Football in Ghana & the African World Cup Some Things Never Change

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wpid-Black-Stars-group.jpg: Looking at Ourselves in Africa

One of my fondest childhood memories was the almost fanatic enthusiasm we had for football in the Gold Coast, as Ghana was called during my childhood. In addition, as it is today, everyone, young or old has a good football story to tell. This passion for the game has been around for over one hundred years and it has reached its highest today. I was born? and grew up at? Osu,? the most? beautiful? part of? Accra , the capital city of Ghana. I grew up hearing outrageous stories from football pundits and fans about Ghana football. When it comes to Ghana football, some things never change.

In Ghana, there are those who believe that when it comes to the game of football there are other forces at play other than the players, which influence the result of the games. The pundits refer to teams consulting witchdoctors who perform special spells and magic to ensure a specific outcome of the games. Magic or ?Juju? is an age-old belief passed on from generation to generation and has been central, according to the pundits, to football in Ghana for a very long time.? I have heard many of these stories whether true or false from the pundits for years about football and most of them have been outrageous to say the least. The place of magic or ?Juju? according to some pundits is central in Ghana football but usually is never discussed publicly and it includes special ceremonies to ensure the success of the games.

Football is so deeply entrenched in the body politic and soul of Ghana that it runs through our daily lives.? In fact, football is perhaps the only issue one can find universal agreement on among Ghanaians from all occupations. Until recently, some pundits laughed about those who played football barefooted and without uniforms or protective equipment in the past. In my boarding school, we played barefooted, but as we played, we dreamed of the time in the future when we would have the proper equipment and protective gear as we saw in the movies. It turned out to be just a dream. The scariest thing about the stories told by the pundits was subtle suggestions that the supernatural often affected the destiny of our football teams and therefore the results of the games were dependent on how strong was the ?Juju? or witchcraft consulted. In our boarding school, our teachers insisted that we prayed hard to win the games.

The belief in ?Juju? has created its own cadre of ?Juju? men and women as well as witchdoctors, who are highly regarded in towns and villages and has brought some real wealth to these practitioners.? To the football pundits the best goalkeeper was always the one with some good magic or ?Juju? or medicine.? The ?Juju? men easily and conveniently explained a loss to bad medicine. ?Now that Ghana has qualified for the World Cup, the pundits will have to eat their words.

After the 1948 protests demanding Independence from Britain some stores were emptied.? In the villages near the capital, there was an abundance of what many assumed were bars of chocolate. In one of the villages, some of these innocent looking bars of chocolate were fed to the visiting team at the suggestion of the consulted witchdoctors. The home team won because those innocent chocolate bars turned out to be laxatives, which incapacitated a large number of the visiting team.? It has been over fifty years now and the dispute is still on in those two villages.? Then there was the time a team from another village accused the people of the village where I was a teacher that they had been fed with some unknown ?Juju? portion that caused them to lose the game to the home team.

Well it turned out to be nothing but some good old extra hot pepper and fish.? The chief had to decide that case.? For the first time I must admit a practical joke played on a senior student at our boarding school who was the senior class? goalkeeper? and was about to play the sophomore class. We sold him a green loofa sponge as a magic portion for a very small fee to help him as a goalkeeper, but the senior class lost the game anyway and we were all severely disciplined by the headmaster who refused to admit our defense that the goalkeeper asked for it.

Another interesting incident occurred when the witchdoctors from the suburbs of one of our large cities were apparently consulted by the home team but unfortunately, the visiting team won the game with a last minute penalty shootout. Well, when the home team demanded a refund the witchdoctor indicated that the team never paid all the fees promised: two chickens and one goat plus some currency. When the team complained, the story goes, the witchdoctor placed a curse on the team and for years the team never won a game until they went back to pay the witchdoctors the part of the fees that was never paid.? By this time, the fees had jumped to ten live chickens and four live goats and an amount equaling ten times the money promised at first.

Football may not be the most popular sport in the world, but in my country, it remains as popular as it has been for over a hundred years. I love football but I dare not pretend that anyone could predict the outcome of the World Cup games. Nevertheless, I am reminded that our pundits and elders still believe that it takes more than practice and skill to win. I must say I agree with them. The national enthusiasm, support, pride, and spirit of contemporary Ghanaians have destroyed any doubts that Ghana may yet bring home the World Cup. Unbelievably this dream does not lose anything in translation.

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Originally From EVERYONE HAS A GOOD STORY; a Ghanaian contribution to a? compilation of stories from the?32 participating nations in the 2006 World Cup in Germany published by?www.cafediverso.com.? 1? from the sale of each book? donated to the UNESCO endorsed and administered World Literacy Program.

/ Web Address:?http://www.addo.ws

posted 12 July 2006

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