I live 5 minutes away from Luton Town’s FC stadium and anytime the team plays, you cannot miss the local support and admiration the struggling League Two club receives.
When my wife visited a few months ago, she was amazed by the sort support a small team like Luton receives and the woman in her picked up on the beauty of families wearing the team’s Easyjet sponsored T-shirts as they walk to the stadium with delight to watch the team play.
Father, mother and children would walk hand in hand, chanting fan songs—and it was this sort of family get together in support of a local team that she loved.
When I was at the Law School in London, I used to live near Plaistow station, just about 10 minutes’ drive from the then West Ham stadium, close to Upton Park. The many years I stayed there introduced me to the aggressive West Ham fans, the Hammers.
Anytime West Ham played, the community euphoria changed: it became bright, exciting and lively—the Hammers knew how to cheer and display support, despite always losing the small games.
An English man supporting an English team and therefore being obsessed with the English Premier League is a convention, one that is perfectly understandable. It’s their creative brilliance, it’s what they grow up on, it’s a national pride—and more also, it’s in their blood.
Why a Ghana man has the same or perhaps a higher obsession with the English Premier League bothers on soccer deficiency back home; the absence of a competitive league of an equal or similar standing in Ghana. The alternative is, the Ghanaian still holds on the colonial and immediate post-colonial mentality of everything foreign being superior and worthy of unreasonable obsession.
The last time I was in Barcelona, a lady selling Barca tickets at the La Rambla offered me a ticket to see a live match for about 40 euros. I said to myself I would rather eat Paella with that—which I did.
The above should somewhat tell you that I am not a soccer fan. However, I am reasonable enough to notice that, human beings seek for things from elsewhere if they cannot find in their own community.
Though I’ve been to about 21 countries so far, I am yet to meet a non-Ghanaian who’s interested, not even obsessed with Kumasi Asante Kotoko or Abusua Dwarfs—to the extent that the person would live for any of the teams just as we live for these foreign teams.
Whenever there’s a Premier League or La Liga match, my timeline gets flooded with pre, during and post-match commentaries and reviews, from mostly people who may never set a foot in England or Spain. It’s to some extent beautiful that these leagues have transcended their far away borders to even the hinterlands of a developing West African country, Ghana.
Remote dwellers in Ghana arguably know the name, Messi.
A lot of Ghanaians do not just support the English Premier League or the La Liga teams with words on the back of passion, they also financially back these teams through the unending purchase of the teams’ merchandise.
I cannot count the number of times friends have ordered for Manchester United jerseys and same for other teams through me. The support for these leagues is unprecedented and while there’s nothing wrong with this, there is also something wrong with it when juxtaposed with the sort of support our local league receives.
The Chinese were in the same pit; La Liga and the English Premier League dominated the conversation some years back in China, a friend who lives in Guangzhou told me.
Today, attention has greatly shifted and the conscious efforts to build up the Chinese Super League is swiftly yielding results in terms of local support and returns for investment. Ghana’s own Asamoah Gyan recently played there on a gargantuan salary.
Why is Ghana wasting the man in our men?
Men will always have an interest in some sort of sports but on the Ghanaian sports landscape, nothing appealing is being served. Currently, the national team seems to only have the support of deluded Nana Aba Anamoah—football is that dead in Ghana but the fire lives on in the heart of the people, who have found rescue in La Liga and the English Premier League.
Of course, Ghana cannot compete when it comes to the hype, the quality of play and the matchless rivalry the teams in the Premiership and La Liga offer. But we can start somewhere; imagine the support I described Luton Town FC as receiving from the locals. It’s a build-up, one day it will catch fire and we may have Luton supporters all over the world.
The truth is, domestication or patriotism without anything to offer wouldn’t even work in a Communist state. It’s, therefore, sad that our local League has nothing to offer, hence the massive support and interest in foreign Leagues to the detriment of the already dead local League.
You cannot fault the Ghana man for supporting Barca without any interest in Hearts of Oak but it still doesn’t defeat the fact that, this is a problem worth fixing.
We may never get there as long as La Liga and the English Premier League live! But at least, we should give it a try.