Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Ghanaian Centre Court

As entered into MyWanderlust Writing Competition 'Impromptu Sporting Events'

It's Wimbledon Tennis Fortnight, so the world is talking's a short retelling of my experience of watching an African tennis match in Ghana.


''Yessssss water'' calls a solemn looking young girl, strolling past a grazing goat as she impressively balances a basket full of water bags on her head.  She is drowned out by the bursts of hoots and excitable applause coming from exuberant packs of young children and other jovial Ghanaians.

However, her presence is quickly noticed and an energetic lean little boy squeezes his hand through a hole in the fence to retrieve a water bag from her.  He sprints back to hand it to the sweating, thirsty tennis player awaiting at the baseline to quench his thirst. 
I'm sitting on the steps surrounding a peeling, worn tennis court at The National Sports College in the coastal town of Winneba, Ghana. Along with talented future would-be musician Cat O'Connor, we are in the minority of vanilla faced spectators watching a somewhat 'serious' competitive final between two talented African tennis players.  I've been volunteering as a coach here with Gap company 'Sporting Opportunities' and a spontaneous tournament has easily been arranged with an abundance of donated prizes up for grabs! 

                           The competition is the flavour of the moment.


Hand made posters are stuck around the college campus and the news has spread like wild fire, reaching all ears in town inviting players from all over Ghana to compete for a 1 Ghana Cedi (60p) entry fee. 

The unbelievable athleticism of the two final players grind out the rallies as the noisy audience cheer and holler in the excitement.  The atmosphere is electrifying, light hearted banter sways back and forth under the fiery sun, as laughing children run across the court screaming with delight after each point - others voluntarily acting eagerly as balls kids, line judges and umpires.


I watch the captivated locals cling against the fence, even ensnaring the water girl off duty to watch the battle of outstanding quality tennis. As the final point is played, the crowd explode, roaring with ovation as other Ghanaian men rush the court, lifting the humble winner in triumph and parading him like a god to his adoring audience.


I have never seen so much raw energy in a tennis final in my life as I did in Africa - one sure to match Wimbledon Centre Court itself!. To top it off, the local radio station even interviewed me courtside on my thoughts on the match and had a post match game with the newly inspired children!


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