Yesterday Ryan and I got the privilege to take part in a Ghanaian press conference at my work at the Ghana Football Association. With both of us having played college football, we have interacted with the media and taken part in press conferences plenty of times before, so we figured we understood what we were getting ourselves into. However, as is becoming quite normal with life in Ghana, we were pretty much wrong.
As we arrived in the press conference room, everything seemed normal enough: lots of chairs, lots of cameras and press, and some prominent figures at the front of the room, a few of which were my bosses in the communications department.
This press conference was focusing on a new soccer tournament, which starts this Saturday titled the “Sheikh Sharubutu Ramadan Cup.” This tournament brings together the various communities within the city of Accra and pits them against each other to battle for a large silver trophy. These communities are predominantly Muslim, hence the name of the tournament showcasing a deeply religious figure as its namesake. This is important to keep in mind because the press conference brought us some experiences we probably will never be a part of again.
The conference began with a Muslim prayer, which is something Americans rarely (if at all) know how to navigate, let alone in Ghana in a room where you are the only non-Muslims. We stuck out like a sore thumb. But then the real differences began that we could notice very quickly.
The event was broadcasted live throughout Ghana, but especially throughout Accra. After the main speakers began explaining the tournament and their involvement in sponsorship or leadership, one of the main speakers fell asleep at the end of the table. Not five minutes later another main speaker took a call at the other end of the table and got up from the table and began having a conversation four feet from the table.
Again, this is all broadcasted live.
At the end of the press conference there was a closing blessing, which we thought was the same as the opening prayer. But of course we were wrong. The closing prayer requires a few movements as the prayer goes on, so as Ryan and I looked around I noticed people looking at us because we were still as a stone.
Lesson learned: press conferences in Ghana are somewhat similar, but there are critical differences most Americans might find very odd. Being a media-focused student here we often look for these differences, but until you fully immerse yourself in an experience like this you can’t truly understand the subtleties and cultural differences.