In keeping with our ratio thus far, today is one part work to at least 4 parts play. The workís an extremely smooth software install / troubleshooting session at some technology institute, which is uneventful but for its speediness. The play, however, is something notable: weíre in the stands for a soccer match between the 2 best teams in the country. Charles Taylor, the star of Ghanaian soccer who shares a name with Liberiaís former dictator, recently broke his contract with the Accra team to switch to Kumasiís squad. To add to the excitement, Kumasi Kotoko is up by 1 point in the standings and Ghana doesnít really have any other pro sports. Needless to say, itís a match most Ghanaians are more than a little excited about.
For safety reasons and a desire to cheer for somebody, we don Kotoko red. I make the brilliant move of photographing locals as we drive into the open field / parking lot, resulting in kids swarming our van to the extent that they actually open a door. A little more shadiness before we make it into the game comes with a police officer raising a wire used as a whip at locals without tickets to make room for us to enter the stadium. Much to my chagrin, we have VIP seats for 100,000 cedi ($12.50) instead of going with the masses for 30,000 ($3.75). Actually, Iím not sure I want to know what the cheaper seats are like: our expensive spots resulted in me getting (playfully) punched several times, a number of screaming matches that nearly devolved into fights, barbed wire and guards keeping sections separated, and, in one of the more if not the most disgusting experience of my life, kneeling in urine. Yes, anybody who was getting jealous of me can take a break: the cardboard boxes we used to kneel on as our only option to see without standing were soaked in piss, which I smelled like for the rest of the day. This grossness was more than offset by the heavyset Accra fan. Sporting blue and gold in the midst of a sea of red, this big guy showed his devotion by lowering his head, straightening his arms and legs, and doing a dance very similar to how a soldier on guard marches, performing in front of the crowd whenever Accra did something even remotely good. An innovative way to beg was the little old man wearing red everything and carrying a red flag, his overturned red hat on the ground in front of him. Even more devoted are those fans across the stadium from me who abandoned their nosebleed seats to climb a radio tower far above upper deck. Weíre not sure, but suspicions abound that the fan who made it highest decided to make some smelly yellow rain on the stands after the game. It ends in a disappointingly anticlimactic tie, but some fans storm the field anyways. Police flex but stop short of using their billy clubs or wires. I donít know what to think of fans handing cedis through the fence to players: are these celebrities so underpaid that they need tips and/or are they that huge of national heroes? On the way back to the car, I climb atop a wall to capture the streets literally overflowing with joyous fans. Driving away, we pass 2 guys wearing nothing but tighty whiteys and red and white paint, definitely reminiscent of tribe members returning from a victorious battle. Or an armistice: the game ends in a tie, 0-0.
I get the driver to let me handle the van home, but nothing exciting: I figure Iíll keep my Ghana driving safely mild. A couple Star beers (the best Ghanaian brew Iíve found) finish up an exciting day of not exactly roughing it in the T.W.