The ‘African Brazil’ is a term many crazy football fans in Ghana are proud to associate with when referring to the senior national team – Black Stars. Its roots stem from a bye-gone era when Ghana had proper football associations with Brazil, and were as dominant on the continent as the South American football nation were back home.
The many varied layers of links between Ghana and Brazil provide the basis for the egotistical name ‘Africa Brazil’. A young Carlos Alberto Parreira from Brazil landed his first job as a football coach in Ghana – shortly after moving out, he gained promotion and became the assistant coach of Samba Boys prior to the 1970 World Cup. The belief that Ghana football at the early stage was shaped by Brazil is supported by evidence of Parreira’s work whilst here.
There’s a shared belief that many of the slaves exported across the Atlantic Ocean went to Brazil until the slave trade was abolished in 1988. This according to the school of thought, explains the enormous Ghanaian influence on Brazilian culture, music, dance and rituals.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento [Original Pele] visited Ghana in 1969 and proclaimed then “that one day an African country would win the World Cup”. On the 6th February 1969, Accra Hearts of Oak were held to a 2-2 drawn game by a Pele-led Santos FC of Brazil in an international friendly at the Accra Sports Stadium. The national attachment to football made in Brazil grew stronger with then President Dr Kwame Nkrumah sending a number of coaches to train in Brazil before taking charge of national teams that were hugely successful on the continent.
Aside many young footballers in Ghana nicknaming themselves Pele, arguably the greatest Footballer to be produced by the country is also named Abedi Ayew Pele. The UEFA Champions League winner and three-time African Footballer of the Year sadly did not play at the World Cup but was alive to see Ghana on the big stage and in the first official meeting of Africa’s Brazil and Brazil.
2006 World Cup – Dortmund, Germany
Ghana had stunned Czech Republic, who were at the time ranked No. 2 in the World by FIFA, and USA to make the round of 16 at the Mundial hosted by Germany. The expectations were high after the performances of the team and their ability to have bounced back from an opening defeat to eventual champions, Italy.
Twice in five minutes in Dortmund, the Black Stars got caught out at the back. Ghana was initially saved by a flag incorrectly ruling Ronaldo offside, but luck run out the second time when Kaka fed in Ronaldo, who went past goalkeeper Kingson and slotted in.
Just before the break, the Black Stars were punished again when Brazil launched a quick counter-attack – Cafu crossed for a seemingly offside Adriano to bundle home. Head coach Ratomir Dujkovic was sent to the stands for the second half after remonstrating with the referee. Gyan was handed his marching orders after he was punished for diving.
There was a final attempt by Brazil – substitute Ricardinho floated a ball over the top and Ze Roberto flicked it past Kingson, ran round him and rolled into an empty net. Ghana lost by three goals to nil and excited the competition.
2007 Friendly – Stockholm, Sweden
Fresh from the World Cup and with a new man in charge, the Black Stars were billed to face the Samba boys in Sweden. French Boss Claude Le Roy had replaced Ratomir Djokovic as Ghana’s head coach and had the immediate task of preparing the senior national team for AFCON 2008 [which was hosted in Ghana].
The only goal of the game was scored by Vagna Love in the 17th minute when he capitalized on poor decision-making by the Ghanaian defence to slot in the ball. In the second half, free kicks from both Laryea Kingston and Sulley Muntari were tipped onto the bar by the Brazilian stopper. The Stars fought back to cancel the lead but failed on some occasions to find the net and went into the dying minutes of the game with a numerical disadvantage when midfielder Haminu Draman was shown a red card.
The defeat of the Stars is the first by the team after they last conceded against the Brazilian side at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Claude le Roy felt Ghana deserved a draw at least “I think we deserved to equalize – we had the chances. I don’t like losing and it’s the first defeat in seven matches since I took over the national team, but overall I’m pleased with our game,” he explained.
2011 Friendly – Craven Cottage, England
All of the attention prior to kick-off was focused on the returning Ronaldinho, with the former World Player of the Year making his first appearance for his country in 10 months. The 31-year-old had been in impressive form for Flamengo since returning to his homeland and was drafted back into the fold by coach Mano Menezes. For Ghana, Goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey who had only made his debut for the national team against Swaziland was up for perhaps his biggest night of football.
In just 13minutes, the Black Stars were down to 10 men after Daniel Opare was given the marching orders for a second bookable offence. In fact, English referee, Mike Dean handed out eight cards in what was a feisty encounter. Brazil found the breakthrough just before halftime with a defence-splitting ball from Fernandinho allowing Leandro Damiao to find the bottom corner.
Ronaldinho offered glimpses of brilliance and came close to scoring with an outstanding free-kick just before full-time but Adam Kwarasey was at his best to tip Gaucho’s excellent free-kick around his left-hand post. Brazilians had to settle for the one-goal victory thanks to the heroics of goalie Kwarasey.
Ghana’s star in Stockholm
11 years down the line, Adam Kwarsey told me about his experience against Brazil that night.
“The Brazil game came a couple of days after and I think we were going to keep one half each and Richard got a minor injury during the warm-up so they told me that I was going to keep the whole game. I don’t really remember what went through my mind – it’s just another game, just go and play. I felt like we didn’t have that much to lose, it’s a friendly game,” he said.
“I will say we did our job but 30 mins after we got the red card I got a little bit scared – like ‘this is going to be a long night’ but I think we did well as a team and also individually. It was just a good experience and it’s nice to tell my son I’ve played for the Black Stars for some years.”
The now FC Oslo sporting director also added that he felt nothing special from that friendly even though Ghanaians were quick to heap praise on him.
“It was a good game but of course, people always talk about that game but it’s just a game and of course, a nice experience but you’re done with it,” he explained.
So in the meetings of the ‘Brazils’ – Africa’s Brazil is yet to record a goal and have endured a red in each of the three meetings. Ghana face Brazil for the fourth time in France on September 23, 2022.
Will this be an opportunity for the Brazil of Africa to finally show up?