Living as an expat in Ghana has been a privilege for the last 8 months. Ghana is a peaceful, friendly, vibrant country at the heart of Africa and has for the last couple of weeks carried the continent’s hopes and dreams on its shoulders.

 Africa has many obstacles to overcome but the passion of soccer transcended all tribal and national barriers and brought a continent together as one. What a feeling! We are rugby supporters but since the 11th June we have been swept up in the passion of Africa’s dream game, Soccer! Ghana LOVES Soccer, it LIVES Soccer. We were here, in Accra, in October 2009 when its U19 team won the U19 World Cup. That night the air reverberated with sound as everywhere across the town people ran out onto the streets screaming, shouting, singing and dancing. Since then the country has been selling flags, hats etc on the streets building up the support for the Black Stars, their national team. The city buildings are decorated with the bright red, yellow and green flags.

Every game of the World Cup has been followed by a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic populace. Where there is no access to television, transistor radios are king. During the Black Stars games the cities roads were deserted and quiet. The cinemas in Accra Mall were packed as the games were screened live. The street vendors would cluster together on the pavements or in the markets near anyone who had a radio and who always kindly turned it up loud for all to enjoy.

After our disappointment when ‘Bafana Bafana’ bowed out, we joined the rest of Africa to urge Ghana on. We went to a local pub to watch the Ghana vs USA match in the final sixteen. What an exhilarating experience! Expats and locals were all united. Ghanaians do not drink much but the pub was alive with spirit and excitement. The colourful dress, decorations, comments and encouragement to the team was a whirl of sights and sounds. Even the noisy vuvuzela was there to be blown at moments. With Ghana’s win the sound and celebrations poured out of the pub onto the street. The central shopping street in Osu, Accra had been closed off at one end for the big screens and with thousands of happy people we strolled down the road, hi-fiving enthusiastic strangers in the hot night air. The African drumming went on hypnotically throughout the night.

The build-up to last night’s game had been immense. We watched the game with friends and at half time after Ghana’s goal the town erupted with happy noise. Ghana did Africa proud and it was sad to lose on the penalty shoot out, especially as Ghana had looked the better team. The town last night was sad and quiet, deeply disappointed. But the Black Stars have shown incredible talent and with so many talented young players on hand, they will be a force to be reckoned with in the next World Cup. Europe and South America beware! Africa has been invigorated.

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa has had a lasting legacy in Africa. Sport has an ability to reach the hearts and minds of the man in the street, to uplift and unify in a way that no political structure is able to do.

Viva Ghana! Viva Africa!

Charmian Watson – Accra, Ghana 03/07/2010