Tag Archive: Ghana


Death in a Bottle

I remember that moment. That cruel and dark moment. I  remember the struggle. The pain. The horror.  I remember the darkness that clogged and seeped into my throat- compelling me to gag and retch in agony. I desperately seeked refuge in a glass of water but they were nothing more than mere gulps of hopelessness. That existential taste of pure evil still lingered in my mouth. My mind grew distorted as it struggled to process the madness and the shock to my nervous system. The lights in my parents bedroom dimmed and flickered haphazardly. The violent flashes of despair. My soul became cold and numb.

Nothing made sense. It was that moment I had lost my innocence as a child and I  finally grasped that the world was a very very wicked place. It was that horror that consumed me forever. It was the horror of consuming a colon-cleasing tonic named Living Bitters.

I remember the gleeful sadism in my father’s eyes. ’til this day I refuse to forgive him for what he put me and my siblings through. No child deserved that.

However, I must digress and reflect.  If one of the most truly horrifying things that could ever happen to me as a child was my dad giving me colon-cleansing tonic, then I really didn’t have it that bad.

In fact, I was a “Dada Bee.” I ate when I wanted because there was the “house girl” to cook jollof rice for me. The good kind. Ghanaian Jollof. Certainly, not Nigerian jollof.

I went were I wanted because there was  the “Drivah” to drive me around to any of my friends’ houses. There was the “house boy” who cleaned and ironed my school uniform. Shit was done for me and I barely had to lift a finger, most of the time.

I was a spoiled child but on that dreadful day I was forced to become a man.

It was a brisk and dewy Saturday morning with all the things a well-loved and pampered kid could look forward to. A bowl of Kellog’s Frosties, Power Rangers, Sonic the Hedgehog, Malta Guiness and four-corner soccer with the street kids. They were often referred to as Kubolors.

Everything was going well as usual. I was the black Richie Rich bossing his minions, terrorizing lazy watchmen and insulting girls that didn’t want to talk to me and my entourage of kubolors. I mean, I had just bought the whole block of East Legon Fanta and Malta Guinness.  I was the King of Accra.

But once my parents called me back to the house, the parade through my neighborhood was over. I might have been a spoiled young brat and a nuisance in my kingdom but never to my parents. I immediately hurried back home and conducted myself into my parents’ large bedroom. My two older siblings Kojo and Afriyie were there as well. I’ve known them to be the most confident and fearless people I’ve ever known but something wasn’t right as I walked into the room. That day I saw fear in their eyes.

They were cowering together using each other as human shields. As my father slowly walked towards them with a tablespoon and a dark bottle of what appeared to be thick and goopy sludge.

“You go first!” My oldest brother snapped at my sister in panic, “You know what they say. Ladies first!”

“NO! NO! NO! Don’t even try! I went last time! YOU ARE GOING!” she retorted with just as much of a scowl.

“What’s with all the commotion? Do we seriously have to go through this every time?” my father asked in a stern yet reasonable tone. “It doesn’t taste bad at all. It is good for you all. I will clean your insides right out. Come on, step up and be done with it.”

My father turned his attention to me. “Oh Kuuku, good you’re finally here. Before, I thought you were too young to have some of this medicine but after seeing what comes out of you in the toilet, I’ve had my concerns. You most certainly need this.”

A look of embarrassment came across my face.

“What’s this, daddy?” I asked, staring reluctantly at the tablespoon of black sludge. If I recall, It looked like part of the Venom Symbiote that usually corrupted Spider-Man.

“Living Bitters, it will make you stronger, faster  and make you very smart. it will keep you sharp, my boy. Most importantly, it will exorcise those horrific demons inside you.  And keep you from destroying my bathrooms. After this, be sure to eat all the oranges in the house. God knows you need it.”

“Kuuku, don’t take it. It’s so disgusting, you will die.” My brother warned.

“Swallow it as fast as you can. Don’t be scared.” My sister added.

“I’m not scared.”

“Oh, if you’re not scared? Then why don’t you go first?” My brother taunted.

“YES! YES! Kuuku go.” My sister said.

I sucked my teeth and looked right at my older siblings with defiance. I stepped up to my father. “Fine, let’s just get this over with.”

“Very good, Kuuku. I appreciate the pragmatism.”

“YOOOOoooooo, you just wait and see. You will suffer!”

And suffered I did.

