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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Soccer Fever Sweeps Ghana!

There is a palpable energy on the streets of Ghana. I awoke on Friday morning not to the customary sounds of roosters and goats but to the trumpeting sounds of soccer fans blasting noisemakers. When I traveled down to the Ministries, where I was doing some interviews for my dissertation, every car seemed cloaked in Ghana's red, yellow, and green. Flags waved in the wind. In the downtown commercial district, everyone was wearing Ghana colors, and many were also boasting ostentatious hats to match. If I hadn't been coming to Ghana since 2000, perhaps this wouldn't amaze me. But when I first arrived in 2000, you could scarcely find a Ghanaian flag anywhere. The flags of political parties were far more prominent. Thanks to the Ghanaian Black Stars' strong showing last summer in the World Cup (and probably thanks to some enterprising manufacturing plant in Shanghai) Ghana now has a strong flag culture. Even I couldn't help getting caught up in the excitement!

Where did all this flag waving hulabaloo come from? Well, you wouldn't know it from ESPN but today the African Cup of Nations (CAN) soccer tournament begins. This year Ghana is hosting. And the excitement is everywhere. What is it like? And more importantly, what is the game-day food culture like here?

Tickets to the first game are nearly impossible to get. Most of them were apparently distributed to Ministries and major businesses, who in turn passed them on to employees as a perk. But Terry and I were able to score four tickets to the second game, where Ghana plays Morocco. Even though we won't be at the game today, we are still getting caught up in the excitement. We both have our official Ghana supporters shirts on, and I am even wearing a Ghanaian flag head wrap. We'll go to a local drinking "spot" to watch the game on TV with other supporters.

So while Americans eagerly anticipate the food gluttony of the Superbowl, how to Ghanaians eat their way through a big sporting event? Well, first off, there is not much of an official "concessions" presence at games. Terry and I went with friends to the final of the four-nations cup (a kind of precursor to the CAN 2008 tournament) and I vaguely remember folks walking around, but it was nothing like the beer and peanuts guys who sell at Wrigley Field.

But just outside the stadium gates, vendors swarm. You can buy Guinness at the brightly marked yellow Guinness tent. You can get spicy African beef or gizzard kebabs, rubbed with a mixture of spices, pepper, and ground peanuts. You can get "kofi brokeman" which is grilled not-quite-ripe plantain, served with a side of roasted peanuts. You can also get waakye (pronounced waa-chay), rice and beans with a spicy red fish sauce. And those are just the people who will set up little stations.

Women carrying their goods on their heads rove miraculously through the thronging crowd, and yet never drop their loads. These roving hawkers sell fried plantain chips, cut up fruit (pineapple and papaya), and Asian-style shrimp crisps. Still others will sell light and puffy fried dough, think of it as a less-sweet donut that is the size of your fist. And not covered in sprinkles.

Terry and I will likely be chomping spicy kebabs and beer at our local spot. Perfect game food!


Anonymous said...

Wow, I would love to be there. I love the beautiful game!

Marta said...

Wish I was there!! Heard Ghana won the first game!

Kajal@aapplemint said...

hey cant believe i finally found a Ghanaian blogger. I'm in Ghana at the moment ... went for the game too ... chk out my blog ,

lets go an event together ... something Ghanaian ... anything ... get back to me.

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