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PAF’s Trip to Ghana #1: Getting settled in

For three weeks, Pan-Africa Football is in Ghana to visit just about all corners of the country to experience its culture, and of course its football. We will be traveling back and forth from the capital Accra to other prominent locations across Ghana, including the Ashanti Region, Tamale, the Bono Region and the Cape Coast. Check out the first blog below as we get settled in on the outskirts of the Greater Accra Region.

A popular fishing spot on the river in Kasoa

I had been told by many that if I was to make a trip to Africa, Ghana was the first country to go to and Friday saw me arrive in the country for my first experience on the continent. Right after landing and going through the process of gathering my luggage and obtaining my visa on arrival, it became immediately apparent why this was the case. The hospitality and kindness of Ghanaians was noticeable from the beginning. Several people at the airport warmly welcomed me and asked if this was my first trip to Ghana or Africa and wished me the best on my visit.

My host, Salahadeen, greeted me soon after I made it through customs and we travelled by car through Accra out to Kasoa just outside the Greater Accra Region, about 25 kilometers from Kotoka International Airport. I got settled in at my hotel and began to adjust to the new surroundings. Early on we checked out the surrounding area including a river in the area that is a popular spot for local fishermen and visited with some of Salah’s friends. The first few days saw us utilizing a form of public transport that is popular in the Accra area, packed vans known as “tro tros” that fearlessly navigate the crowded traffic with conductors yelling out the window to solicit customers and decorated with stickers including favored football teams, musicians and religious icons.

View from inside a “tro tro”, a popular form of public transportation in Accra

My guide, Salahadeen, and a football pitch in his neighborhood in Kasoa

A commercial area of Kasoa

It took some time for me to break out of my shell, but the trip really began to pick up when Salah took me to his neighborhood in Kasoa. A leader and notable businessman in his community, Salah took me around and introduced me to his friends and neighbors. The adults and teenagers were kind and willing to converse while the children in the neighborhood grouped together to look at me with curiosity, always keeping their distance and running away if I approached.

Towards the late afternoon and early evening, Salah called me to a room that contained four televisions used for football viewing and video games. Saturday featured two English Premier League matches: Liverpool v Crystal Palace and Arsenal v Burnley. I was introduced to a man by the name of Baba who operated the room, acted as the electronics expert and kept all the televisions tuned to separate games. This room captured well how big an event football, particularly European football, is to Ghanaians and Africans in general. This love of the beautiful game was not limited to English football as the next day saw Real Madrid-Valencia, Paris Saint-Germain-Lyon and Juventus-AC Milan featured on the screens. Messages in chalk were written on the walls including requests for viewers to pay dues for maintenance of the football room (“No Free”) and warnings against sports betting including “Say no to Chacha” (a Hausa language term for gambling).

All the football fans gather for English Premier League and video games

A group of teenagers hanging out in Kasoa

The young footballers in the neighborhood gather to play pickup football on a closed in mini pitch

African football was also to be viewed on the weekend. CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup action was on hand with numerous matchups taking place in the first preliminary round. An Accra-based scout, Kennedy, attempted to secure tickets for Sunday’s match between the city’s favorite team, Hearts of Oak, and Guinean club Kamsar but the match ended up being played behind closed doors. Kennedy came out to the hotel I was staying at, and we viewed the game along with Salah as the “Phobians” emerged victorious thanks to two late goals, both scored by offseason signings. Hearts, a beloved team whose logo is featured prominently throughout Accra, will take on Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca next round for a highly valued spot in the CAF Champions League group stage.

My first weekend in Ghana featured plenty of new experiences, interactions and most importantly, football. It took a little while to get my phone and internet set up, but it was a blessing in disguise as the first few days were memorable and the lack of these amenities allowed me to enjoy the surroundings and interact with numerous Ghanaians. After spending time on the outskirts of the capital my first several days, next up I will document my trip to the heart of Accra.

Accra Hearts of Oak defeated Guinean club Kamsar in the opening match of their 2021-22 CAF Champions League campaign

My first attempt at eating Ghanaian food came when I tried banku with a stew

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