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Win the match and vote for me: the politicisation of Ghana's Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko football clubs*

  • Kevin S. Fridy (a1) and Victor Brobbey (a2) (a3)

There is a common perception in Ghana that Accra Hearts of Oak is the soccer club of the National Democratic Congress, and Kumasi Asante Kotoko that of the New Patriotic Party. In this paper we explore the roots of these perceptions by examining the social history of these two clubs specifically, and the Ghanaian soccer league system in general, with an eye for the actors, practices and events that injected political airs into purportedly ‘apolitical’ athletic competitions. With this social history clearly defining the popularly perceived ‘us’ versus ‘them’ of the Hearts/Kotoko rivalry, we analyse on the basis of a modest survey some of the assumptions these widely held stereotypes rely upon. We find that ethnicity and location matter both in terms of predicting one's affinity for a given soccer club and partisan inclinations. These factors do not, however, completely dispel the relationship between sports and politics as spurious. Though not conclusive, there is enough evidence collected in the survey to suggest that one's preferred club, even when controlling for ethnicity and location, does have an effect on one's partisan leanings, or perhaps vice versa. This finding highlights the independent role that often-understudied cultural politics can play.

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The authors thank H. Kwesi Prempeh, Peter von Doepp and the Journal of Modern African Studies' anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts. They also thank Pastor Isaac Yen (Nabdam), Charles Agyapong (Bantama), Addy Hussein (Odododiodio) and their field teams for assistance with the surveys, and editors Yaw Asare (Hearts News) and Ken Bediako (Kotoko Express) for their invaluable insights on football in Ghana.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
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