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Thomas Freeman Yeboah: The man with all the numbers

ACCRA, GHANA: “I’ll describe Thomas Freeman Yeboah as the sports journalist’s favourite sports journalist. He was that and more…”

Thomas Freeman Yeboah: The man with all the numbers

A few years ago, Thomas Freeman Yeboah set himself a personal challenge. “[As a sports journalist], you have to leave a good mark so that when you’re no more alive, people will still remember your deeds. I want my name to live on even after I’m no more.”

He most certainly made this statement with an eye on the future. What his modest self didn’t realise, though, was that he had already etched his name, and indeed his works, into the hearts and minds of many. Ask the average Ghanaian fan to name their favourite sports statistician, and Freeman would definitely make the top three on everyone’s list.

A wise man once said history is information. Unfortunately, in this part of the world, very little is invested into record keeping, let alone the persons who channel their expertise into sports statistics. For Freeman, though, keeping records has always been a part of him.

His is a humble journey that began in 2006, when he sat behind his television and collated every important statistic as Ghana made their debut appearance at the FIFA World Cup in Germany. He never looked back after that tournament, as the following years saw him grow into one of Ghana’s most trusted sports statisticians. With constant learning and development, he became an authority in Ghanaian and African sports history too.

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“I don’t know if it’s a God-given talent because I’ve loved history since day one,” he said on Sports Xtra in 2019. “I had love for history at the Senior High School level before I decided to pursue it at the highest level. That inspired me to enter into the field of sports.”

Winning over a nation

Freeman was only a student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) – where he studied History and Political Studies – when he began tasting fame. A career that started with him making cameo appearances on air soon fledged into a prominent personality on radio.

His educational background allowed him to merge his passion (football) and his expertise (history). But his love for the game was the main reason why he ventured into full-time sports journalism. “Gathering stats every day was beginning to take so much of my time, so I wondered why not take it as a job?” he retorted.

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As respected as he became across the country, his journey was never a smooth ride. His is a story of sweat, patience, dedication and perseverance. Starting off at Shaft FM, a community radio in Obuasi, he later moved to Kumasi to work with the more prominent Nhyira FM, juggling journalism with university education. After school, he moved to Accra to work to work with Asempa FM, went back to Kumasi to work with Metro FM and then returned to Accra again to become Sports Editor of Pulse Ghana (Pulse.com.gh).

With every detailed presentation he did on radio, his stock rose and he endeared himself more and more to a public that long yearned for quality journalism. Fact-checking became his bread and butter.

In no time, Freeman became one of just three people in the Ashanti region, Ghana’s second-largest region, who were the go-to guys for statistics and sports history.

“Joining Asempa FM helped me put my name on the internet. That was when everybody got to really know of me,” Freeman noted. ‘Everybody got to really know me’ here means the ratings, both good and bad, that came with the job.

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The numbers man

For Freeman, he was just setting the records straight on sporting matters. Those whose records he was disputing and correcting, however, did not see it that way. They saw it as an affront and some, therefore, took steps to fight back.

During the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, everyone was convinced Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu had scored Ghana’s 100th goal in the history of the tournament when he netted against Guinea in the Black Stars’ final group game.

The Ghana FA and all other tabloids went with this information but Freeman stood his ground in disputing the record. He maintained that Agyemang-Badu’s strike was Ghana’s 99th goal in the history of the competition. Initially, not many took him seriously, but when he appeared on radio the next morning and presented all the facts and figures to back his assertion, the headlines had to be rewritten.

John Mensah went on to score Ghana’s 100th goal in the AFCON when he struck the opener in a 2-1 win over Tunisia in the quarter-final of that tournament. With every record Freeman updated, his legend extended to a wider audience.

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Such flattering reception was, however, not the case when Freeman appeared to have taken away a league title from Ghana Premier League giants Asante Kotoko. When the Porcupine Warriors were crowned league champions in the 2011/12 season, they claimed it as their 22nd league triumph overall. Every report stuck to the same claim, but it took Freeman’s attention to detail to set the records straight; that it was actually the club’s 21st league title.

