I am not a huge soccer fan. Wait, let me rephrase that, I do not care about soccer in the slightest. When I came to Ghana, I had no idea that the World Cup was going on and had never actually watched a soccer game. When some people in the group were talking about it, I feigned polite interest but could not contribute to the conversation as my soccer knowledge is less than minimal. I knew that two teams competed by kicking a ball into a net which is guarded by the only player whose title I know, the goalie! So people walked around talking about the games and who’s playing who, and I mostly ignored it. I had no idea that a single sport can act as a unifying interest not only for a country, but also a continent.
When you enter a public space to watch soccer, ie a bar or airport, you can feel the energy and dedication to the sport. The bars are busting with people, rows and rows of chairs with people being forced to sit on chairs set up outside the bar. People from other bars not playing the game push against the railing of another bar to see the game. In the bar, the atmosphere is competitive and relaxed and full of anticipation. There would be a constant chatter of side conversations that would cease once a team got close to the goal. Once this would occur, the extremes would come through; people either yelling to make the goal or desperate for the shooter to miss. This constant fluctuation of emotion would carry on through the game, creating an environment where you get lost in the game.
Some of my best stories and experiences have occurred post game. After one game we watched at a bar, it started to pour rain. Like full on dumping buckets and buckets of water. I run out into the rain and grab a cap. When I attempt to get the price lower, the other girls who were watching the game with me run into the cab. I have no leverage on the cab price now so I get in. All of the windows in the cab were foggy and the driver had to continue to wipe the front windshield in order to see. Then right before we got back, the cab broke down. The car needed gas and the driver got a tank from the back of his car and began running, in the rain, to get gas.
Watching the game at the bar closest to the cultural center! It kinda turned into the spot to watch the games.
The comradery that occurs is not sometime you forget and extends beyond individual experiences. It extends beyond countries borders, unifying the entire continent. Ghana specifically did not make it through the qualifier rounds, but other African teams did. Instead of being bitter that their team was not in the Cup, I saw billboards throughout Ghana emphasizing the importance of cheering for the teams from Africa. A personal anecdote, I have not experienced a international coming together like this before. I do not have sources for this, but I do not believe the US cheers for Mexico in the same sense that Ghana or other African teams cheer for other countries on their continent.
On Moodle, there is an article that discusses this in more scholarly depth. This article is, Introduction–The Ghanaian Reader.