Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Beautiful Game", Ghana Black Stars, Asanti Kotoko

The U.S. football (soccer) team almost pulled it off on Sunday. They were ahead an unbelievable 2-nil at the half against the mighty Brazil in the FIFA Confederation Championship game!

I started thinking about the extra clout I'd have in the village if the U.S. won(Maybe I'd be invited to some fufu dinners in honor of our victory). But, alas, the Brazilians did what they do best and scored three goals in the second half to defeat the U.S.

It was an amazing run for the U.S. though. They started out losing two matches in a row, then they beat Egypt 3-0, then totally unexpectedly stopped Spain 2-0. Spain was ranked number one in the world I believe with a 35 game winning streak, and in this tournament, they hadn't had any goals scored against them. And then, the U.S. of all teams comes along and humbles them. So, maybe this will increase the popularity of the sport in the U.S. Maybe someday it will rank right up there with baseball, basketball, American football, and ice hockey. I don't know where it ranks now, but I'm sure it's gaining popularity.

I hardly ever watched soccer in the States. I did play soccer for two years in high school. Our coach was a Mankato State University student from Nigeria, Ebbi Clark, who had posters of Jimi Hendrix in his dorm room and taught me the opening chords to Foxy Lady. When I was 16 yrs. old, I spent two weeks in Germany and got to see Bayern Munich play 1860 Ingolstadt at the Olympic Stadium. When there was a goal, beer would rain down on us. Large groups of blue(1860) or red(Bayern)clad young men would gather outside and march together chanting their teams songs or name. Intense.

Football(soccer) is BIG here in Ghana! In fact, it was football that got the inkling going about Ghana as the country to go to. It was 2006, and I stopped into a Greek Cafe in Astoria, Queens for a coffee and baklava. The match between Ghana and the U.S. was on during World Cup. I sat down and watched it. Ghana won 1-0. I remember being really happy for them, enjoying all the dancing and wild red, yellow, and green outfits, and all the flags being waved. It was truly a jubilant experience, and I imagined the whole country celebrating.

The Ghana Black Stars are doing well this spring and summer. They did lose to The Democratic Republic of Congo 2-0 in the final of the Pan African Games, the Chan Tournament in March. These past three months, they shut down Benin, Mali, and Sudan. I was at a spot in Kumasi when they were playing Sudan. It was a huge crowd gathered around the T.V., mostly men with some children. When Ghana scored, the place erupted with everyone standing up and cheering. Ghana won 2-0. Hopefully they'll go far in the World Cup which is being held in South Africa next year.

For the Ashanti's, the team that is the favorite is Ashanti Kotoko. It's also the Asantahene's (Ashanti King's) team. I was told Kotoko is porcupine in Twi and that's their mascot. A couple weeks ago, they beat the Accra Hearts of Oak and the village was shouting and celebrating. In this area, there is also teams such as King Faisal, Kesben FC, and Obuasi has Ashanti Gold.

Originally uploaded by Daniel Kerkhoff

Here are the boys playing a local pick-up game near the house I'm staying at in Adugyama, Ghana. They play here often and have teams of usually 4-6 players on each side. The boys and many Ghanaians are really into European football. England's Chelsea FC is a really popular team because one of the Balck Stars, Michael Essien, plays for them. They also imitate their other favorite players. At the moment, Barcelona's Messi from Argentina is a favorite and so is Kaka from Brazil who I think will be playing for Real Madrid next year. Kwaku Baah, one of the boys at the house I'm at, likes Kaka, so I now call him Kaka Baah. I preferred Liverpool as a team this spring. I think they were the first team I watched play and they did well that game, so I liked them. Also, probably because of the Beatles.

So, I've finally gotten into what the rest of the world has been into for so long. Football (soccer), "The Beautiful Game", all you really need is a ball or something kind of round...

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