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Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Ghana embraces Nations Cup fever
By Farayi Mungazi

Ghana football fan
Many people follow football with an almost religious passion in Ghana
It is never difficult to spot a football supporter in Ghana, but it has never been easier than it is now.

With the fans counting down the days to the African Cup of Nations kick off on 20 January 2008, football fever is clearly in the air.

As sure as Christmas is on 25 December, the local organisers have many problems to address before the opening match, but drumming up interest in the competition is the least of their worries.

When I was in the country for the Nations Cup draw last week, I discovered that most people are finding it difficult to hold conversations without straying into Nations Cup territory.

As for the so-called died-in-the-wool football lovers, well, er, they are unable to think or talk about anything else!

Every man and his dog seem to have an opinion on the 16 finalists
In fact, so contagious is the passion for the tournament that it seems to affect everyone, even those who are not necessarily football fans.

"I hate football with every bone in my body," said Blessed, an Accra taxi driver, who vowed never to catch the Nations Cup bug.

"But I can't do anything about it because everyone around me is talking about this Africa Cup," he moaned.

The excitement, or some would say, football hysteria, is fuelled by newspaper columns tracking the build-up in minute detail.

And not an hour goes by without someone on some radio or television station somewhere in the country making the obligatory reference to the forthcoming tournament.

The official sponsors (and inevitable ambush marketers) have also leapt into action, reaching deep into their pockets to exploit the hype through advertising propaganda and promotions.

It is practically impossible to be in Ghana and not be aware that Africa's biggest football festival is coming to town.

Official logo of the 2008 Nations Cup
Needless to say, hardly anyone in the land of the Black Stars needs reminding that it is their captain, Stephen Appiah, who will lift the much coveted trophy on 10 February 2008!

"Football in Africa doesn┐t get any bigger than hosting the Nations Cup and everyone here is excited," said Kojo, a 20-year-old university student, speaking at a fast food outlet in Accra.

"Bring on the Nigerians and the Cameroonians," declared Kwaku, a football-hypnotised builder from Sekondi-Takoradi.

In a country where the game is followed with an almost religious passion, every man and his dog seem to have an opinion on the 16 finalists or have had a go at predicting the outcomes.

Not surprising then, that the Nations Cup train is building such a powerful head of steam that football fever is sure to reach epidemic proportions by Christmas.

T-shirt and flag shop owners around the country say they expect to sell out faster than they can print new stock by the time the hosts take on Guinea in the tournament's opening fixture.

How can anyone stay at home when Nigeria is playing?
Kwabena, a 'football worshipper'
And you know what? Some people see next year's tournament as an opportunity to prove their love for football by watching even those matches in which they have little interest.

"How can anyone stay at home when Nigeria is playing? How can a true football fan not want to see Cameroon in action?" asked Kwabena, a hotel cleaner in Accra and a self-confessed 'football worshipper'.

"We are all Africans and we must support all the teams," he added, displaying the kind of enthusiasm normally associated with of a five-year-old child watching Santa unwrap Christmas presents.

But amid all the hype, experts are warning against inflated expectations that could end in heartbreaking agony.

After all, they point out, the Black Stars have not won the trophy since their 1982 triumph on the artificial pitches of Libya.

That said, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that unless you talk about football in Ghana for the next few weeks, no one is going to listen to anything you have to say.

SEE ALSO
No room at the inns
25 Oct 07 |  African
Nations Cup guide
21 Oct 07 |  African


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