Location: Accra, Ghana
During the 2010 world cup qualifying match between Sudan and Ghana three refugee’s sat and watched the game in a tiny stuffy room in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. “But these guys don’t look like Arabs,” says Christian Kass, a Congolese refugee, about the Sudanese players he is watching on the screen. Santino Lado, a refugee from South Sudan responded, “No they are Arabs, Sudanese Arabs.” “But they look like black men”. “No these guys are the people who kill black men.”
In football there is widespread use of collective pronouns such as “we”, “us”, “our” when talking about the national team but what if a country is facing two prolonged and very brutal national conflicts. Who do those collective pronouns refer to?
On the 2nd September 2009, 4 days before the football match, Menshi Sala gave birth to Simon Sala. Menshi is a 17 year old refugee who fled the genocide in Darfur and travelled for months with her husband Samuel and his 4 children to reach Ghana. Along the way Samuel’s oldest son, Simon, died and was buried in a church graveyard in a small village in Togo. A month later the family arrived in Accra with nothing but their clothes and a few photographs of their former life. Since then the family have been living under a tree in residential neighbourhood in Accra with a small group of refugees from Sudan and the DRC. They named their 4th child after their first, Simon, and he spent his first night in the world under the trees and the shadow of a big block of flats in the busy Ghanaian capital city. The next day a Ghanaian woman from the apartment block next to the trees where they stay took pity on the family and invited Menshi and her newborn son to share her tiny one room home.
That same day the Sudanese national football team arrived at a luxury hotel in Accra a few days before their 2010 World Cup Qualifying match with the hosts Ghana. The conflict-wracked country’s national team has for the first time had Christian Africans in the Arab Muslim dominated starting line-up. The Sudanese team – during ramadan fasting – faced certain defeat at the hands of African powerhouse and hosts, Ghana.
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