Meet the Citi FM sports desk: Gary Al Smith, Godfred Akoto Boafo & Nathan Quao

Citi FM has always sought to be at the fore of innovation and its Sports Desk has grown to become an industry trendsetter with innovative programming backed by a dynamic group of young men. 

Programs like ‘Halftime’ which airs every Wednesday,‘Kickoff’ and ‘SportsFlash’ which air every weekday,‘Donkomi’, a hilarious take on football transfers, and‘Scoreline’ every Sunday night, the ‘Citi Friday Football Podcast’ and the live broadcast of the English Premier League games every weekend have become staple for Ghanaians. 

Knowledgeable, abrasive and fun ,the Citi Sports team, made up of Godfred Akoto Boafo, Gary Al-Smith, and Nathan Quao, is turning sports into an unforgettable experience. Meet the team! 

Citi Sports DeskGary Al- Smith – The Controversial 
Gary Al-Smith has developed quite a reputation for himself in the sports journalism scene as the controversial trailblazer. 

At the young age of 19, Gary Al-Smith’s first ever journalist work was with the BBC. “I did a feature piece for them for their Focus on Africa magazine,” he says, “and I’ve been doing bits and pieces for them ever since. I regularly do radio work for BBC; in the past two African Cup of Nations, in Gabon and in South Africa. In journalism school, I was fortunate, through my work as a student journalist, to have come into contact with people externally who work for the BBC and others. So, I actually started working internationally before I worked in local media. I took an unorthodox route. I really started serious radio only last year.

To add to this very impressive list of achievements, he has corresponded a few times for CNN, the biggest being the African Footballer Awards last year. He is currently the editor for SuperSport online in Ghana and has worked for ESPN, one of the oldest, most successful sports networks in North America. He currently works for network on a commission basis and has worked on documentaries for Radio Netherlands. 

He says of his beginnings, “I entered journalism school wanting to do journalism. I wasn’t really bent on specializing in sports journalism, because I was proficient in various current affairs issues. I just wanted to do journalism. But sports came along because I liked it. It was a hobby, till I started making money from it. That’s when I started taking it seriously! ”

The only child of Larry Smith and Patience Ampah, both self employed, Gary has been in the playing field for 5 years. He has a diploma in Journalism from the Ghana Institute of Journalism and is currently working on his Marketing and Operations Management Degree from GIMPA.

In your experience with international media, what are your opinions on sports journalism abroad versus sports journalism in Ghana? 

“The biggest difference is professionalism, in terms of time, meeting deadlines and being specific with what they want.”

What has been the most exciting point in your career? 

“Each moment trumps the last. I’ve come to appreciate even the little things. While barely out of my second year at GIJ, I was working freelance for the BBC. At that time, it’s been a new door of opportunity was very exciting. It was extremely exciting that I could walk out of a class and go out there and do something which would be heard around the world. Lately, what’s exciting for me is the experience of doing my work well and being consistent with what is quality. It’s exciting to wake up every day and try to be better than I was the day before.”

What challenges have you faced so far in your career? 

“Career choices. At several points in my short career, I’ve had some great options to choose from and making those choices has sometimes been difficult. I’ve always wanted to combine work with school. My biggest challenge has been letting mouthwatering appointments go for the sake of school. What it taught me was to be content with what I have, but to maximum opportunities when they come.”

How do you keep ahead of the competition? 

“As a student of marketing, I learnt very early about competitive advantage. I’ve also done entrepreneurship which basically teaches you to reinvent yourself. Find out what your competition is doing. Find out what the consumers of your competitions product want and give it to them. Think for your listener or viewer.

Also, another key method in keeping ahead is research. A lot of my work is gained from what I learn about my listeners. I learn how to read them, so I can anticipate what they want to know. Then, I give it to them and add value to it.” 

What has been the most controversial moment in your career? 
“In 2010, the Ghana national team coach who was from Serbia, had a meeting with some journalists in Germany. The information revealed at the meeting was meant to have been disseminated by the journalists the next day. However, by the time he had left the meeting to his hotel room, I had released the story out on the internet. That day, I had 6000 views for my blog and it’s one of the highest I’ve ever received for one post. I got calls from all over the place. That was the seminal moment in me putting myself on the map.”

What’s your view about the Ghanaian sports scene? 
“It’s much like the rest of the things in the country. There are certain critical areas outside of which nothing else works. Unlike the other sports, football is a cash cow, for obvious reasons, and pumping money into it is justified no matter what. The sports scene needs a lot more to be done. 

“That’s why for us as a sports team on Citi FM and The Weekend Globe, we aim to shed light on the parts that are not getting as much attention, while not forgetting to feed our listeners with what they want and what interests them most.”

