Football Culture in Ghana

The sun beats down ruthlessly on the barren pitch with no trees or tall buildings to deter it. Red dust swirls around the feet of the players, almost obscuring the ball, as sweat runs endlessly down their necks. With no boundary lines, no jerseys, and goals standing naked without their nets, the children are playing a game all their own.

History of Football in Ghana

Football was introduced to Ghana by Britain during Europe’s colonization of Africa. Ghana’s first organized matches occurred in 1882 and Cape Coast Excelsior, which was founded in 1903, was the first official soccer club.

Today in Ghana, football is a huge part of the community through both local and regional identity, and national identity. It affects both youth culture and adult culture across the country. Whether it’s going to all the games, following them on television, discussing them with friends, or playing pick-up games on the street, football is a part of most Ghanaians’ lives today.

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Children from the village of Krofu standing in front of the football goal.

Youth Culture

Like those playing football on the dirt pitch, many children in Ghana play the game. It is a way for the youth in Ghana to find a community among themselves. Relationships, social development, and physical fitness are all important components of growing up that football provides. Football also allows children to grow up with dreams and hope for the future as they aspire to play on club or professional teams.

Professional Football

Club football teams serve as an intermediate level between recreational football and professional football. Ghana’s Premier League for club football consists of sixteen teams from regions all over the country. The teams include Hearts of Oak Accra, Asante Kotoko Kumasi, and Ebusua Dwarfs Cape Coast. Players on club teams hope to be selected by the national team or scouted by top clubs overseas.

In 2014 the Ghana national team, The Black Stars, made it to the World Cup. In a devastating loss, The Black Stars suffered a two to one defeat at the hands of the United States of America’s national team. This match ultimately affected Ghana’s chances at proceeding past the group stage.

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Jerseys of Ghana’s national team, The Black Stars.

In addition to the World Cup loss, there have been some recent tensions about the Ghana national team. The Black Stars players requested a larger salary for each game and refused to play in a crucial upcoming match unless they were paid more for the game.

The players’ salaries are paid for by the taxpayers, and since the taxpayers wanted to support their team, they paid for the larger salaries. Unfortunately, The Black Stars lost the crucial game for which they were paid extra. The taxpaying fans were devastated by the loss and outraged that the team was paid more and still performed poorly.

Those feelings of outrage have not yet faded. The Black Stars’ fan base has decreased since the incident and many Ghanaians have a colder approach to the team. Joyce Okyerebea Ottu, young woman born and raised in Ghana, no longer follows the Ghana national team. In fact, she doesn’t really watch football at all because, as she says, “sometimes if you give your heart to them, at the end they will not make you happy.”

Globalization of Football

Another reason for apathetic feelings toward the Ghana national team is the globalization of football. While Britain brought football to Ghana, today it takes the players away from their home team. Many of the best Ghanaian football players leave for European clubs who can lure them in with their prestige, higher salaries and promise of sponsors.

Since Ghanaian footballers play all over the world, Ghanaian football fans follow other teams aside from the local clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus. This globalization of football has broadened Ghana’s influence and reach on the international stage. While it is preferable for Ghanaian football players to stay with the local clubs, it speaks to their abilities that they are in high demand with such prestigious teams. Ghanaian footballers, whether playing home or abroad, provide a rallying point for culture, community, and national identity with all Ghanaians.

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Young footballers playing in the Volta region of Ghana.

A lover of football and resident of Accra Ghana, Albert Ohene-Asante has seen the influence of football both home and abroad. He attended university in the United Kingdom, the country that brought the game to Ghana. He says “football always unifies us regardless of our differences” and that during the big games, the Ghana flag is flown everywhere.

In Ghana, the passion for football has survived over two hundred years, the colonization and decolonization, and several wars. All that time, football has served as a commonality for many Ghanaians through which they find national pride and a sense of community. The passion of those children playing football on the barren dirt pitch in the scorching sun indicates a strong future for football in Ghana.

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African Influence

The many connections of Ghanaians between each other and outsiders has many influences. The first of which, is media. The way Ghanaians perceive themselves, other Africans, and African Americans reflects how those groups are portrayed in the press.

“Ghana: Soft Control of the Press”

The relationship between the media and the government in Ghana has an interesting and complicated history. According to Jo Ellen Fair in her article “Ghana: Soft Control of the Press,” it all began in 1992 when the media was liberalized.

Since the media’s liberalization, journalism boomed in Ghana. Publications and broadcasts were everywhere and were commenting on everything. Since media was privatized, they could talk about whatever they wanted. The government, on the other hand, was used to controlling the media openly and found their new freedoms distasteful.

Fair describes how the government had to adjust their methods to softly control the media, rather than openly and aggressively controlling them. One of the biggest examples of this is called “soli.”

Soli is a Ghanaian word meaning gifts. Mainly in the form of money, soli is given to journalists by officials or businesspeople to ensure the press covers the material they want them to. In addition to cash, promotions are also handed out as incentive by influential people in the government.

Relations between the media and the government in Ghana are similar to those in the United States and many other countries. It seems like a more extreme case because of the accelerated rate at which the government and media in GhIMG_5180
ana have developed after Africa’s decolonization.

The media are the agenda-setters for what the country will discuss, what it will care about, and what will shape it. The government cares about what is discussed, what is cared about and what shapes the country. Therefore, it makes sense for the government to want a hand in the agenda-setting.

 

“Pan-Africanism as a resource: the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture in Ghana”

Pan means all. African, of course, refers to people from the continent of Africa. Pan-Africanism is a movement to unite all Africans, whether they live in Africa or are distant descendants of Africans.

In her writings on “Pan-Africanism as a resource: the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture in Ghana,” Katharina Schramm analyzes Pan-Africanism as a movement and how W.E.B. DuBois played a major role.

According to Schramm, W.E.B DuBois was an advocate for, and even the father of, Pan-Africanism and played a large part in the establishment of the first four Pan-African conferences. Their purpose was to promote racial equality and unity of the continent of Africa.

Unifying the continent of Africa into a United States of Africa is one aim of Pan-Africanism. Another aim is for all Africans to unite and follow their ancestry back to Africa from where they and their families ended up scattered around the world.

The idea of a Pan-Africanism is admirable and it would be beneficial for people of African decent to learn more about their lineages and histories. However, if all those people of African decent returned to Africa, their presence and culture would be sorely missed in the rest of the world.

Akwaaba

Akwaaba, means “welcome”!

We arrived in Ghana exhausted but thrilled to have finally made after 23 hours of travel time. For me it was an exciting experience to bring Furman University students and faculty to visit my native country, Ghana on a 3-week travel experience.

The Media & Culture course pack

This travel study program provides an overview of Ghanaian media and culture through exploration of topics that include: trans-Atlantic slave trade, customs, traditions, gender roles, socio-economic development and media practices through interactions with Ghanaians, in both urban and rural locations, through academic study and immersive personal cultural experiences. The main goals in offering this program is to introduce students to an African country firsthand, rather than through the thoughts/writings of someone else.

 

The journey from Greenville through Dulles, then transiting in Brussels and finally Kotoka International Airport was not as bad as I had 12 traveling companion and the opportunity for some amazing conversation and yes, a lot of sleep.

 

 

On arrival, It felt wonderful to be greeted with a rush of heat brushing my checks that seem to say – Akwaaba – welcome home! For sure, there’s no place like home.

Let the adventures begin!