Published in Graphic Sports 27/7/2012
By Garth Dmyterko
As I continue to tour Ghana, one thing that always catches my eye is a Ghanaian wearing a sports uniform. I have found the multitude of Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal uniforms Ghanaians are wearing unsurprising given the country’s obvious passion for football. Also somewhat expected were uniforms featuring some popular high profile North American stars such as NBA basketball players Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. What has come as more of a surprise is the abundance of lower profile teams from North American sports Ghanaians have been wearing on their backs.
I have managed to spot NHL ice hockey sweaters of the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks, neither of which you would be likely to spot touring the home cities of those teams due to their lack of popularity. Fitting with this theme is the other NBA uniforms observed. I spotted a woman in Aburi wearing a full Houston Rockets uniform with the matching red shorts and jersey, the last time I saw that being worn it was by a Rockets’ player.
Using uniforms as my guide, it seems clubs from the American state of Texas are fairly well represented here in Ghana but not the ones that are popular in North America. In the U.S. and Canada, the only Texas uniform usually worn by fans outside the state is that of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys (American football) who have long been considered “America’s Team”. Here in Ghana however, I have spotted two Houston Rockets uniforms, two San Antonio Spurs (NBA) jerseys, one Dallas Mavericks (NBA) jersey, and one Houston Texans (NFL) uniform to just one Dallas Cowboy jersey. These uniforms of Texas clubs represent about three-quarters of the North American uniforms I have seen in the two and a half weeks I have been in Ghana.
The uniform I have seen that I am most envious of is an old green and red Charles Barkley Houston Rockets jersey being worn by a wood carver outside the Ghanaian Cultural Center in Kumasi. Since his retirement, Barkley has remained relevant in the North American sports landscape by becoming an outspoken and controversial basketball analyst for one of the main NBA television stations. During half-time analysis, he regularly blurts out brutally honest and often ill-advised comments about the game he is watching, his colleagues, or the sport in general which has NBA fans either loving or despising him. Due to this, fans continue to buy his uniform well after his playing days are over but the particular one I saw in Kumasi is much more authentic (and cool) than the ones typically seen in North America.
While I realize Ghanaians wearing these uniforms does not necessarily they support the clubs, I am finding it fascinating to see the diversity of North American teams represented here in Ghana. Growing up in Canada, often many different professional sports teams were represented in a city that didn’t have one of its own. However, they tended to be that of the most popular clubs in the biggest North American cities such as New York, Dallas, or Los Angeles teams. Here it seems to be somewhat of the opposite with smaller, less popular clubs such as Houston, Phoenix, and San Antonio being more represented by people wearing their uniforms. I find this diversity of uniforms refreshing and can’t wait to see what other uniforms I encounter as I continue to tour the country.