But I could not give them that satisfaction. I could not give them the satisfaction of watching me wince and struggle like dying prey being mauled by a lion. In fact, I tried to be strong for the both of them.

I stood fast, braced myself and calmly walked up to my father without fear or emotion. I was calm, cool and collected.

“Okay, open your mouth.” My father said. I stepped up like a Catholic boy awaiting  communion. But instead of consuming the blood of Jesus Christ, I consumed the blood of Satan Spawn. The moment it slimed onto my tongue and the roof of my mouth, There was nothing but bitterness festering and trickling in the small spongy crevices of my taste buds. This dark sludgy matter violated every part of my being. My soul left me. Waves of bitter disgust and filth raged in my mouth, It tasted like dead rotten plants, corrosive oil and corrupted honey. What came afterwards was unspeakable.

For the first time, I tasted hell. I was instantly transported into another dimension and trapped in my mind. Everything faded to black

I was in the woods by myself. staggering to my knees. I realized I was in a very dark and cold place. I saw angels with broken wings fall through the dimly lit sky. Demonic hands clawed from the earth. Dragging to me the depths of hell. I felt the sludge of living bitters fusing with my mouth and the rest of my body. Swallowing me whole from the inside.

Suddenly, Tyler Durden appeared. He Grasped my hand tightly, pulling me away from my nightmare. He calmly said, “Stay with the pain. Don’t shut this out”

“DEAR GOD! I WANT TO SPIT THIS OUT! I WANT TO VOMIT!” I pleaded.

Tyler Durden grabbed my hand more tightly. “Without pain, without sacrifice. We will have nothing.”

I tried not think of the words. Putrid, vomit, gaggi…

“STOP IT! This is your pain, this is your burning throat. It’s RIGHT HERE!”

“I’m going to my happy place. I’m eating two balls of kenkey with pepper and Titus sardines. I’m finding my power!”

“NOOOO!” Tyler said dismissively while yanking my hand towards him. “Don’t deal with the toils dead people do. Come on!”

“Please, make it stop!” I begged.

“What you’re feeling is pre-mature enlightenment.”

I tried to drift away from the bitter pain. I tried to picture Rashida Jones feeding me kenkey with fish.

Tyler gave me one big dirty slap! TSSSS!

“This is the greatest moment of your life and you’re off somewhere missing it!”

“No I’m not!” I said back.

Tyler went on to explain how our fathers were models for God but had betrayed and abandoned us. I started to believe that he was right. For how could my own father subject me to this cruelty? How could my own father give me Living Bitters. Tyler then asked me.

“What does that tell you about God?”

I whimpered and stuttered. Tyler gave me another dirty slap. TSSSSSSSS!

“LISTEN TO ME! you have to consider the fact that God doesn’t like you. He never wanted you. And in all probability, He hates you. That’s why he gave us Nigerian Jollof.”

Despair ran across my face. Not Nigerian jollof I thought.

“This’s not the worst thing that can happen.” he said.

“It isn’t?” I asked. Wondering what could have been worse than Living bitters and Nigerian jollof.

“WE DON’T NEED HIM! or Nigerian jollof for that matter.” Tyler said. “Fuck damnation, fuck redemption. Fuck Nigerian Jollof. We are God’s unwanted children. SO BE IT!”

“Okay, okay. Please just make it stop!”

“First, you have to give up. First, you have to know, not fear. Know that someday you’re going to die. It’s only that we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” Tyler said calmly.

In that moment,  I accepted Tyler’s cold hard truth. I accepted my fate and let the cleanse and the purge take place. That one must find comfort in the struggle and that life is not always a bowl of Kellog’s Frosties. I accepted that there was no God. I accepted that life is too short to be rude to the house help. What I was experiencing was growth. An evolve. I had gone through the cleansing fire and rose from the ashes a brand new man with a heart of gold and balls of steel. I had swallowed Living Bitters with perseverance and solidarity. And in that brief second my nightmare was over.

“Hey Kuuku, are you okay?” My mother asked with grave concern. She had probably noted the brief lifelessness in my eyes, that I did not seem myself or that I wasn’t here. I stood in the bedroom with no emotion on my face.

Suddenly, I looked around. Slightly confused. I was back in my parents room. I almost didn’t recognize my family for a second. I had to  re-adjust with coming back to reality.