And he did it by laying the facts bare. “Setting the records for Asante Kotoko for mega,” he said of the subject. “Newspapers and other media portals carried a story that the club had won its 22nd league title. But that was false. People are gullible and are reluctant to challenge the status quo. That is not my way.

“In research you have to fill the voids, which is very important. I went through every bit of history and every information from the 1950s and I realised there was an anomaly. The problem came from the 1967/68 season. Kotoko won the league, but that season prolonged for over 12 months, stretching into almost two years.

“The interesting thing is that Kotoko topped the league table in the first round before the long break, so some people recorded the club as champions in 1967 and erroneously awarded them another league title when they eventually won the league at the end of the season in 1968. So, it was double-counting in that season.”

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Suffice to say, the officials and fans of Kotoko did not take kindly to Freeman’s discovery. Some actually went hard at him by even issuing threats. “On radio, [they rained] all kinds of curses on me,” Freeman recalls. “They said I wanted to bring the team down. In the end, you have to be a man with tough skin.

“The issue went around a bit, but eventually Kotoko came to the realisation that what this young statistician is saying is the truth. I must admit, this was a highlight of my career.”

The club’s official newspaper, the Kotoko Express, later acknowledged Freeman’s correction and credited him for setting the record straight. While he was beginning to get deserved praise for his work, Freeman was just starting.

Every record he set straight was an opportunity to prove wrong those who branded him a fraud. It didn’t matter which prominent individuals or clubs were involved, once the records were distorted, Freeman would make sure they were set straight and the public well educated.

For many years Ghanaians believed Abedi Ayew ‘Pele’, the three-time African Footballer of the Year and UEFA Champions League winner, was the country’s all-time top scorer with 33 goals. Then Asamoah Gyan scored his 33rd and 34th international goals during a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Sudan in June 2013. Out of nowhere, a young statistician came out to dispute these records. Everyone was carried away by the big names claiming the records, but not Freeman.

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Like he had done for so many debatable records, he came out with the data to support his claim that Kwasi Owusu and Edward Acquah were on 36 goals and were actually Ghana’s all-time top scorers. Gyan has since surpassed all the aforementioned to become Ghana’s highest scorer in international football with 51 goals but, at the time, the ex-Sunderland forward’s camp tried to fight Freeman’s fact-check.

“His [Gyan] people came for my head,” Freeman said, letting off a wry smile, “but I survived it too because truth will always stand and we’ve all come to accept that Gyan didn’t become Ghana’s all-time top scorer after scoring against Sudan in 2013.”

A shining star is difficult to ignore and Freeman’s work was doing the talking. He was a phoenix rising and his star shone so bright that the Ghana FA took notice and appointed him as the head of its Research and Information Management Committee, a role he fulfilled diligently and helped to come out with the FA’s first-ever football directory.

For all of Freeman’s dedication and passion towards his job, though, he was even more affable outside of journalism. He was the perfect sidekick: a thoughtful work colleague, a tending son, a loving husband and a caring brother.

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PROLOGUE

A mother’s son

The time was 5:30 pm-ish. The Pulse Ghana office looked like work had now begun as people who had shown up at the office that day were still in friendly conversations that mostly related to work.

Joseph and Precious sat by me as we shared ideas around running a video format in Twi. George sat across the other end of the table trying to make a point.

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I hear a buzz in my pocket. I take out my phone from my pocket and look, losing track of the point George was making. ‘Freeman’ shows on the screen. Two possibilities run through my head from our earlier conversation that day.

I swipe to the right and say “Hello Free” as I always respond to his calls. Dead silence. Not literally at this moment, though.

Freeman was looking into the death of his mother on January 20, 2021, at the A.G.A Hospital, Obuasi. The circumstances surrounding her death, per his narration, looked fishy.

