa and I hope that they can set up a really good tour there,” Emanuel said. “They’ve come here and played well, enjoyed themselves and had fun. If we can get beach volleyball to more countries like Ghana, it is better for us and better for the sport worldwide and I am very glad seeing these gentlemen playing here.”
Netherlands 2015 is the pair’s first World Championships and they have played only twice on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, at the Moscow Grand Slam and Doha Open in 2014. They are first Ghanaian team to play in a World Championships and qualified in February after they advanced to the semifinal stage of the Africa Beach Volleyball World Championships in Tunis, Tunisia.
The pair face a number of problems coming together to play. Scott hails from Texas and qualifies for Ghana through his mother. He is now based in Berlin after a volleyball playing career that took him across the Atlantic to play in the Netherlands.
For Seidu Ajanko, who is based in Ghana, there is the ongoing problems of securing a visa to compete in the various countries on the FIVB World Tour. However, the Dutch Volleyball Federation ensured that he was able to secure a visa for the World Championships and the 37-year-old is certainly making the most of his opportunity.
While they were able to catch their breath after facing Emanuel and Ricardo, there will be no let up against their next opponents, Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira. Herrera was on the losing side when Emanuel and Ricardo won gold at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and recently he and Gavira won their first World Tour gold together at the Moscow Grand Slam.
“It is good that we played these legends, now we must relax and recover,” Seidu Ajanko said. “I’ve been playing volleyball for 20 years and this is the climax to my career.
“I have to thank the organiser for helping me get a visa to come, because it is very difficult to play with Jonathan because he is based in Berlin, so I have to thank Holland for giving me this opportunity.”