Ghana is most definitely a soccer nation. Everyone plays from a young age and when they don’t have a soccer ball available they kick around anything that remotely resembles a sphere. Ghana’s love of the ‘beautiful game’ has become especially obvious to me over the past couple of weeks during the World Cup finals in Brazil. All televisions and radios are tuned into the games and the replays and the analyses of the games and the replays at all times. You can buy a World Cup soccer ball or a knock-off Black Star jersey pretty much anywhere in the cities. And the government has urged industry to conserve electricity on days when Ghana is playing so the lights don’t go out. Since the World Cup started, I’ve watched a game or two (or three…) almost every day so far and every time it’s a fun and exciting experience.
In the cities, most bars and restaurants show the World Cup matches projected onto walls and screens outside. In Bibiani, there are only a couple of places that do this and there is only one close to me. Biggie’s is a restaurant that serves local and continental food but, most importantly, they have a generator so even when there’s no power, everyone can still watch the soccer match. During this year’s World Cup, I’ve been there almost everyday, except for when I’m travelling, often drinking water or a Coke and yelling at the players and the referees like the rest of the audience.
Often, the commentators from a local radio station are there, too, shouting what’s happening in the game into their cellphones in Twi to be broadcasted all around. These commentators amaze me with all the statistics, dates, and facts about the players they have memorized, tidbits that they use to fill the time when the ball isn’t in play. During the Netherlands vs. Spain game, they interviewed me, which was hilarious to me since I am definitely not a soccer aficionado, nor was I the most die-hard fan in the crowd. But I must’ve said the right things since I’m now a fairly regular half-time contributor. Everyone listening in the district gets to hear my thoughts on the latest goals, fouls, and even the jersey designs. Strange and surreal to think about, but fun, too!
During the first game of the Ghana national team against the United States, there were almost a hundred people at Biggie’s cheering on the Black Stars. It was complete pandemonium from the beginning, especially after that very quick goal from the United States. When the Ghanaians finally responded late in the game, the roar of the crowd was intense. Fans not only jumped out of their chairs but also jumped around the whole restaurant patio. Some broke into song, some danced, and many praised God.
But this celebration was nothing compared to the ecstasy and intensity of the celebration after Ghana’s goals against Germany last weekend. I was in Kumasi with some friends at the time and we decided to go to the beautiful Golden Tulip hotel to watch the game. We hurriedly ate dinner at the (surprisingly mediocre) restaurant and raced over to the outdoor pavilion where the game was being projected onto a massive screen on the stage. We watched the entire game on our feet, yelling and cheering with at least three hundred Black Star fans. A camera crew from a local television station was there and they seemed quite amused by the obrunis getting so into the game. I’m sure there’s footage of us dancing and celebrating somewhere out there…
The game that night was brilliant and thrilling so the atmosphere of the crowd was electric. Each Ghanaian goal was met with a party and each near-miss (and there were many!) was met with fans dramatically throwing themselves on the ground in desperation. No one expected the team to play so well against the Germans but they played marvellously and neutralized their powerhouse opponents with much better playing than in their game against the United States. Though they tied, everyone here considers it a win, since the game seemed to be a sign of better things to come, perhaps a stepping stone for a win over Portugal in their last game of the group stages this evening. I’ll be at Biggie’s watching and cheering on my adopted team, with my Ghanaian flag draped around my shoulders.