According to Freeman, his mother had visited the A.G.A Hospital with a host of symptoms. Having shown some symptoms of COVID-19 and already with an underlying health condition, the hospital decided to run a COVID-19 test.

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Freeman’s family was, however, informed that the sample had to be sent to Kumasi as the facility was not equipped to run the test. With sample taken and some medications given, Freeman’s mother was sent home.

A few days later, the symptoms got worse. The family who had chased the hospital for the earlier COVID-19 test rushed the 65-year-old to the hospital again and were told they needed to run another test. Wanting to know the results of the earlier test, the hospital informed the family the test results could not be found. The main reason for this was never stated.

A second test was run and almost immediately at the A.G.A Hospital in Obuasi, not Kumasi. The family started to wonder why a hospital would tell them they did not have the means to run a test only to do it a few days later.

Results from the hospital said Freeman’s mother had tested negative for COVID-19. The family did not know what to believe following the earlier test incident, as their mother’s condition kept deteriorating.

Their push for the best conditions and medication proved futile. There was no monitoring of vitals. For someone restless, the conditions in which she was being monitored at the hospital were not comfortable, to say the least for a seriously sick patient. Attention to detail was lacking. Monitoring of the patient by health professionals was a problem. In simple terms, although she was at the hospital, she was on her own.

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Eventually, on January 20, 2021, she took her last breath on earth, leaving her children as orphans and in a situation they felt could have been avoided if the health professionals and health facility had been diligent enough.

That is how Freeman started his probe. As the detailed man he is, he went to Obuasi from Accra to get first-hand information from the hospital. Initially, he was being engaged. However, when the hospital found out that he was serious about all the negligence in the processes that led to his mother’s death, things started getting difficult. He could no longer get meetings with the right people in charge. He was no longer being handed the information he needed to understand and pursue the case.

Freeman had to change his strategy. Since he did not have enough on his case, he decided to petition the Ghana Medical Association to get to the bottom of the issue. He did his research and write-up and shared with some colleague journalists to go through before submission. That’s when he fell ill and decided to seek treatment.

‘This is Freeman’s wife’

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Back to the phone call, two possibilities ran through my head when I received the call from Freeman because of our earlier conversation. He had called earlier in the day to take the day off to visit the hospital. Having not been feeling well for some time, he just wanted to run a precautionary COVID-19 test at the Noguchi Memorial Institute.

I didn’t expect a call from him so soon since his test result was due on Saturday from the Thursday that he took it. So, the possibilities were either the result was processed earlier (since Freeman knew a lot of people) or just an update of what had happened in the day.

However, the possibility went far away from these two thoughts.

“Hello, this is Freeman’s wife,” a shaky voice said, with some signs of trembling that could be felt as shivers went down my spine.

This was unusual. What had happened? Why would Freeman’s wife call me at this moment with his phone? Our earlier conversation about him being unwell now becomes a huge deal in my mind.

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“Freeman has had an accident. He is at the Legon Hospital now. He is unconscious,” Freeman’s wife, Alberta, said in tears.

I went blank for a moment. I did not know how to react. But I had to be strong for this woman. I could not add to her shock of her husband lying unconscious on a hospital bed.

“Keep calm. I’m coming,” were the words that came from my mouth. She says her thank you, still sobbing and hangs up.

I rush to HR’s office. On my way I see her leaving as the day was over. I notify her and a few minutes later we were on our way to the Legon Hospital with George, hopeful of a better outcome of the entire situation. But things would not be that straightforward.

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Inhospitable hospital

The first surprise at the Legon Hospital when we entered was a bold inscription letting patients and caretakers know that medical insurance is not accepted at the hospital. It was solely a ‘money first, anything else later’ kind of affair. If you did not have the cash, look elsewhere.

Medical insurance was a big conversation when former President John Agyekum Kufuor introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme during his tenure. After a host of political gimmicks and flattery, the National Health Insurance Scheme is currently in a worst state than it started when it should be the other way round.

