Soccer is indeed the world’s sport — and Ghana is no exception.
Ghanaians, both men and women, are handily some of the most enthusiastic soccer supporters I have ever come across. This was made all the more apparent during the African Cup of Nations, a 16 African nation soccer tournament held in Ghana earlier this year.
It is no wonder that Ghanaians are so enthralled with the sport. Young boys practically start kicking a soccer ball around as soon as they learn to walk.
It is not uncommon to see children playing in dirt patches with only sandals or more simply bare feet, using a worn out ball and a rudimentary goal post made up of two large stones.
While the infrastructure and equipment may not be in place, this does not keep kids from going to the pitch and hashing out some truly spectacular moves that would leave even the likes of Lionel Messi impressed.
Like most other countries, however, soccer is a male dominated sport in Ghana. Women have traditionally not been encouraged to play, even though there is a large pool of talent within the female population.
For the past month and a half, I have been fortunate to participate in the women’s soccer team at the University of Ghana, giving me a window into some of the challenges that come with playing soccer as a female in Ghana.
Part of the requirement for playing on the university team was attending a month-long soccer training camp, in which we lived and breathed soccer, playing twice sometimes three times a day and living together as a team.
Although at times excruciatingly painful, soccer camp allowed for our team to come together and become a dysfunctional family of sorts, with three international students adding flare to the mix.
Apart from the more obvious skin color difference, the foreign players could always be distinguished by their lack of rhythm and hand-clapping coordination during sing-along sessions.
Becky Chappell of the University of California-Irvine was among the foreign students on the team and cited this, as well as the communication barrier, as two of the foremost challenges of playing on an all-Ghanaian soccer team.
However, most of the hurdles we went through as a team was specifically resource oriented — with most girls not having the appropriate shoes, let alone shin guard protection needed.
Moreover, there were scarce medical attention or treatment options. By the second week of camp, for example, all sport disciplines finally got a first aid kit after the athletes banded together and boycotted training in protest.
Apart from a resource deficiency, our soccer team had to cope with the fact that most girls started their soccer careers late. In fact, some had just started earlier in the semester, with the remainder having played occasionally during high school.
These challenges, however, did not prevent us from successfully building a team strong enough to compete in this year’s Ghana University Sports Association (GUSA) tournament, currently held in the arid lands of northern Ghana.
So far we are undefeated and hope we can bring victory to our university. Beyond that, though, we hope that more exposure will help increase interest in women’s soccer.
Interestingly, next to our practice pitch, Muslim women dressed in their traditional garments are often seen with huge water containers on their heads, surely on their way to collect.
Sometimes, though, one sees them take a detour from their busy schedules to perch on the sideline and watch us play. What’s to say that one of these women might be the next Mia Hamm?
Times are certainly changing in Ghana.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.