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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 13:14 GMT
Shooting for success in Ghana
Vendors selling Black Stars flags in Ghana

By Will Ross
BBC News, Accra

It is hard to walk or drive anywhere in Accra without being coaxed into supporting Ghana's Black Stars at the moment.

If you are stuck in one of the capital's maddening traffic jams, the souvenir shop comes to you.

Whistles, T-shirts, baseball caps, plastic horns are all thrust in your face.

Stick on flags are planted on car windows and in an attempt to win you over, the hawker pulls an expression which says: "Now you're in a REAL car."

A man mowing the lawn at a stadium in Ghana
The stadia are ready, but one hotel owner was caught short

For around $5 there are even red, gold and green wigs for those who fancy a change on top.

But smokers beware. Nylon wigs and cigarettes are a bad mix.

And there is little point in asking: "I like it but do you have it in blue?"

Over the past few months as questions were asked about the speed of preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations, many here have told me: "Don't worry. In Ghana we like to do things at the last minute.

"We will be ready."

Toilet trouble

And sure enough the new stadia are all in place and the grass is green.

Oh Lord, when our defence is stretched let the linesman's flag be raised high. Amen
Prayer for the Black Stars

But one hotel owner was just a shade too laid back.

When the guests from London arrived with their suitcases looking forward to a good sleep, the manager had to explain that the hotel was not yet entirely built.

The toilets were... invisible.

Perhaps someone had borrowed a design from the France '98 World Cup and opted for the Parisian hole in the floor style. But then there were also no beds.

Ghana has had plenty of practice at hosting recently. Last year there were 50th anniversary celebrations of Ghana's independence and then the African Union summit.

Hotels mushroomed (although Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi still opted for his tent) and prices soared.

But there is still a mad scramble for accommodation and some families have moved out of their own homes and doubled up at friends' houses in order to collect a tidy $250 a night for a three-bed house. $5,000 for three weeks in a strange bed is not bad.

Spiritual training

Ghanaians have massive expectations of their team.

These are the fans who were convinced Brazil would be a pushover in the last World Cup.

There is no avoiding football fever in Accra

The Black Stars lost that game but I am not sure the referee would have received too many hugs if he had chosen Ghana for a beach holiday.

In addition to the players' physical preparation for the tournament, the fans are playing their part with spiritual training.

Last weekend special prayer sessions were held for Ghana's team in various churches around Accra and pastors in sharp suits screwed up their eyes and waved their arms as they shouted out:

"Jesus help our Black Stars lift this Cup. Oh Lord when our defence is stretched let the linesman's flag be raised high. Halleluiah! Amen."

"I'm not a football fan but Ghanaians are well versed when it comes to prayers, so obviously everybody should go to church and pray," says journalist Mildred Ataa.

One church on Accra 's Spintex Road has invited the entire congregation to stay behind after Sunday's service to watch the opening game against Guinea on giant screens and see if their prayers come true.

Turf war

It will certainly be easier to watch at the church than at the stadium, as tickets are as rare as snowflakes in Tamale.

A football fan painted in the Black Stars' colours in Accra, Ghana
Football fever is here and it is more infectious than Ebola
In Accra, $4 tickets are being sold for as much as $120 on the black market but many are wondering where the tickets have all gone.

"The point is the tickets came in secretly and were sold secretly. So what do we do?" asked sports enthusiast Benjamin Tewiah.

Down the coast in Takoradi there are reports of a looming turf war between the prostitutes.

The Ghanaian women of the night (and day) have sent out the first salvo, warning their Nigerian and Ivorian competitors to stay away.

In Accra, the prostitutes have apparently hiked their prices to new special tournament rates.

Why? The need to buy new dresses and shoes was the official excuse given.

Meanwhile, the Ghana Aids Commission has said it would provide free condoms at hotels but an official has warned: "That should not entice our women to flock the hotels looking for customers".

Football fever is here and it is more infectious than Ebola.

SEE ALSO
Desailly on Africa Cup of Nations
18 Jan 08 |  Africa Cup of Nations
Nations Cup pundit predictions
17 Jan 08 |  Africa Cup of Nations
Nations Cup Squad Selector
15 Jan 08 |  Africa Cup of Nations

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