For Legon Hospital, it was not just the National Health Insurance Scheme that had been a subject of controversy around acceptance and payment. It was about all other insurance schemes. None was accepted.

We made provision for physical cash as our Managing Director Katharina Link hit the ATM for money to meet us at the hospital, since all banks were closed by then. Freeman’s wife had already been briefed around the cash-only policy and was already aligned with the hospital to initiate tests.

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Irrespective of what happened, Freeman was still scheduled to be transferred, as the hospital had a scheduled fumigation exercise the next day and could not keep him as a patient.

The watching nurses

When we got to the Legon Hospital, visiting hours were over so we could not enter. However, the attendant, who did not introduce himself, allowed us to stand in the hallway where we could see across the room as Freeman lied helpless and hapless on a bed.

Just by his bed were two nurses having a conversation around something hard to fathom.

Freeman had not moved an inch, according to his wife, in all the time she had been at the hospital. The health officials knew that and could testify to that. Any movement would be an improvement to his old state and could help with the diagnosis in a layman’s eye.

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So when Freeman started to raise his head and suddenly go up from lying down to sitting on his bed, the expected reaction from the nurses who sat by him was to help him with whatever was going on with him. That did not happen.

For someone who had been involved in an accident and came in in an unconscious or semi-conscious state, first-aid medical procedure demands that they be stabilised without a lot of motion until scans highlighted what the problem was.

Freeman’s scan was not in yet, but the nurses kept looking on as whatever that was happening in his body kept happening. He was visibly concussing, but the nurses watched on. His wife, who is also a nurse, could not stand it anymore. She rushed into the room despite visiting hours being over, tore off his singlet, cleaned the fluids coming out of his nose and mouth and stabilised him on his bed until he was calm again. The nurses still looked on without a care.

This unfortunate scenario, coupled with a host of things we had experienced at the hospital, dealt a huge blow to our hopes. The situation could be salvaged but would our poor healthcare delivery system allow us to salvage the problem? This was the bigger question.

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Despite the ‘money first’ that screamed in loud silence when we got to the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), that hospital in terms of equipment and machinery is the best place a patient could have in the country.

Mistakes from our time at the Legon Hospital had instantly been laid bare in our first action at the UGMC. I had earlier made enquiries around the mode and process of transfer to the attendant who seemed unconcerned. We had to sternly criticise his trip from the ward to the ambulance after waiting for hours to get an ambulance for the transfer. For him, it was just a push to the ambulance. No precaution, no care.

Having met a doctor friend and one that our HR knew too at UGMC, we discovered the attendant who we thought was a doctor was not. He was just a man acting on instructions. He could not read the scan. He knew nothing about what he was doing and acted in oblivion or so it seemed.

The doctor friend takes a look at the scan and starts questioning how the transportation of the patient was done. The scan, he claimed, did not say much.

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“His condition looks worse than the scan so we have to be extremely careful in how we handle him,” the doctor tells us.

We then move on to transfer Freeman to a bed in the UGMC ward and we are puzzled as to how to go about it with this new information about being extremely careful. Legon Hospital had failed to follow procedure for the transfer. The only option we had was to hold Freeman’s body and lift him from the bed since there was no blanket and straps to stabilise him.

Our attendant from the Legon Hospital is still baffled by all this. He still has not wrapped his head around why we can’t just pick and drop the unconscious man. Looking at his demeanour, my heart breaks for all the families who have passed through his hands.

With the help of nurses around, this doctor friend directs on a way to stabilise Freeman and aids with the transfer to a UGMC bed. He supervises as his monitor is fixed to check his vitals.

He assures us that we are in good hands after asking the name of the surgeon we were transferred to and says his goodbyes since he was just there to drop a patient. That was not his base. Throughout the evening, this was the only time we had genuinely been engaged, assessed and had the opportunity to ask questions about what was happening and it was all because we had a personal relationship with the doctor we met at UGMC.

