By Sammie Frimpong
The historical perspective between Ghana and the 2015 Afcon’s hosts.
It does seem that Ghana, with each step it takes at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, is being reminded a little more of the past that has shaped – and continues to shape – its present.
The quarter-finals pitted the four-time African champions against Guinea, a country with which it has close ties, as was explained by this writer sometime last week. Having beaten the Syli Nationale 3-0, Ghana find Equatorial Guinea as the next serving on their plate in their quest for that elusive fifth Afcon prize. As the two sides line up to do battle on Thursday, the fixture – between one of African football’s traditional powerhouses and the overachieving hosts – would be a nod to a piece of history that, in a sense, binds the two together.
If you fancy – as I occasionally do – a game of football over a warm cup of cocoa, chances are you’d be served a double treat by Ghana and Equatorial Guinea on Thursday.
Well, let me explain.
A traveller’s good fortune
Rewind the clock as the time machine introduces us to a 19th century man named Tetteh Quarshie, of Ghana’s Ga-Adangme ethnic group. A blacksmith by trade, Quarshie, an agricultural enthusiast, was born on March 27, 1843.
In 1870, Quarshie travelled to Fernando Po (in modern-day Equatorial Guinea) strictly for professional reasons, namely, to produce agrarian tools for some farmers in that land. By ship he trekked, hoping to acquire wealth sufficient enough to ensure a comfortable existence when he came back to the Gold Coast (as Ghana was then referred to). Little did he know, though, that the most precious item he’d return to his homeland with would be of far more worth to himself – and to his homeland – than any bagful of pennies would.
While at his work, Quarshie – an avid part-time farmer – took interest in the labors of the people for whom he was manufacturing equipment. He observed, not without much admiration, the success with which the locals cultivated the cocoa crop, specifically the Amelonado type. Thus, as he packed his things to return to his own country in 1876 when his work abroad was done, Quarshie managed to bring along a cocoa pod containing seeds which would mould the economy and future of the country that wouldn’t become Ghana until another 81 years had elapsed.
How Quarshie got those seeds unnoticed into Ghana remains shrouded in mystery. Some, perhaps in stretching the tale a little, claim he procured and transported them illegally, swallowing the seeds whole, only to retrieve them in the manner reminiscent of drug-smugglers when he finally got home. However he did it, though, Quarshie succeeded in arriving with his little ‘booty’ pretty much intact. Three years later, the seeds found viable conditions on Quarshie’s farm in the mountain ranges of Akwapim Mampong and, boy, did they do well!
Quarshie reaped a small fortune, particularly from selling the resultant pods at a reported price of £1 each to piqued farming colleagues. One (or more?) of the original trees planted still stands today as an enduring testament to Quarshie’s remarkable foresight and diligence, and also as a marvel from the past to be savoured by the many who tour the property each year.
Thus began the literal establishment of the roots from which Ghana has sprouted as one of the top producers of cocoa in the world. In the early 1960s, at least, no country gave as much of the crop to the globe as Ghana did, while its quality remains unmatched in the opinion of many of the industry’s savants. Today, cocoa contributes plenty to Ghana’s economy and has ranked only second to gold and crude oil in recent years.
Oh, and about good old’ Tetteh Quarshie?
Well, the elevated status his achievement brought him has been retained ever since, over a full century after his death. One major hospital as well as an interchange in Accra have been named after him, while his face, printed beside an image of his famous cocoa pod, adorn Ghana’s current banknotes as watermarks.
Back to Fernando Po, then – the scene of Quarshie’s great discovery. It’s now called Bioko; check the map and you’d see it drifting off the coast of mainland Equatorial Guinea (much closer to Cameroon, actually). Make no mistake, though; it’s no isolated, low-profile territory. On it, you’d find the Equatoguinean capital, Malabo, where Ghana and the Nzalang Nacional are set to cross swords on Thursday.
For a fact, you could bet the Black Stars have a mind to emulate Quarshie the patriot by emerging from the Central African state with yet another valuable, only not cocoa seeds this time.
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