“Well, that’s it. See? No fuss. no struggle. I’m very proud of you. You took that like a man.” My father bellowed. He turned over to two my older siblings. They looked on in awe and confusion.

“You two can learn a lot from your little brother here. He didn’t even flinch once. Macho guy!”

My siblings looked at each other. Probably thinking to themselves what was wrong with me but I couldn’t help but notice how impressed and amazed they were at the same.

I calmly and quietly excused myself from my parent’s bedroom. My big brother gave me a high five as I walked out. “You’re one weird kid.” He said.

“Good job, Kuuku.” My mom said. “I’m proud of you. I thought you would spit it out.”

I shook my head slowly and barely said. “No, I’m ok. ”

I went to my room and started playing Street Fighter. I sat and reflected on my recent experience. I might have appeared calm and brave during that moment but my family would never know the internal and emotional turmoil I was experiencing in that split second. That I was forever a changed man. Either way, I survived.

I wondered what new struggles would come my way and how I could overcome them. But with my newfound toughness in life. I wasn’t so concerned. If a little kid like me could swallow a whole tablespoon of living bitters, then there wasn’t much I couldn’t do. I smiled finally.

I also drank a shit ton of Malta Guinness afterwards.

All that separated Ghana from a ticket to the Semi-Finals was a penalty spot kick awarded at the very depth of extra time. And when it seemed like Ghana would make history by being the first African team to make it to the semi-finals, Asamoah Gyan blasted all of Africa’s hopes onto the crossbar.

It happened so fast that I didn’t even get to hold my breath. I couldn’t savor the tension or flirt with ecstatic thoughts of reaching the semi-finals. All I remember were four-worded expletives leaving my mouth and being trapped in a delusional nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. And it’s all Asamoah Gyan’s fault.

I was never confident in Asamoah Gyan’s penalty-taking capabilities. Even though he is a good striker in open play, his penalties have always been sketchy. People say I’m being negative but let me recall that this is the same striker that missed a penalty against Czech Republic to go two goals up four years ago.

Yes, I know it was Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez that villainously handled the ball and denied us the winner but he got what he desereved with a red card. To tell you the truth, I don’t blame him for cheating because it’s natural and I’ve seen a lot of players handle the ball on the goal line especially when the pressure mounts up. It’s not right but that doesn’t mean that they won’t do it.

What I didn’t expect was Asamoah Gyan to miss the most important penalty in his career. Penalties can be missed but I believe the statistical odds are with the player behind the ball. In Gyan’s case, it was supposed to be a game-winning penalty but he missed it. Seriously, ask yourself- did you think he was going to miss it? I sure didn’t. Ultimately, we shouldn’t have been in that situation.

What’s even worse is that the psychological baggage from the penalty miss carried over to the rest of the Ghanaian squad and affected their performance. John Mensah’s horribly tame effort at the penalty kick. Adiyah’s inexperience and opening of his body tipped off Uruguay goalkeeper into making an easy save.

But overall, Ghana has had a good run at the World Cup and there is no use in dwelling on what could have been. If only that idiot Suarez didn’t handle the ball on the goal line and Asamoah Gyan didn’t miss that penalty. Ok, I’ll end it here. Just like Ghana’s World Cup campaign.

It’s that time of year when the world is united by the  beautiful game that takes the center stage every four years- the FIFA World Cup. The tournament itself symbolizes  unity and sheer excitement. I love the fact that some of the best teams around the world come together to exhibit their skills, determination and championship quality to win the most prized trophy on earth.

Obviously, I am passionate about the World Cup especially since it is taking place in Africa and that Ghana’s Black Stars have qualified for the second cosecutive time. I am passionate about the Vuvuzelas, the  stadium horns that joyously blow their unique African flair onto the fields (Even, though they are actually noisy). I am passionate about the Jambulani soccer ball which represents the time of celebration. The main point is I have always been passionate about every aspect of soccer. The intensity, the pace, the Premier League, Arsenal, my favorite players, and the MLS (Yes the MLS).

Unfortunately, in the United States, I feel like I am usually alone in my passion for soccer and can’t have anyone to genuinely share that passion with. Let’s face it, in the U.S. traditionally, nobody cares about soccer.

But when the World Cup comes around, suddenly everyone is a soccer fan and starts to ride World Cup bandwagon all of a sudden. To the posers, if you didn’t care about soccer before the World Cup why are you all hyped up after four years?

