Black Queens and Super Falcons dare to transgress on a ‘crooked field’

International exchange has helped in changing attitudes and in gaining practical assistance for women’s football in Africa, especially in Ghana and Nigeria. Robert Sackey, coach of the San Francisco Nighthawks of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, has actively promoted women’s football in his homeland. Through Hasaacas Youth Academy in Sackey’s native Takoradi, he has helped form women’s teams at several age levels and lobbies football authorities for more resources. The Black Queens played an exhibition against Sackey’s own Nighthawks in fall 06. Four players on the World Cup roster are enrolled at American universities (the University of Alabama and Robert Morris College in Chicago), and striker Rumantu Tahiru soon will enroll at the University of Hull (“Ghanaians Relish English Education,” FIFA.com, Sept 14).

Players exchange banners before a Ghana-Nigeria Olympic qualifier in Accra on Aug 12. Ghana won 1–0 for only its second victory over the Super Falcons. (Ghana FA)

Most of the players come from Accra or from among the Asante of central Ghana and have cultivated a self-image that former international Osei Agyemang, a graduate of Columbia University, calls “beautiful soccer,” with emphasis on aesthetics. “Ghanaians play a very showy style of soccer,” she told The Oregonian at the Women’s World Cup in 2003. “Ghanaians are skillful, creative individuals. … We tend to play a great game, but not have goals.”

Nigeria, with eight players on overseas rosters—seven in Scandinavia—appear more outwardly combative than their sibling rivals. The two nations, who began competing in intercolonial events, including football, in the 1930s, look to each other for rapid comparison in football and in other social aspects. Nigerian blogger Tokunbo, for example, on attending Ghana’s independence celebrations in March, contrasts Lagos to the “peaceful environment” farther west along the Gulf of Guinea:

… everybody just walking peacefully, minding their own business, no wahala [trouble]—compared to Lagos-state hustling-life-style. If Ghanaians were white, I would have said my observations had a reason, but considering they are as black as I am, some even blacker, I remember I wondered “what is the secret of this people.” To be entirely honest, there are a whole lot of things that Nigeria can learn from Ghana—lesson #1 is: how to line up at a bus-stop. I was so surprised to see a tall man lined up behind a child at a bus-stop. The thought that crossed my mind was, if this could happen in Nigeria. (“Giving It Up for Ghana,” My Pen and My Paper, Mar 12)

“[W]e’re never violent, even if the situations seems to call for violence,” Ghanaian journalist Nana Essilfie-Conduah tells author David Lamb in The Africans (Vintage, 1987). “We keep our cool. … The Nigerians calls us the eleven million magicians” (285).

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