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How many times are you likely to meet someone you know during an emergency?

“It’s an emergency but…”

“Who is in charge here? We called and were asked to bring this patient here! This is an emergency, please!” a nurse fully clothed in COVID-19 PPE screams in the hallway at the UGMC entrance. No one is responding to her though.

It’s been about 45 minutes since we got to the University of Ghana Medical Centre. An ambulance we met there is still parked at the entrance.

Upon enquiry, there was a COVID-19 patient who was in a critical condition and needed transfer from Nyaho Medical Centre. His doctor had called the UGMC to confirm his transfer but the nurses had been stranded for over an hour with no one to receive them. The situation was urgent but the people who were to receive the transfer were not acting as such. The lead nurse was furious and that was the reason for her scream. She was losing her patient and her patience.

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It would take another 30 minutes before the transfer was initiated for the COVID-19 patient in a critical condition. His friends were restless as every minute that passed meant they had to hold their breath and hope for a better outcome. Sad. Very sad.

Even sadder was us, who could only watch in frustration as our beloved Freeman battled for his life unconscious. Throughout our dealings with Ghana’s health system and processes for Freeman, one thing stood out. The word ‘emergency’ meant nothing to almost every health official we encountered, or so their actions made us believe.

In an ideal world, a health emergency means the problem must be fixed first before any other dealings. People’s lives matter and that should be the only important factor when death is a high possibility. Ghana, however, is not in the category of an ideal world.

Health officials went about giving us ‘buts’ after telling us it was an emergency.

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‘It’s an emergency. He needs urgent care but we take only cash and you have to pay first.’

‘It’s an emergency but we do not have beds.’

‘It’s an emergency but the specialist is not around.’

‘It’s an emergency but…’

UGMC took Freeman’s second scan and told us he needed immediate surgery. Emergency at the highest level. The call was made to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to a specialist since the UGMC doctor did not have the expertise to perform the surgery. We were asked to arrange a transfer after the specialist accepted to do the surgery. Freeman was transferred to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital early Friday morning.

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Korle Bu made us understand the surgery was imminent and that they needed blood. We sent a message across and had people ready to donate.

Since the conversation and initial understanding was for the surgery to be done early Friday morning, we did not pay close attention to finding a bed where Freeman’s vitals could be monitored since he was about to go into surgery anyway.

A few hours later, the hospital made us understand the surgery could not be done on Friday but Saturday. And that if they were to do the surgery on Saturday, they no longer needed the blood donation. That could be sorted. The explanation for the delay was that they needed to run their own tests.

We then moved on to finding Freeman a bed where his vitals could be monitored, as he was still in the same condition like we had found him after his accident.

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That was a hopeless situation no Ghanaian ever deserves to go through.

At some point, we had to have nurses giving hints to Freeman’s wife, who was a colleague nurse, to know where to direct our concerns to and literally pressure them to get what we were looking for. But for another personal and professional relationship, every effort would have yielded no result.

Friday is almost over and it's mostly been dialogue on what was deemed an emergency surgery in the past 12 hours.

Losing Freeman

Saturday brought its own stories - one that baffles.

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We had been assured that the surgery would happen on Saturday. However, in the early hours of Saturday, there was a twist.

The surgery was not cancelled. But there was some surgical equipment the hospital did not have. This time, it was no longer about making payment for the hospital to find a way to purchase the equipment. The instruction was for us to go out there, find the equipment, buy and bring it back to the hospital for the surgery. Can you imagine?

With all her network as a nurse, Freeman’s wife roamed the streets of Accra and made calls to different parts of the country but her efforts to find the equipment were not successful.

In all of these, we still engaged the hospital.

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Hours went by before the hospital gave us an option. They had found a seller who had the surgical equipment. The instruction was for us to send payment to this seller for the equipment to be delivered to the surgical team. We were not going to meet the seller or see the equipment but we were assured it would be delivered, once we made payment.

