Emmanuel Quaye/Twenty Ten
Location: Accra, Ghana
Following the Kokomba- Nanumba war in the 1980s, displaced northerners set up camp in a four-acre area of land that is known as Sodom and Gomorrah. Today, more than 40,000 people live in the slum and it has been labelled a national security risk because of the violent crime and prostitution that takes place there. Its residents are divided along political, ethnic and tribal lands, but there is one thing that unites them – football.
On an average Saturday morning at the sawdust-covered soccer pitch in the slum, spectators gather to watch a football match. The players wear an array of mismatched jerseys and only some of them have football boots. The fans unite behind their team, puffing away on marijuana as the game gets underway.
“We were driven here by conflicts in our homelands and we are here now united by football,” said Mohammed Awal, a 26-year-old carpenter with the China Railway Corporation Office in Ghana.
The settlement lies on the bank of the dead Korle Lagoon and is a hot bed for the trade of illegal firearms. Many of the young men are involved in the business, and often get caught up in infighting. The crime overflows into the capital, Accra, and city-dwellers feel unsafe with the slum’s proximity to their living areas. Sodom and Gomorrah is also riddled with disease. Dr. Bart Plange from the Plange Memorial Clinic, said that common infections, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases were rife in the community.
In spite of its troubles, the slum has been the birthplace of many passionate soccer players, some of whom are wanted by top national teams.
“Do you see that player? He is very good and he is on the wanted list of many football clubs in the country,” said self-styled Coach Yakubu. He added that many of the youth in the slum avoided a life of crime and preferred to channel their energy into football.
“They eat, sleep and dream football and wish to become great professional players in future,” he said.
With the FIFA World Cup around the corner, the football-loving people of Sodom and Gomorrah can set their sights on bigger things and spread the message of possibility to those around them.
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