April 5, 2013. By Earl Strassberger. I arrived in Ghana at night after 26 hours of travel. I got a ride to the hostel, so it was not until the next morning when fond memories started to come back to me. From January 1971 to April 1974 I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia. This is my first time back to Africa since those days.
Before I talk about Cape Coast and Play Soccer Ghana I have to mention what is different and what has not changed. In the 1970s there was no Internet, no cell phones, next to no TV sets, and bottled water was not everywhere. We carried iodine tablets and a canteen. What has not changed is that the food is outstanding. Banku is new to me, umm-umm! The pineapple is amazing. The other CAC coaches are laughing with me because I take pictures of all the good food. My friends at home wish they could taste it. In addition the people are still so friendly. You walk by a taxi stand and every driver and their helpers call out to you, “Where are you going?” “Ride with me.” As you walk along the street little kids come up to you to say hello, and may ask for a gift. Often they call you obruni (white man). In Liberia it was quipo, in Ethiopia it was forengy (from foreigner).
So what about CAC? First of all I am meeting the nicest and most interesting people. Nico, a Tanzanian, was the head of CACs first-ever partner program in 2008. Now he is CAC’s first-ever Community Impact Coach working alongside the CAC coaches. What a dynamic guy. Then there is Emily, who recently graduated college in Hawaii, moved to Ghana and became part of CAC. Nicole, another young lady who lives in Casablanca, Morocco, works for Women Win and is here because of the partnership between CAC and Women Win. They remind me of my daughter, watching out for me – “Need some help”; “Let me carry that suitcase”; etc. Both are amazing soccer players and instructors. It is fun being the oldest person, by far! I impressed Emily in that I use email, Facebook, and Instagram on my smart phone. We watched Barcelona play Paris-St. Germain at dinner. At the end of dinner the waitress came with the bill, looked around for less than one second and brought it to me. Brian said, “Thanks Dad”.
Most important is our partner program here in Cape Coast, Play Soccer Ghana. It consists of a terrific group of people and coaches – enthusiastic, cooperative, eager to learn, and always trying their best. And they are great players. We used a FIFA-built, small, turf field called a Football For Hope Center, a legacy from the 2010 World Cup. Sometimes we had 25 coaches all scrimmaging with one ball. I was amazed at how players found open space and completed passes regularly.
Many of these games we teach are played all over the world. It is the messages on Social Impact that we are conveying that makes CAC different. Many, if not all, of these messages – responsibility, peer pressure, communication, and more – would be just as appropriate in the United States. The coaches we have been working with are always positive, and why not. The Chairman of the Ghana Football Association, Central Region, Mr. M. N. Doe gave the opening and closing keynote speeches. Coach James Kuuku Dadzie of the Black Queens (the Ghana Women’s National team) attended the ceremonies and observed some of our training sessions. Later one day we watched him run a “street” team through their paces. This team consisted of teenage boys and girls. Some of the girls are on the National team.
The week was great. We finish up tomorrow morning and then do some sight-seeing, before starting our next program next week in Accra. I can’t wait.