Ghanaian postcolonial football

Posted: 25 June 2010 in Uncategorized
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Having beaten Algeria and qualified for the round of 16, the next opponent for the U.S. national team is another African opponent: the Black Stars of Ghana.

As with Algeria, Ghanian football was born in the struggle for independence. But, in the case of Ghana, football was an important part of the effort to build a nation after independence, the first sub-Saharan nation to do so (in 1957).

The name of the national team replaced the colonial Gold Coast and was borrowed from the shipping line that was created by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1919, which was

a black-owned, black-operated shipping line that would carry cargo and people between Africa, the Caribbean and the United States [a clever twist on the name of Britain’s White Star Line]. Thousands of African Americans purchased $5 shares in the venture; supporters were so enthusiastic that Garvey was able to acquire the Black Star’s first ship in only three months. Though the Black Star Line eventually folded through a combination of mismanagement, bad weather, and the interference of J. Edgar Hoover’s Bureau of Investigation, it embodied Garvey’s philosophy of black self-sufficiency, race pride and pan-African unity.

This is only the second time the Black Stars have qualified for the World Cup (it reached the second round in 2006 by beating the United States) but, beginning with the efforts of Ghana’s first prime minister and pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanian footballers achieved considerable success both in the Olympics and the African Cup of Nations. In fact, in the 1960s, they were nicknamed “the Brazil of Africa”—but that achievement was followed by two decades of footballing failure and national disintegration, after Nkrumah was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup in 1966.

Here’s a bit of that history:

Once again, I’ll be rooting for the U.S. team tomorrow. But we shouldn’t forget that the Black Stars were born as part of a vision of creating a postcolonial Africa based on unity and egalitarianism and moving in a socialist direction.

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