“Is Ghana going to win the FIFA World Cup?!“
Well, up to the match against Portugal, which Ghana lost 2 to 1, there was still at least a last spark of hope here, where I am at the moment.
That’s right – I’m IN the middle of Ghana right now. I’m in Kumasi, the second largest city of the country after Accra.
The World Cup in Brazil is also obviously a hot topic in Western Africa at the moment. The kings of the ball are called “Black Stars” and are also celebrated in the same manner. This honour is here normally reserved for the only true monarch: Otumfuo Osei Tutu II – King of the Ashanti – 16th Asantehene.
Worshipped in the whole country, more prestigious than the President and as popular as soccer. He’s got his own palace, special robes and a golden chair, which has been inherited from king to king and is considered a throne and the most important symbol of power of the monarchy ever since.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has been king since 1999. He was born in 1950, studied philosophy in London, is an established business man and has his own Facebook profile.
The king attaches particularly high importance to his privacy. He lives well shaded in his enormous palace in the center of Kumasi. It is approximately as big as one of the new soccer stadiums in Brazil – but also guarded not less than twice as good by a large amount of security guards, who simply don’t allow any prying eyes looking into the royal court. Not even for interested, nice and innocent tourists like me: When I tried to take a few close-up pictures of the royal palace for my blog, police officers came immediately and sent me packing.
A total contrast to what I got to know of Ghana so far: A country full of hospitable, openhearted, courageous and cheerful people. And that’s exactly what I prefer to talk about now…
Let’s begin at one of my favorite places: the SOS Children’s Village in Kumasi. We are at school shortly after 9 am.The pupils of the 5th grade have geography at the moment – everybody is listening carefully.Nobody is disrupting the teacher, because it’s way to interesting what he’s talking about.
However, as soon as the bell of recess chimes, everybody is quickly jumping off their seats and runningoutside – to play soccer, laugh and tell each other stories.
Around noon, I’m passing a snack stall in the neighborhood.
Mathilda – the owner of the little stand – waves me over with a big smile on her face and presents her dish of the day: kenkey with goulash.
It smells fantastic! I want to know how she gets it so tasty. Mathilda explains a little bit and curtly offers me to give her a hand.
It’s way more exhausting than I imagined.
While cooking, Mathilda tells me how her day-to-day life as a small business owner in Kumasi looks like. Every day is a new and hard challenge for her and she needs power and courage over and over again. But she simply smiles the everyday struggles quickly away and keeps on cooking, before the first lunch guests arrive.
A few streets ahead I meet Patricia in her own little tailor shop. It was her dream ever since she was a little girl to design clothes and sell them in the neighborhood in form of a small fashion collection.
Then someday, a huge opportunity was offered to the 24-year-old woman: with assistance of the SOS Children’s Village Kumasi, she was able to do an adequate training together with a hundred other teenagers from the area. After her successful graduation, she was even granted a micro-loan as some form of start-up support. Today, she has three sewing machines, various textiles, good ideas and already a few orders at least to make her own money with.
After she finished to take the measure for a dress for me, the next customer promptly comes in with a new order. She bows me out friendly like a total professional and already sits at her sewing machine again.
In the afternoon, when the sun burns down on the crowded streets of Kumasi, I’m looking for a shaded spot and discover another really special shop: The sign says “FLORA’s – Wedding gowns, Bridal wear and Coiffure”.
The owner herself welcomes me after I entered the shop. Flora is a considerate business woman with an eye for the wishes of her customers, who have written “wedding” all over their faces”.
She knows quite exactly how she can make the eyes of her customers glow. Pompous, stylish, exquisite – Flora shows me the designs. Every dress costs around 30 Euros.
This doesn’t sound expensive to us, but for the women in Ghana with an average monthly income of 90 Euros, it is like a small fortune. I ask her how the women here can afford this. She answers dauntlessly: Just a little bit of saving up some money. After all, it takes more than two weeks to get married in Ghana. Here, it can take up to two years from the proposal to saying „I Do“. We have a good laugh together and then, Flora offers me a special little goodbye present.
She wants to pin up my hair to give me the opportunity to feel a teeny tiny bit like a bride. I’m totally excited and just adore the final result. Even when it surely may take a while before I’ll really need this hairdo… When this particular day has come we will see each other here again, Flora says to me with a wink.
That’s exactly the way how I love Ghana: As a country full of optimistic, friendly, courageous, interested and inquisitive people. A whole kingdom packed with joie de vivre, even when it gets hard from time to time to achieve exactly what one desires for a good life.
This also counts for soccer. After Ghana hasn’t reached the last 16 in this year’s world championship in Brazil, this certainly doesn’t mean that the “Black Stars” are going to mope.
World Champion or not –The meaningful words of Sepp Herberger, Germany’s national team’s coach of 1954, are still valid:
„Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel.“ (After the game is before the game)
For the team as well as for all fans. This feeling brings us all closer together.
During the last match of Ghana against Portugal, it was for sure that the whole country from Accra to Timbuktu to Kumasi shivered, cheered and cried for the Ghanaian national team and for once it was sure as eggs is eggs what was happening at the same time in the royal palace:
Heart-throb, finger-crossing and a feeling of solidarity for the fighting spirit of the soul and heart of Ghana.