At this point, there was no option or need to argue about the process due to Freeman’s condition. So we agreed and paid without any questions asked. All this while, communication with the hospital was through our specialist’s assistant. He made us understand the surgery would be pushed since a few things needed to be sorted. A surgery that was supposed to happen on Friday had now been postponed not once but twice. Hope was the only medication Freeman was on now. The hope that he had more breath to last the back and forth that had gone on in the last 48 hours.

The specialist’s assistant was frank with us early Sunday morning. He explained that to have the surgeon in on Sunday for the surgery would be a miracle - one other medication we hoped Freeman would get.

By now, we had acknowledged the earliest possible time Freeman could get a surgery would be on Monday after a third postponement. So, our attention had shifted to giving him the best care that would stabilise him for the next 24 hours. It was a daunting task but we persevered.

Our perseverance, though, was not enough.

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Our hope was not enough.

The miracle did not happen. Maybe the miracle did for two days from when he had his accident, hoping humans would play their part, too. That did not happen.

Around mid-afternoon on Sunday, Thomas Freeman Yeboah passed away.

As doctors rushed to his bed with his wife looking on, failing to stop the tears, failing to control her actions that were fuelled by sad emotions, she was excused and in the end, was informed she had lost her husband.

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It starts to play in her mind what could have been. But then again, it was finished.

Freeman is not the first to experience this in Ghana. His family had seen it all before in January with their mother before a second blow was served in February. In two just months, a mother and son were gone, mainly due to medical negligence and the country’s poor healthcare delivery system.

And Freeman’s story sounded familiar to a lot of Ghanaians.

There is a collective pain borne out of the numerous medical negligence situations in Ghana, leaving citizens to make their meanings to understand the logic. Sadly, the many cases have compounded to this story of how a mother and son lost their lives in a Ghana healthcare delivery system that needs total overhauling.

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A phoenix till the final moment

Freeman gave so much to Ghana’s sports industry and revolutionalised a field that many had shied away from due to its tedious and time-consuming demands. His unfortunate demise in February 2021, therefore, saw Ghana’s sports industry lose one of its great minds. And to think he was fighting a poor system that had led to the death of his mother only a month earlier breaks the heart.

His unfortunate death, however, doesn’t erase his impact. His was a life that inspired many and the gestures and eulogies at his funeral painted the perfect picture of the man Freeman was.

Laid in a Methodist Church alongside his mother’s coffin for their final funeral rite, all gathered in the auditorium sang the hymn ‘Pleasant are Thy courts above’. It was a sad moment, but the third stanza of the hymn provided a moment of spark, especially for those who shared Freeman’s strong faith in Christianity.

‘Happy souls, their praises flow’

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‘Even in this vale of woe’

‘Waters in the desert rise’

‘Manna feeds them from the skies’

‘On they go from strength to strength’

‘Till they reach Thy throne at length’

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‘At Thy feet adoring fall’

‘Who hast led them safe through all’

As the pianist and the choir synchronised on the melody, photos of Freeman and his mother reeled on a projected screen facing the congregation. Freeman was loved by many and people travelled from far and near to pay their last respects to him. Students, colleagues, journalists, neighbours, name them. The church where his burial service was held was full to capacity. Outside the church was an even bigger crowd.

Dominated by his former university colleagues, especially members of the Unity Hall where he served as hall president, they kept chanting Freeman’s name long after the service was over.

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A journalist’s favourite journalist

Freeman’s lifelong dream was to become a lecturer. He taught at a secondary school some years back but he always knew he was destined for greater things. When he graduated with a master’s degree in Information Studies from the University of Ghana, he didn’t hesitate to spell out his dreams.

“I love to remain in academia, so I want to one day be a lecturer,” he said. His unfortunate demise means that can no longer happen, but it also typifies the kind of person Freeman was: he dared to dream and always knew what he wanted.

