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Photo Essay: Grassroots Football in Ghana

Football attracts both the young and old at a local, makeshift pitch in Ghana.

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Photos & Words by Shirley Chan

Suited up in running shorts, we University of Oregon students on exchange in Ghana expected a pickup soccer or football game with children from the primary school. Our professor told us of the soccer match happening around 3 p.m. We arrived to a dirt field and hundreds of people united by opposing goal nets. There were schoolchildren, but they weren’t playing.

We found ourselves watching a grassroots football match – a movement that exists within communities all over the African country. Every week or so, word spreads of a pickup football match. Those passionate about the sport come together to play, with ages ranging from the teenagers who play for fun, to former professionals from the national teams. They gather to play in front of the community. Now, financial disadvantages do hold back many Ghanaians from pursuing the career, but they don’t stop them from playing the sport.

I guess the love for the sport is driven by poverty and the dream to make it big. With the gathering of the community, players get to experience the support and audience they might never get to otherwise. The sense of community reminded me of an American high school football game – a town brought together and supported by football.

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