I won’t make harsh accuastions just yet. One reason why soccer is not big in the U.S. is  mainly because of one reason. Sour grapes- the U.S. have never been able to dominate in soccer and they won’t, not for a long time at least. Ever since the birth of the World Cup, the U.S. have a really poor record. They have the most of 22 losses in World Cup history, failed to reach group stages in their own host tournament in 1994, finished dead last in the France 1998 World Cup and have always been second best to Brazil in the CONCACAF federation.

As a result, there is not a lot of support behind the U.S. team. Even why bother? Especially when they dominate in other sports such as  basketball, baseball and football then crown themselves “World’ Champions” when they only play against each other in their domestic leagues.

And if you want to say soccer is making headwaves in America since David Beckham’s $250 million signing to L.A. Galaxy in 2007, then that’s that sad. I think what genuinely sparked a revolution in U.S. soccer was when Mia Hamm and the rest of U.S. Women’s national squad won the World Cup in 1999.

And the men’s side can do just as well because the U.S. national team is actually good. The team is, according to the FIFA World Rankings, ranked 14th in the world and first in CONCACAF. and has appeared in the last six FIFA World Cups

The team’s best finish in the FIFA World Cup came in the inaugural 1930 tournament where it finished third. More recently, They also reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup after being kicked out by Germany. The United States has won the CONCACAF Gold Cup four times in ten tournaments, second only to Mexico. The USA had enjoyed a 58-match unbeaten home streak against CONCACAF opponents until July 2009, when arch-rivals Mexico thrashed them 5-0 in the final of the Gold Cup.

The team reached its first FIFA international final at the 2009 Confederations Cup, beating reigning European champions Spain 2-0 to advance to the finals but suffered a disappointing 3-2 loss after Brazil staged fiery comeback. A lot of U.S. fans knew about soccer that day when they beat Spain 2-0 that day but I didn’t hear much coverage from ESPN after that 5-0 drumming from Mexico. I’m just saying,  you are not a real fan of a team if you only support them when they win.

If you want to be a real American  soccer fan, you have to support the MLS, know at least 5 players from your national squad and that these are people that represent you at the World Cup and try playing soccer once in a while. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it but don’t just wait every four years and pretend you have some appreciation for it when you actually don’t. It makes no difference.

Michael Essien

Ghana captain and Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has been ruled out of the World Cup due to an injury  he picked up in Decemeber. Most people believe that is a dampening blow to the Black Stars’ hopes of the tournament in South Africa. However, I don’t see it that way. 

Essien hasn’t been fit since his injury in December but was still in the squad in hopes he would recover in time for the World Cup.

Unfortunately, the midfielder has not been able to spring back into form according to the  Ghana Football Association.

“An evaluation by a combined team of medical experts from the Ghana Football Association and Chelsea Football Club revealed that Essien will not make full recovery until the end of July,”   

Even though Ghana has lost a great player, I still believe  Ghana has the quality to do well in the World Cup at least.

Ghana has Inter Milan midfielder and UEFA Champions League winner Sulley Muntari. The 26-year-old is a quality player and impressed in the 2006 World Cup after he fired home a powerful strike against Czech Republic. With a total number of 16 caps. He’s been Ghana’s best player with numerous assists and a goal against Bosnia in a match friendly in March 2010.

Newcomer and former German forward  Kevin-Prince Boateng, who currently plays for Portsmouth, was named by the Serbian coach after deciding to switch nationality. He has great potential and will from a great striking partnership with Asamoah Gyan.

The Portsmouth player was born in Germany, who he has represented at under-21 level, but has a Ghanaian father and his uncle has played for the Black Stars.

Ghana Coach Milovan Rajevac also named John Mensah in his preliminary squad. Mensah is a top defender and a rock in the heart of the Ghanaian defence.

 “You just see Mensah and you look and think, ‘That’s a bit of quality’. He has got that arrogance that top players have got, he is quick, powerful, he jumps, heads the ball well, he’s tough. That’s why he is captain of his country.” Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said.

However, Mensah is heavily and inconveniently injury-prone and has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career at Lyon and Sunderland. He has been haunted by a calf injury arising from a physical complication which has plagued him in recent years.  Ghana is just lucky he is currently fit for this year’s World Cup. For now.

But that’s the least of Ghana’s troubles. Injuries aside, the main problem is that well, Ghana sucks right now.

