A Tale of Two Cities

South Africa Soccer WCup US Ghana

As the Ghanaian Community of Toronto move towards a World Cup Victory in North Toronto, the Other Side of Toronto Experiences the First Violent Day of Tension and Trouble in its G20 Summit.

“Bo -Shit” a boisterous black man yells from his seat at The Points Restaurant, a Ghanaian bar filled to the rafters with Ghanaians who take footy ( World Cup Soccer), very seriously. As part of our JHR we’ve been taught that sport is one of the main “space takers” in the print, T.V and Radio outlets we’ll be working. So- as an “educational” exercise we trotted down to Toronto’s North End and got our first taste of what football means on a societal and political level and, for some of us, our first experience being the minority in a room full of Africans. The day before the game the Globe and Mail reported that Michael Essien, the somewhat eccentric midfielder that was Ghana’s” best and brightest hope for a World Cup win,” said he was “prepared to die” for victory. Essien wasn’t suited up for the big game due to injury and his absence was a source of anxiety for Ghanaian fans in Africa, and here, in Toronto. Hence, the edginess that swelled the room, in hindsight it could have been me walking in, with my big smile, and lululemon rain coat looking like I had died and gone to heaven that added to the edginess. BUt I digress. And so the game began with a littany of “Bo shits,” and one man jumping so high off his chair when Asamoah Gyan of Ghana is dealt a penalty ” That’s Bo-Shit, he did not do anything…” and he sits back down as the women in the back nod their heads in agreement. Bottled Guiness beer is in abundance and my group of JHR workers huddles at the back inspecting the teeth of their whole fish suppers and chit chatting with the Engineers without Borders crowd who tell them how known EWB is for catching Malaria the most.

No one cares that across town Cop Cars are burning as are the eyes of protestors who made the somewhat unwise decision to say “no” when asked to back off. A banner whizzes across the screen of CBC ” Protestors turn violent, tune into CBC after the game for more up to date details,” No one cares, they just want Ghana to score a second goal…..they do…….The room comes alive. A girl of no more than six grabs her younger brother and beligns twp seconds before a bartender leaps over the bar and runs across the room to cheer and celebrate with 50 other Ghanaians who have LOST IT. He takes out a table in his path and him and ” Bo-shit”, we’ll call him dance around in circles as High Life music starts blasting over the speakers. We jump and a co-worker Antoinette swivels her head back at me and gives me a look as if to say ” if you ever wanted to learn African dance nows the time.” We run up to the front jumping and clapping as the rest of the crew stare at us as if we’re asking for it, but we’re wrapped into the crowd and become part of the delightful fray…across town police are rapping on their shields and marching towards a crowd of protestors wearing black T-shirts that say simple ” Fuck the G20.”

We share the same sentiment, the music dies and tears are wiped as everyone settles back down to their Guiness. Each person has a glimmer of hope in their eyes, like that second goal means something- it means Africa stays in the World Cup it’s continent hosts, No African team has progressed beyond the quarterfinals of the World Cup since it was first staged in Uruguay in 1930. The team has the whole of Africa behind them, and every soul in this room, including me. Extra time, player Andre Ayew sends a long, deep ball to teammate Asamoah Gyan, who collects the pass…there’s a moment I recall of 4 months earlier. Crosby fights to make a pass as Canada plays the U.S. in the Vancouver Olympics. There we all were in my sisters warm living room, my three-year-old niece Olivia on her knees, poised, holding the Canadian flag my brother-in-law gave her, my sister Jennifer- with her ass so close to the edge of her Lazy Boy leather coach I fear she’ll slip off the edge, my one-year old nephew Isaac with his piercing blue eyes glued to the screen like he really knows what’s about to happen and me, watching the room’s energy instead of the screen. My eyes dart just in enough time to see Crosby deek in and slide the winning puck into it’s rightful home. VICTORY. An explosion hit my sister’s living room in such a way that it will be etched in my mind forever. Olivia screamed and yelled ” we winning, we winnning” and running to hug her mother who has now launched herself off the edge of the Lazy Boy and into the air screaming and yelping- the lazy boy snaps back into the bannister with the force and it’s left bobbing back and forth as we scream and jump together- Jen and Chris hug, the whole family hugs because we knew what Canada winning the Olympic hockey game meant to us as a nation. Now, as a stood in a room of Ghanaian Canadians who, for, whatever reason had made Canada their home, I wanted that victory for them. Gyan knocks the game with a winning shot past U.S. goalie Tim Howard-Ghana shatters the ‘American Dream”- VICTORY- the room surrenders to chaos- the crowd erupts and Antoinette and I whoop and hollar as a the Ghanaian Black Stars celebrate a win for their team, their country and nation. Everybody begins to sing the anthem and I feel that this next chapter of my life will be in embracing a culture that has pride in it’s people, I get a warm hug from an old man next to me and a toothy grin, “You are wearing red,” he blurts, ” now you just need some black stars on your shirt.” I tell him I’m working on it. As he asks if I’m ok where I stand and jump, another banner flashes across the CBC screen ” protestors turn violent and Police on high alert,” downtown radicals are throwing bricks through shop windows, rubber bullets fly and the riot police are in fine form. I’ll make my way downtown soon to take pictures, but for now I’m being carried by the crowd to the parking lot to celebrate a nation’s pride.

Where I was: The Points Resturaunt, 2111 Jane St. Unit 7. (416)551-5447-Want to Enjoy an entire Fish with teeth and eyes and body still entacked with a side of plantains roasted to perfection? Go here

The grub: Traditional fare like fufu (pounded cassava), palm-nut soup and kelewele (spicy plantain chips), and a toothy, eye-ish fish.

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