Independence Day Football
The morning sun is harsh and tells a tale of unrelenting heat to come. The trees bellow to the gusts of a mighty wind, spraying sand from the sakora park, across the field and beyond. If not for the intermittent shouts of ‘ball’ ‘ball’ and ‘fa bra’, one could miss the footballers playing.
At halftime, those too young to play but young enough to watch, wearing their oversized European kits, go back and forth carrying water sachets to the tired footballers. The footballers, sun-beaten and sweating, squeeze the sachets and splash their faces with the gushing water. Chairs have been laid out for the older players to rest. Complaints of back and other bodily problems become the content of their chatter.
Sweat, perspiring from a bald footballer’s head bent down, drips onto the red earth staining it brown. He sweeps the sand with his cleats to cover the dampness, but the sweat is profuse.
The spectators are sprawled on an island of pavement by the pitch. Their chale-wotes kicked to the side. Their bare toes point to the trees above, waiting for the second half to begin. Their eyes are on the referee who is deep in conversation with the groundsman. Their stomachs reaching for each other. The referee is accusing him of not watering the park. The groundsman responds, “I water de downside, you no see?” It’s a small miserable patch of bush at the corner of the pitch. The referee reaches for his cards and shows him red. The groundsman laughs and carries his stomach and smells of akpeteshie with him off the pitch.
The elders have advanced their conversation to movement.
“I am almost 90 kilos…90 kilos! And I can run faster than you. And you are almost 20 kilos or less! How?”
Laughter and wild hand gestures follow the argument. The elders speak of physics in basic terms. Of how such a difference in weight should mean a faster runner. Some of these men run the country. But on this field, they are footballers.
“But no! No! Ministry, it is not just weight. If you have more muscle, it means you can push more!”
“But 20 kilos, how?!”
The conversation dies in laughter. It always does. What else would there be to discuss on this day? That we Ghanaians could gather and play the game we love to play. With the sun reaching its zenith. Shining its everlasting aura on our beloved nation for another year. And many more to come. Till those too young to play also complain of back problems.