With a  loss to Bosnia in March 2010 and a demoralising lost of 4-1 to Netherlands, Ghana is not looking good for the World Cup. The last two games were only friendlies but I believe they are still reflective of the performance Ghana will show at the tournament. There’s only a couple days left and the coach and the rest of the squad have to step up.

“Whatever happens, we cannot drop our heads, we have to continue with our preparations.  We have a tough group, a very tough group. But we have to do well and play our football. The most important thing is for this group of players to be healthy and ready,” Rajevac said.

Better be ready soon.

.

South Africa 2010

After 76 years of failed attempts to reach the World Cup, Ghana finally made history after a famous 3-0 victory against South Africa to enter the most prestigious tournament in the world in May 2006. That day, so many dreams came true.  There was so much joy and jubilation in the crowded streets of Accra. I had never been more proud to be a Ghanaian that day.

There have been some great moments in African football, including Ghana’s youth squad winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2009. The fact that the 2010 World Cup will be hosted in South Africa is also groundbreaking even though it has been past due.

Despite the great achievements, there are still some problems I think need to be addressed or at least pointed out.

In Ghana, football is more than just a sport. Like baseball in America, football is Ghana’s past time; it is passion that flows through every Ghanaian’s veins. It spreads infectiously; No matter where you are, you are exposed to it. It becomes a part of you.

“Nobody can deny football. Passion for football is among the children, everybody from the schools to the streets, even the blind man, they want to play football,” Ghana Football Association President Kwesi Nyantakyi said.

I remember growing up in Accra, any game between Hearts of Oak and Kotoko FC on a Sunday is the most exciting time of your life. You sit with your friends and debate which team is the best, then you go and play football right afterwards.

Football also gives hope, not only in Ghana but in Africa too. There is a big, untapped pool of talent. Millions of African children are looking for an opportunity to succeed in life through football.

Since poverty hits hard in most African countries, including Ghana, football is the strong and persistent belief that it is the only way to escape poverty.

“I like football so much, I’m looking forward to playing in Europe, to play in any part of the world,” Kofi Asamoah said, wearing a LA galaxy shirt. He plays in a local league hoping he will be picked up by a scout from the other side of the world.

“If I can sign a professional contract, I can give money to my parents so that they will use it to take care of my sick sister,” 9-year-old Evans Mensah said,

I admire the fact the African youth are chasing their dreams and trying to better lives for themselves. But should trying to be a footballer the only thing that they should aspire to?

 Their dreams to become footballers become ultimately unrealistic given the state of African football. Sadly, some children give up education because they believe they will be picked up by scouts from Europe.

Football in Africa is not in the best state. It needs to improve and it needs to be utilized to its maximum potential and other opportunities should be available to the African children other than football.

One major problem some countries such as Sierra Leone is that the local leagues are dwindling. There is lack of revenue coming in due to corruption by the organizers and supervisors. African footballers are only seen as cheap commodities. They do not get paid and cannot provide for their families. So there is no incentive to stay and play in Africa. As a result, there is an exodus of African players trying to get into Europe and the local game is constantly robbed of quality talent.  In addition to that, African football is seen as completely inferior to the forces of powerful foreign leagues such as the English Premier League (EPL) and the Italian Serie A.

Resources in most African countries are allocated to cable and coverage of these foreign leagues. Local villagers are all about the craze of the foreign football and spend most of their money via pay-per-view especially to watch the EPL. All that money goes to back the EPL, they get bigger and the support or structure behind the local leagues gets smaller.

I’m not saying ban the EPL from being shown in Africa. It is very popular and is a great league to watch. I just think African governments and African football associations should focus resources on developing our own local leagues. We should cut off the corruption that is preventing African football from thriving

South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) is a structured and commercialized league that is broadcasted all over Africa and even several other countries. Players are paid well, treated fairly and are treated like heroes the way English fans treat Wayne Rooney.

Countries like Ghana and Nigeria should follow suit because I believe it is in the general interest if we all want African football to be on the same level of that England, Spain or Italy

Most importantly, we also need to educate people that football is not the only way out of poverty. We have to show the children that they can be doctors, teachers, pastors, lawyers and so on by encouraging them to go to school. I am certain if we commit to these beliefs, African football will thrive and prosper even more in addition to the recent achievements. Who knows maybe Ghana will win the 2010 World Cup.