What about the general sports journalism scene? 
“There are parts of our journalism that are great and these include our ability to allow free speech and expression. There is none of the gagging you’ll see in other African countries. However, people say what they want to the extent that they get overboard at times. But packaging is where I think our biggest problem is. The information is there, but giving it to the listener or writing for the reader is usually the problem. 

“I think the reason why Citi FM sports seems to be creating waves is that, we do the same thing as everyone else, that is, we give the same kind of information, interview the same resource persons, but we find more creative ways of doing so. We never lose sight of the fact that sports is entertainment. What we’re doing is not just feeding people who are hungry for information. We give them the information in such a way that they don’t forget where they heard it from and how they heard it.”

What height would you want to have reached in your career? 

“To some extent, who I would have loved to work with, I’m already working with them but I only hope to make it more mainstream. However, being a regular content provider for big organizations so that I’m recognized globally, and our local content made relevant around the world, producing content for the best media houses is where I would want to reach eventually.”

Gary has a secret ritual he does every time he makes a major career achievement, a ritual that began in 2011 when he had hosted his first full length program on BBC. If you ask, maybe he’ll let you know! 

Akoto – The Non-Conformist 

“I think of myself as the voice of people with regard to sports. I say the things that people are afraid to say. I see myself as a different voice, and not necessarily a moderate voice! ”

A maestro at what he does, Godfred Akoto Boafo has become a household name in the Ghanaian sports journalism scene. He has a very broad presence in all areas of media news dissemination, in Radio, Television, Newspaper, and online.

He is dubbed ‘the non-conformist’ by his colleagues and he says of his work, “I try to go beyond what everyone sees. I’m not hasty to get to judgment when it comes to my job. Once I decide to render an opinion, it means I’m fairly certain of what I’m saying and that opinion.”

Godfred Akoto Boafo is an Akuapem . He has four brothers and a sister. Describing the initial spark that guided his very diversely talented feet towards sports journalism, he says, “As a hobby, it started in primary school, in class 4 or 5. The fever of the world cup in 1994 in the USA had caught on, and my friends and I used to sit in class and ask each other trivia from that world cup. We started running away to watch games that we weren’t supposed to watch on TV, or play in some neighborhood park. In secondary school, I was on the athletics, football and volleyball team. In university, that’s when I realized maybe I could do something with it. I started in 2000 in radio universe.”

After, Radio Universe, he did his first stint with Citi FM for a year, before he later returned in January 2012 to work full time. But during his brief hiatus from Citi FM, he worked briefly as a freelance journalist and pundit. During his time working freelance, he dappled in project management, large scale event production, worked with Coca Cola, and also worked with a movie production house.

Godfred Akoto Boafo sports a BA in Political Science and Theatre Arts, with a specialization in directing, a Masters in International Relations, a Masters in Communication and is currently pursuing a PHD in journalism. Sharing his view on how these diverse degrees aid his work, Godfred asserts that, “I think that sports is so powerful it permeates every sphere of life; political, business, social, and having that knowledge of human beings from drama, helps to read people. Also, acquiring knowledge of the political situation helps me understand how the people who run the Sports industry work, because they are politicians of a lesser degree.”

What have been the highlights in your career? 
“One interview stands out for me. It was with Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 2010, when I was covering the world cup. It was just a 3 minute interview but it was the greatest thing ever! ”

What have been your challenges as a sports journalist? 
“The work of itself, the reportage. What we do is about building credibility and legitimacy, otherwise you’re not going anywhere. The challenge is always being on top of giving people what they don’t know because a lot of people have the information (Though assimilating it may be the problem). You’ve constantly got to ask yourself, ‘What do you know that is different from what they (the audience) don’t know that you can add to what everyone knows and change the scale?’ That’s the challenge.”

How you keep ahead of the competition? 
“Because I know what my competition is doing all the time. I listen to my competition. I pay attention to them. You never know what you’ll pick up.”

What heights would you want to reach in your career? 
“You can never say you’ve done it, but I would be very, very happy to have met Lionel Messi! ”

Apart from an excellence in sports journalism, Godfred Akoto Boafo seems to possess a coat of very many colours. He is an avid reader with a sophisticated taste in the most diverse genres and authors, from mainstream bestsellers like Dan Brown to the classics of Greek Mythology. He is also a keen film analyst, with an extensive background in Theatre. He developed quite a reputation for his perfectionism and inculcation of realism as a director in the University of Ghana. He has staged quite a number of plays in his career in Theatre, including ‘Dilemma of a Ghost’, ‘Sons and Daughters’, ‘Etuo Ato Bare’ and has worked with some of the best minds in the field, including the late Godwin Kotey. Yet another leaf in his laurel, Akoto stage managed the opening ceremony of CAN 2008. 

