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Tale of two soccer balls illustrates town's obsession with sport, and its need

Date published: 8/27/2007


ACCRA, Ghana--As a result of this e-mail conversation with Acquah, one American football was in the 39-pound duffel bag of gifts that my son Nathaniel and I took to Africa in July.

Nathaniel, 18, and Acquah's 19-year-old son David were soon throwing it to each other on the street outside our hotel in Accra, capital of this soccer-obsessed nation.

In Prince's Town, Nathaniel, David and other boys played soccer every day on the pitch in the center of town.

"The games were really intense," Nathaniel said. "Kids in Ghana start playing the game as soon as they can run, but once I got used to the level of contact, I had a lot of fun."

Like everyone else in the world except Americans, Ghanaians call the sport football. Hundreds of fans watch the practices of their favorite teams. Multitudes turn out for games.

The whole country came to a standstill last year when Ghana's national team played in the World Cup. The Black Stars were the only African team to make it through the second round.

Joyous celebrations greeted Ghana's 2-1 victory over the United States. Ghanaians now delight in reminding Americans that the first goal against the U.S. was scored in the game's first 40 seconds, a World Cup record.

"Next time, the score will be Ghana 4--U.S. nil," a policeman said to me beside our car at a highway check-point. I put both hands over my ears at the thought of such disgrace. He laughed and waved us on our way.

The gift bag was full of T-shirts, calculators, cups, key chains, Frisbee-like discs and other Fredericksburg souvenirs donated by City Hall, the Fredericksburg School Board and The Free Lance-Star.

Acquah said later that there were enough souvenirs in the bag to give one to each family in town.

We presented the gifts to Prince's Town Chief Nana Kundumuah IV at an official celebration attended by hundreds of people July 11. They cheered every T-shirt.

Pandemonium erupted when I tossed one of the flying discs to the children in the crowd. They all jumped up from their seats on the ground and scrambled after it. The adults dismantled the pile-on of children and restored order.

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