The Africa Cup of Nations is the continent’s main international association football competition. It was first staged in 1957 and is organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). Since 1968, it has been held every two years.
This year the Cup is being staged in Ghana and today the home side, the Black Stars, will take on neighbors Cameroon, the Indomitable Lions, in Accra in the first of the two semi-finals. The second will see the Ivory Coast play Egypt in Kumasi in a rematch of the 2006 final.
If Cup fever has infected big cities like Accra and Kumasi, where gadgets, T-shirts, flags, balloons, caps, earrings and necklaces have been on sale in the streets for weeks, elsewhere the effects of the event have been less conspicuous.
In Tamale, capital of the northern region of Ghana with a population of about 305,000 inhabitants, Ghanaian flags are hoisted everywhere, but otherwise it is hard to find evidence of national Cup mania.
The only sector which seems to have drawn benefit from the Cup is that of gastronomy, with small restaurants springing up in the city, especially round the football stadium. Most of them have been opened by young girls, the majority of whom students on vacation.
During the early days of the soccer competition, simple chicken in tomato sauce with rice was much in demand, but as one of the enterprising young restaurant owners, Evelyne Kwame, told the Cameroonian daily Cameroon Daily, ‘Most visitors are gradually getting used to the local Ghanaian dishes like banku and tilapia sauce’. (Banku is fermented, mixed corn and cassava dough, cooked in hot water into a smooth whitish paste, while tilapia is a mild white fish.)
Most of the new restaurants serve clients at tables or package food to take away. ‘It was not easy when we started this restaurant,’ says Kwame. ‘We were not sure things would move well and visitors would like the dishes. After two weeks of sales, we have already refunded the loan we took and hired the services of other friends.’
Another restaurateur, Peace Quansah, is enjoying African Cup of Nations business for a second time. In 2000, when the event was last organized in Ghana, he made profits selling fruit juices in Accra.
‘This time, I have decided to come to Tamale,’ he says, ‘because there is tough competition in Accra. I have been here since the start of the competition. My business has prospered and I have made a lot of new friends who have promised to help me.
Source: Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)
photo: Ghanaian soccer star Michael Essien