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Jun
08

Why we Africans love football so much By CAMERON DUODU

There is a joke making the rounds of the Internet.

It shows a pregnant woman lying on a bed in a labour ward, trying to give birth.

The doctor sitting near her is wearing his white overalls. And he is staring at a computer screen. But the screen isn’t showing anything in connection with the woman, or child-birth.

It is logged into Youtube and is showing highlights of a football match. And so engrossing is it that the doctor has completely forgotten where he is or what he is about.

Another doctor comes into the ward to see how the doctor and pregnant patient are getting on. But one glance at the screen and he too is transfixed. The noise brings in the consultant… And other male staff, and so on….

The pregnant woman’s cries of pain are completely drowned by shouts at the players — and the referee.

The caption to the video is “FOR WOMEN — PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF ATTEMPTING TO ‘BORN’ DURING THE WORLD CUP!”

However grotesque the video’s representation of the situation may be, that is the nature of the madness that is about to take hold of the male half of the world population — and a few brave members of the opposite sex, too — as from this coming Friday, 11th of June 2010, when the World Cup will kick off in South Africa with a match between the hosts, Bafana Bafana, and Mexico.

For non-football enthusiasts — especially women who happen to be married to football ahem — nuts — the world as they know it shall cease to exist. Period.

They will be married and yet be single. Their house will cease to have a TV set because the machine in the sitting room will no longer be a TV set but ‘Daddy’s New Girl-Friend’. (I was going to say ‘new wife’, but that might not go down very well with some South African readers.)

The key to Daddy’s New Girl-Fiend’s wardrobe — the remote control — will be permanently commandeered by Dad. It were best he had it, for it will be smelly — covered with kebab sauce, lightly wiped remnants of Macdonald’s giant sandwiches, and pizza and chips, probably dried palm and groundnut soup, as well as droplets of wine, beer and whisky.

To attempt to retrieve the remote control from the Madman’s hands — even to give it a little antiseptic wipe, especially during a match, when it is needed to replay the replays — will be construed as a declaration of — war!

So, Lady-Of-The House, know thee that from 11th June 2010, the fridge will be constantly overfilled with Club and Star beer. And some Guinness, perhaps. If you want cokes and other soft drinks for yourself and the kids, get another fridge. And don’t park it near the old fridge, or that too will be filled with Club, Star and Guinness.

You see, it isn’t only Daddy who has a throat. His friends do too, and this will be the time they will visit interminably, at exactly the right time for pre-match prognoses, post-match analyses and post-analyses peregrinations into yoga-land, jazzmania and — when you the Lady-of-The-House are safely out of earshot, apuskelekesia. I ain’t translating that o.

Know thee also that thou shalt be the only driver of the kids — from school to home, at any rate. Tae Kwan Do classes duka (ditto). Ballet classes duka daaya. Piano classes (if applicable) duka. So are swimming and whatever it was that used to take him near to the kids after school, all of which now (in)conveniently happen to take place at a time that coincides with football kick-off times in South Africa.

I am sure you’ve got the picture of how your life is about to end. Hey, don’t listen o, if ‘That Man’ pretends that he is not ‘like other men’. Oboa! Eemaleor! (He’s fibbing),

He may do some of the things I have said he won‘t do. But woe unto thee after the World Cup is over! He will have built up a reservoir of resentment housed deeper than the Akosombo Dam’s spillway, and one fine day, when you’re not on your guard, the torrent will burst forth, triggered by some minor squabble — such as a wrong turning taken on a unfamiliar road — and drag you all the way to the divorce court.

You see, to a Ghanaian, this World Cup is like no other. It is the second straight time his tiny, beautiful country has qualified to be on the same stage as the giants of the football world.

We had been striving to get there for years — since the 1960’s in fact — but we could never make it. Countries like Cameroon and Zaire, whom Ghana preceded into independence and international fame, pipped us to the World Cup, while we, who once beat Blackpool of England 4-0 in its heyday, and drew 3-3 with Real Madrid, with Di Stefano and Puskas playing, and won the Under-17 World Cup on top, could simply not make it.

There is also a second factor: the 2010 World Cup is being held on African soil for the very first time. In South Africa. Yes, the country which was once ruled by a bunch of cruel and brutal white racists, whom our tiny country seriously feared we might have to fight, in order to free our brothers from their grasp. We owe the existence of our Air Force — and the emergence into our political life of a certain Flight Lieutenant — to that country, South Africa. So the tournament has a particular resonance with those Ghanaians who know their history.

But above all, know thee that football brings the Ghanaian male, a special type of joy. Every full-blooded Ghanaian boy has a store of stories that explain why Sunday after Sunday, he will go and sit in the hot sun to see 22 men kicking a leather ball about.

The ‘sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the generations!’ says the Bible. Yes — one of my own sons ran a completely fictitious football league, involving his school and other schools. He invented players and endowed them with special qualities which enabled them to frustrate his own first rate team. Except that he, as the goal-keeper, also frustrated their best goal-scorers.

Hmm, he built the whole structure up, and led it towards a grand final match. By this time, I was so into it that I made the mistake of saying I would like to go and watch the final and lend his team support, and where and when was it being played….?

