Following his April 2019 defeat of Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35 to win the WWE Championship, Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah better known as Kofi Kingston embarked on a 4-day visit to his Ghana homeland from May 30th to June 2.
Although he left Ghana when he was 2 and returned for a brief stint with his mother when she came over to undertake research in cocoa growing areas in 1993 when he was 12. It’s taken 26 years for him to make a return.
Now 37 with two boys and married to Kori Campfield, Kofi says he heeded the call of ‘The Year of Return’ by President Akufo-Addo to commemorate 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were shipped from the motherland to America and Europe.
Kofi in interview expressed delight at the multitudes who showed up at the Kotoka International Airport to welcome him with warm hearts and sounds.
After visiting the MultiChoice Ghana office at Abelenkpe, where he interacted with media men and other related parties, the WWE champion called on President Akufo-Addo to show him the WWE belt won as well as thank him for his rallying call for Africans in the diaspora to head home and contribute to the continent’s development.
At the Jubilee House; the seat of Government, Kofi submitted: “It’s taken over 11 years to be WWE world champion.” He presented a replica of the WWE belt to the president also.
President Akufo-Addo form his part noted: “Twenty-six years is a longtime, I hope it wouldn’t be another twenty-six years before you return,” causing an eruption of laughter from attendees in session.
According to Nana Akufo-Addo, Kofi’s mother Dr. Elizabeth Sarkodie-Mensah was for many years the New Patriotic Party’s Women’s Organiser in the US so upon becoming president appointed her Deputy to Ghana’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.
Nana Addo was also impressed with his mother’s French fluency as well as Kofi Kingston’s non bulky build adding “you show one needs not be a body builder to do well in the wrestling sport.”
Kofi Kingston was also presented with sash from the Tourism, Arts and Culture minister, Barbara Oteng Gyasi and the president.
Kofi who was on the Ghana trip with his younger brother Kwame, mother, father, other relations and the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) documentary crew also visited his hometown Atwima Techiman where they were received by the chief; Nana Atwimahene.
The mini-durbar saw the chief praised Kofi for representing Ghana at the highest level. From that visit, the team moved to celebrate the Akwasidae Festival (celebrated by the Asante people and chiefs in Asante, as well as the Asante diaspora. The festival is celebrated on a Sunday, once every six weeks).
Kofi Kingston with his immediate family had audience with Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II including his father who hails from Ejisu.
Otumfuo was also gifted a replica WWE belt but also beheld the original belt. Otumfuo urged Kofi to distinguish himself making Asanteman and Ghana proud.
According to Kofi’ mum Dr. Elizabeth Sarkodie-Mensah, Kofi was born at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital but the family left Ghana when he was two years old for further studies. In pursuant of a research, Madam Sarkodie-Mensah says she was in Ghana in 1993 with Kofi who had an adventurous time along the Ghana-Ivory Coast cocoa border towns.
In 2003 when the family were embarking on a visit to Ghana, Kofi couldn’t join, preoccupied with education at the Winchester High School and then Boston College where he secured a degree in communications.
Recalling his younger days, Madam Sarkodie-Mensah submitted Kofi had always been athletic but never imagined how big he would make it in wresting.
“I’ve always been supportive of the pursuits of my wards and so we supported Kofi’s wresting dreams, attending his fights etc.,” she further stated.
On why Kofi upon emerging on the wrestling scene, portrayed himself to be Jamaican, Kofi’s mother explained one could take a character and play it out and for Kofi it was that of a patois speaking Jamaican immigrant adding it had nothing to do with him not appreciating his roots.
Kofi who is a SmackDown brand participant is the first African-born WWE Champion. The Austin, Texas resident is a member of The New Day along with Big E and Xavier Woods.
But what does the 4-day promotional trip mean for Kofi Kingston himself and the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (an American integrated media and entertainment company that is primarily known for professional wrestling.)?
Perhaps the camera crew with Kofi on this trip filming, capturing sights and sounds will package it for a future WWE Network documentary which will in some measure shed light on Kofi’s heritage as well as expose the WWE to new audiences even in the countryside who wouldn’t have paid attention but now do because of Kofi’s Ghanaian and African roots.
What’s certain is that Ghana is not poorer with Kofi Kingston’s visit. The country gained with its son’s return to base. Little wonder then that the Akwasi Agyeman; Ghana Tourism Authority CEO keenly publicized the homecoming with branded buses and facilitating visits to key cultural sites including Bonwire; the Kente weaving hub and slave castles.
While Ghana’s Metro TV broke the ground as the station which aired wrestling matches on its free-to-air channel, other stations soon caught the bug either telecasting old fights or in some cases new ones.
The repeated wrestling matches led to many being familiar with power maneuvers such as power bomb, neck breaker, suplex, slaps, choke slam, face breaker and rib breaker making the likes of Yokozuna, Kane, The Rock, John Cena, Undertaker, Randy Orton, Stonecold Steve Austin, Goldberg, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Andre the Giant, Umaga, the Great Khali and Kofi Kingston household names.
Kofi’s trip can also whet appetite for more people to grab a DSTV decoder to watch the duels. It won’t be far-fetched for WWE Chairman and CEO, Vincent Kennedy McMahon and family to aim for the African market with hopes of cultivating new followers while extending the reach of the sport estimated to be worth US$3.2 billion.
For now Kofi’s Kingston’s WWE win has energized many Ghanaians and other Africans as reports about his visit to the country have shown. It now remains to be seen how successful he can retain the belt fending off attacks from competitors who wish to defeat him for the belt.
By Michael Eli Dokosi/goldstreetbusiness.com