Nathan Quao – The Sports Journalist & well…Rapper 

“Sports doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in a global setting, a setting that has links to everything; politics, business, etc. So when I take on a sporting matter, I try to see what other areas it impacts on.” ~ Nathan Quao

Nathan Quao has garnered quite a name for himself as all shades of a wiz kid in sports journalism, languages and interestingly in music. 

Born to Berenice Nartey Quao and Emmanuel Quao, Nathan Quao has had a good example in his parents to follow in terms of success and achievement. Berenice Quao is a midwife by profession, but currently works currently as a Project Coordinator on the Watch Project aimed at improving maternal and child health. Emmanuel Quao is the regional director for the Centre for National Culture in Ho. However, he’s a graphic designer by profession, and an artist. Nathan and his two brothers inherited their father’s artistic nature. His older brother, Nana Kofi Asihene is a household name in the Ghanaian music scene as a music director, and Lawrence Quao is art director for NKACC, (Nana Kofi Asihene Creative Consult). Nathan himself, when not busy with ace sports journalism, dapples in music

Part of the formidable team that makes the Citi FM sports desk a force to reckon with, Nathan Quao has been involved in sports media since August 2009. He started as a TV pundit before he became a full time sports journalist for Citi FM. “When I’m not doing that, I teach English at the Ghana Institute of languages,” he says. 

“I wanted to be a journalist from childhood,” he continues, “But the sports bit came in later, I loved watching sports and the interest over time has become more solid, and I began to observe sports from a more analytical point and that’s when I started media work.”

Nathan has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Translation and a Masters in International Relations from University of Ghana. Nathan speaks both French and Spanish and this skill has made him the go-to person when correspondence is needed for international sports in these regions.

What have been the highlights in your career? 
“Getting the call to work at Citi FM. As well as enjoying the opportunity to write for the Ghana Premier League newspaper. The paper only run for a few months but being called to write for the paper was big for me. Also, working with the likes of Karl Tuffour and Christopher Opoku has been fantastic.”

What has been the most exciting point in your career? 
“Every single experience I’ve had since it all began has been exciting. I’ve enjoyed every single bit of the journey.”

What challenges have you faced so far? 
“Everyday is a challenge. To reinvent yourself, constantly thinking about new ways to do what I do is a challenge. But I believe one has to accept these challenges and let them inspire you to do more. 

“Also, doing a documentary has been a challenge. It’s really difficult. The issues are there, but the availability of the people to speak to is the challenge.” 

How do you keep ahead of your competition? 
“By upgrading, by reading, by being in the know, by asking questions. Asking questions, in my opinion, is the greatest way of learning. Read the opinions of others and you’ll be amazed about how much information you can add to what you have and how much you can progress as a person.” 

What would you say about the general sports scene in Ghana? 
“Unfortunately, all the concentration is on football, which has stronger branding. Thus, they easily get support from corporate Ghana. There’s a lot that happens with the other sports in Ghana. It’s difficult to get information about them however, because they don’t have too many resources at their disposal. They are not being supported by the state as much.”

What about sports journalism in the country? 
“From a journalist’s point of view, we don’t have easy access to information. If I, as a journalist, do not have access to information, it hinders me from working to the best of my ability. If I don’t have the information, I can’t cook it up and I can’t fabricate. A lot of the websites and sporting domains aren’t functioning properly. A lot of the football clubs don’t have functional websites. Also, there are not enough records. In our job, data is everything, statistics is everything. Information is key. 

“From the listeners’ point of view, what I think the listeners would want from us is to be more informed of what we do.

“Those who are in associations should get functional websites and update these websites. They should make information flow easier. They should make themselves available for questioning and for scrutiny, because that’s how we can get their stories out there.” 

What are your other interests? 
“Music. I love music so much. When I’m not looking for a story, or watching a football game, or a boxing bout or a cricket match, I sit behind my keyboard and play. I love rap music as well. ‘Regulate’ by Warren G and the late Nate Dogg was the first song I could rap from beginning to end. Secondary school was when I really got into rap. In Accra Academy, you either rapped or danced. I wrote lyrics and was involved in freestyle battles and ciphers with my friends. I see it as a mental exercise, to cook up a line or verses. But I don’t do it now as intently as I did it back then, but I still make time when I can. I still enjoy listening to a good rap song. I still enjoy challenging my mind to see if I can put together a few lines here and there.

“I love to read as well. I like to read more of the political, international law, global politics. I read bios and autobiographies of political leaders. For a lighter read, I enjoy mystery and detective stories…anything that would improve me as a person.” 

“In conclusion, I would love to go to an African cup of nations. I would love to watch a UEFA Champions League game, I would love to see a world cup game, I’d love to see Manchester United play, I’d love to go to the Olympics games, the Commonwealth games, just to have a feel of what’s there.

Source: Citifmonline

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