Another of my sons was so enamoured of the Asante Kotoko goalkeeper, Robert Mensah, that on the day Robert Mensah died, after being stabbed with a knife in a bar-room brawl at Tema, I spent, several hours trying to devise a means of telling him the sad news without breaking his tiny heart. It was so traumatic for us all that up to today, I don’t remember exactly how I managed to deliver the sad, bad news. Yes,I recall telling him the news from the hospital was bad, and then gradually building up to a shake of my head when our eyes met finally.

Many of us also come from a background in which we were obliged to kick stones and pebbles about, whilst trying to turn ofuntum (gum tree) juice and other things into footballs, by trial and error (of which more later). The only refrain our mothers heard, over and over again, whenever they called for us, was “כkכ bכ bככl!” (he’s gone to play ‘ball’!) No matter whether the ‘ball’ was a only a crafting together of rolled-up ntomago (discarded clothing).

That was why when Ghana qualified for the World Cup 2006 competition, to be held in Germany, I had to pinch myself to believe I was dealing with reality. Of course, I knew that Ghana had been African Champions four times –1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982. Even more important, as I have

indicated, Ghana had won the very first FIFA World Under-17 championship, in Italy in 1991 by beating Spain 1-0. And it won again, in Ecuador in 1995, beating the favourites, Brazil, by 3 goals to 2.

Now, I know that Under-17s grow up to be men! So, was there any particular reason why, what boys had done, men could not do? (Okay –I can hear the sarcastic chuckles to the effect that some of our “boys” were already “men”, really — thanks to forged passports. But I shall let that pass. FIFA accepted them as boys, and boys they were.)

Let’s leave conjectures and get back to facts: as I was saying, for most of us boys who lived in a village or even a suburb of Accra or Kumasi,let alone Tamale, getting a real leatheror even hard rubber football to play with was no joke. That is why many of us “made” our own. My age-group, or instance, took a cigarette tin into the bush and tapped the sap out of a gum tree called, as I said before, ofuntum. If you scraped off the bark of this tree, white gum came out of it which congealed into rubber when you boiled it.

It was a godsend — literally — and you would then find a round stone or orange and pour the rubber around it in order to shape it into a ball. The results were often pathetic. But so long as it was rubbery enough to bounce up and down, you had got a “ball”. And you and your mates would go and find somewhere to kick it about.

Do the David Beckhams of this world know anything about such things? Has Christiaan Ronaldo any experience of how pebbles on the rough ground can tear one’s nails off our while one threw everything into one’s best shot, and give one a wound that had to be tied with a white bandage, and… and … that one bravely — or stupidly — continued playing with the wounded foot,in order not to let the side down, until the bandage turned brown, soaked with blood which had dried into an ugly crust, by dust?

We now often see vastly overpaid women in ponytails and beaded hair, on the field, pretending to be men: one small kick and they roll on the ground fifty times. Kai! — we learnt our fortitude plying our trade with teams whose motto was, “If you miss the ball, don’t miss the man!”

That is why we can win the World Cup. We’ve bought it already with our blood! But we need to convince ourselves, and so we shall make ourselves inaccessible for one month. Is that too much to ask for? Kill our fantasies and you kill us,ladies. PLEASE!!!

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3 comments

  1. cameron duodu says:

    I like this comment on whom to support, if your country is not playing (taken from Comment Is Free,in the London Guardian):

    Bishop01
    8 Jun 2010, 9:48AM

    … I genuilnly hope the team that plays the best football wins the World Cup – even if it is England!!

    I will watch all matches involving Brazil, Spain, Holland, Argentina and of course England.

    I think Group D with the Germans, Aussies, Serbia and Ghana will be the toughest and they play each other on Sunday so i'll inform my Mrs later in the week that I will be unavailable for any form of duties on Saturday evening and Sunday from 3pm onwards to which she will shreik 'why are you watching that. Scotland aren't even in the bloody thing'.

    I love the World Cup and all the cut price beer offers,pizzas, curries and chinese takaways that are about to surround it!

  2. samuel says:

    We love soccer too much. My girlfriend is not on good terms with me cos of football. As for the gum football i didnt meet it but in my time, we used burst balloons to form balls. It was really nice. In Africa, Asia and parts of the Americas, you have to learn to play football the hard way!

  3. admin says:

    If you want to remain her boyfriend for long, find something she likes very much and use that as a bribe to get her to agree to come to football matches with you and patiently explain why you are addicted to football to her. Don’t teach her about the offside rule on her first outing — if you do, she’ll never go with you again. Rather, initiate her into the funny aspects — someone trying to kick the ball into the goal but rather kicking it to where his stomach is pointing — call it the Atlantic Ocean! Teach her about the thrill of seeing a “ja-ngbeeshi” bicycle kick enter the net., If she is still unimpressed, then make a bargain with her: she should shut up when you want to go and watch football, and you too will shut up when she wants you to do something for her that you don’t really want to do.

    In the mean time, be looking for another girl friend, for this type of bargain won’t last

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