The United States is taking on Ghana today in its first game of the World Cup. The two teams have only met twice before – and Ghana has won both times.
I was in Ghana earlier this year for a journalism exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. There, I met Gary Al-Smith a journalist at Citi FM – who, though only in his 20’s, is considered his country’s foremost soccer – or football – expert.
1. Soccer or "Football" is HUGE in Ghana:
“For that month that the World Cup goes on everything is literally shut down. That’s how big it is. Cars are draped with Ghana flags, people’s homes. You see the red, yellow, green and the black – which are the colors of Ghana everywhere. Nobody really listens to the political guys and, for the politicians, it’s the best time to do underhand work because then they can do things without being noticed because everybody’s attention is focused on the football.”
2. Soccer Has Been Used as a Political Tool in Ghana:
“Every political government from the British in the colonial days to all the – we are in the fourth Republic now in Ghana – all the four Republics that we’ve had: constitutional, military, they’ve all used football for their own political agenda.”
3. Ghana Has a Proud Soccer History:
“What the British did through the Queen of England, who happens to be the same queen who is the Queen Elizabeth, she sent a delegation to pick Ghana’s best players to form the Ghana national team to come and have a tour of England and to play some of England’s best teams there. Now, it’s a fantastic story because the team that Ghana sent actually went barefoot because they didn’t know how to play with boots at the time. So they went barefoot, went to England and beat the English at their own game.”
4. Ghana is One of Just Five African Teams Playing in the World Cup:
“It’s a continent that’s had to fight for the five places it has now. Initially, only one African team was allowed to go. And then it came to two, and then three and then it shot up to five because somebody thought, politically, it was going to give him more votes so they gave Africa five countries.”
5. African Teams are Known for Passionate Play:
“The way they play seems to go to the beat of a drum. So it’s like dancing like they do in Ghana. It’s very expressionist and all of the African teams without fail, when they score a goal, they like to do their own dances.”
Gary Al-Smith is a sports journalist with Citi FM in Accra, Ghana.