“The Lure of Africa.”
Fantafrica Football in The Football Pink, Part 5.
I wake early, disorientated. I check my iPhone for the time, but instead I am drawn to a text message on the display. “Hi Pete, this is Coach Kofi, Accra Angels. We have a match against the national under-17 female team of Ghana this Saturday morning. Start time is 8 am. Would you like to join us? If yes, then I pick you up at 6:30 am.”
Is it? (As they say here in Ghana when something is questioned). Coach’s text is timed at 04:15. No way! I check for the time now. It’s just after seven o’clock. I’m still tired – by the time I checked-in, showered and then got to bed it was after one. It’s too late to meet him, but then nothing happens on time here. Bloody Ghana!
I decide to go back to sleep.
At a quarter to nine, the vibration of my iPhone wakes me. The same message arrives from Coach, this time on What’sApp. I responded to the earlier message, so I relax. I will see him at ten o’clock as planned and I resend my response from earlier.
Coach immediately replies, “I have been at your hotel since 6:45 am. The match is called off. I understand. I will wait until ten.”
What is going on? I’m here for one day only and already it’s chaos. I guess Ghana is Ghana. I change quickly and race downstairs to find Coach Kofi sitting in the football academy car in the hotel car park. I’m happy to see his beaming smile. It’s like seeing a long lost friend. Over breakfast tea, we laugh together as he recounts the story. A match, on a grass pitch, had been arranged for the Accra Angels under twelve boys’ team against the national under seventeen girls’ team, but as he drove to pick me up this morning he received a call cancelling it as the under seventeen boys’ team wanted to train on the grass and there are no other grass pitches. It’s so typical for Ghana that plans change and timings are not adhered to that it feels like I haven’t been away at all.
The boys are then fed their breakfast; huge portions of beans. After two sittings, I still have no food. When I enquire, apparently Coach has gone to buy me some fruit. This is so Ghanaian again; why offer me some fruit when there isn’t any? I didn’t really want anything anyway!
Kwesi cuts his foot badly on a sharp stone in the sand and Coach has to take him to the doctor, so I am left to prepare the junior team for the game early this afternoon. It’s like I’ve never been away. More players have arrived; some have boots, others don’t, some have socks, others don’t. I’ve lost track of who got what kit last time, so I just make sure they all have kit and boots for today’s match.
Baba organises the older team and it takes them longer than the juniors, though they are not even playing. He then leads the team prayer circle. It’s much more subdued without Coach, or Chris for that matter.
The boys warm up – in the heat! – and soon we start the match. The other team are strong and it’s a tough first half for the young Accra Angels. The second half is much better and it ends in a two-two draw.
On my flight home to Europe, I appropriately finish my book, the fantastic “Water Music”. Like Mungo Park, I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist the lure of returning to Africa.
This is the fifth in the series of articles of adapted extracts from “Fantafrica” for The Football Pink.
The first article was: Fantafrica: Inside a Ghanaian Football Academy.
The second article was: Winning At All Costs: A Boys’ Football Tournament In Ghana.
The third article was: The Dreams of Youth.
The fourth article was: Team Spirit.
The Football Pink is a collection of writers, bloggers, illustrators and photographers who bring their opinions, musings, observations and stories from all over the world to fans of “The Beautiful Game”. They also produce a quarterly print magazine which can also be downloaded to Kindle or Kindle apps, PC, iPad, iPhone and Android.
Please check it out. I highly recommend it.
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