Such strong conviction only casts the mind back to Freeman’s younger years, when he was presented with the option of working at a lucrative mining company or pursuing his passion. As a fresh graduate and one who was yet to enjoy the good things of life, nobody would’ve begrudged him if he chose the former.

However, typical of Freeman, he decided to stick to journalism and that formed the genesis of the man he became. For him, it has never been about money. “There was an offer for me to work at the mining firm AngloGold Ashanti but I turned it down,” he proudly narrated. “Usually when I tell people about it, they always question why I left such a lucrative offer for sports journalism.

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“At the time, I was slowly coming into the limelight, the hype was emerging and I was enjoying the fame on the airwaves. It wasn’t about the money, but I foresaw a future in sports journalism.”

Those who worked with Freeman are unanimous in testifying that he’s always the first to arrive at work and the last to leave. Rather bizarrely, he could never stay away from work even when he was on official leave. Once his laptop was close by, Freeman would make time to file any important story that breaks whenever he realised his colleagues hadn’t done it. Maybe he was too result-oriented.

For him, the work always came first. He was that guy everyone went to when they needed help with some historical information or statistics. And he readily availed himself every time. He simply loved to help.

“I’ll describe Thomas Freeman Yeboah as the sports journalist’s favourite sports journalist. He was that and more,” one of his mentees, Emmanuel, said.

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In his wife Alberta’s tribute, she wrote: “Freeman was kind and was always willing to give me a helping hand even when he was very tired.

“…My husband helped me to draw closer to God. We would pray together, read the bible and attend church together where he loved to dance like King David when the ark of God was brought into the city of David… My husband was a good Christian and I console myself with the fact that, he is resting in the bosom of the Almighty.”

Pages from the unwritten book

Freeman was literally a walking encyclopedia. There was nothing you’d ask him about football that he didn’t have an answer to, whether it happened in 1960, 2000 or 2021. For the ones he couldn’t readily recollect, a few clicks on his laptop and he’ll open a word document that contains every information you need.

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Many have, therefore, wondered why such an astute statistician and sports historian didn’t come out with a book. The truth, though, is that he was in the process of publishing a book on the history of Ghana’s FA Cup.

The publication was delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic but was at its editing stage before Freeman’s untimely demise.

“I started putting together some information to come up with a book on the history of Ghana’s FA Cup but there’s been a lot of challenges,” he said of the project. “In 2016, I almost completed that work by I damaged by computer and lost majority of the work. I was also 99% complete when I lost it. I managed to salvage about 60% of the work but the motivation hasn’t been the same to complete the book.

“Last year, I was determined to complete it but the Coronavirus pandemic set in and delayed everything once more.”

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The good thing, however, is that Freeman’s protégés, whom he tasked with editing the book, are determined to complete it and publish in his honour. And while this book will delve into the history of Ghana’s FA Cup, there is a lot more Freeman’s autobiography would have contained about his personal life.

As it stands, though, that can only form the pages of his unwritten book. His life and work was akin to the pages of a ledger; one that inspires and leaves lots of lessons to the next generation of sports journalists.

He made the collation of statistics look very easy and never wavered when it came to setting the records straight on sporting matters. Today, if there are many young journalists involved in data journalism in Ghana, it’s because the likes of Freeman blazed the trail and led the way.

The veteran sports journalist, Joe Aggrey, who served as Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, wasn’t exaggerating when he described Freeman as brave and thorough.

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“I’m particularly happy that in this day and age when there’s so much sloppiness and lazy work by some journalists, Freeman has shown that all isn’t lost,” Aggrey retorted in 2012. “I say bravo and more grease to his elbow. This should go to all those in the profession who are doing their best in the face of the suffocating atmosphere of mediocrity which seems to suggest that anything goes.”

When Aggrey’s comments got to Freeman, his response was predictably modest. “This is what gives me the fulfilment,” he said. “All these commendations make me feel proud of turning down a job in the mining sector for sports journalism.”

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