“Ghana vs. Us — who are you rooting for?!” my friend texted me. Three years ago, after 11th grade, I had the unique opportunity to participate in the American Jewish World Service Volunteer Summer Program in the remote village of Likpe Mate, Ghana. An avid soccer player, I was disappointed when my luggage with my sneakers was lost. Each day I would watch longingly from the sidelines, wanting to play with the incredibly talented Ghanaian soccer players, my new friends. After two weeks of waiting for my bag, I finally decided to play in my sandals, like some of the gifted Ghanaians. After two hours of intense soccer, I was running to block one last goal. I twisted my ankle in a ditch, ended up tearing a ligament, and had to leave the program early.
Now I watch Ghana go up against the U.S. in the World Cup. Ghana wins. Where does my loyalty lie, I am asked. Can I answer “Ghana”? Would that be unpatriotic? Can I answer “the U.S.”? Would that be forgetting my emotional connection to Ghana?
While in Ghana, I understood the meaning of real need. Even soccer was difficult for them to play at times, since there was not enough money to purchase a new ball. My luggage arrived the day before I left. In it was a soccer ball and pump. I handed these to Dennis (also known as Sha Sha), the captain of the village team, and his face lit up. Such a simple gift made a world of a difference in this little village. So when people ask me for whom I had been rooting, I don’t necessarily have an answer. Rather I just think about how bright Ghana must be right now, beaming with pride for their country.