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Calgary and Edmonton clash in All-African soccer match

28 May 2018 at 19:39 | 2603 views

By Abayomi Charles Roberts, PV General Editor, Edmonton, Canada.

(with Daniel Oldfield)

Youngsters from Calgary and Edmonton recently met and observed African Liberation Day (May 25) even though it may not have been planned. They clashed in a friendly soccer match that showed a strong spirit of African unity. The match took place at the Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton on Saturday 26 May 2018; exactly 55 years after the Organization of African Unity (OAU) – now called the African Union (AU) - was founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963.

Edmonton and Calgary are fierce rivals in ice hockey and American football but the atmosphere at Saturday’s soccer game was so friendly; much like the spirit espoused by Pan-African leaders who pioneered African Liberation Day (or Africa Day) over half a century ago.

Many of those who played in the match are quite young and somewhat removed from the African continent. They, understandably, showed just a fleeting awareness of the pan-African symbolism of May 25. There was no chanting of political slogans, pumping of fists, or flying pan-African flags. However, there was a strong spirit of friendship and community as the youngsters competed with passion; playing a sport that is so popular all over Africa. It was a real show of African solidarity in a unique way.

Calgary team

As the players and their supporters interacted, it was tough to tell that they were from opposing teams. “Nobody really pays attention to nationalities; just our common African ancestry,” one fan observed. It was striking that the organizers also paid tribute to their respective cities; mirroring the sports rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton. The jerseys of the two soccer teams reflected the enduring rivalry between the two cities in Canadian Football League (CFL) circles. Each of the All-African Select squads wore the colours of its home city’s football team: red-and-black for Calgary (Stampeders) and green-and-gold for Edmonton (Eskimos).

Edmonton team

Freddy Marek, one of the organizers summed it all up both in words and with the shirt he wore. “The main goal is a celebration of our African heritage while having fun in a healthy, family-friendly way.” Marek sported a black T-shirt emblazoned with a map of Africa and the phrase ‘Afro Revolution’. Speaking to The Patriotic Vanguard before the match, Marek traced this rare sport project to sometime last year. He recalled how he was asked to organize a soccer series exclusively for players of African ancestry. The idea was to draw players from schools and clubs in the two cities and get them to play two friendly matches in a home-and-away format. “We want to get a corps of about 25 players who will represent the African community in this province (Alberta),” he explained.

Match officials with the two team captains

One big challenge was getting reputable match officials, preferably within African community here. This was where Referee Michael Adeniken came in. “He is widely respected in football circles and our young players all see him as a father figure in the game,” Marek complimented. Referee Adeniken, along with his two referee assistants, handled the match admirably. One of his assistants Olabanju Salamu told The Patriotic Vanguard how inspired he was by the spirit of cooperation around the match. "I’m deeply touched as an African myself," he said. All the three match officials were clearly eager volunteers.

Freddy Malek (centre) organiser of the match

The Calgary team featured goalkeeper Anthony Kofi Adarkwa, Ronaldo Nketia, Gabriel Dominic, Brothers Charles and Joseph Anyanga, Kuol Yor, Sampson Harcourt, Thomas Kargbo, Ben Khalfan, Chimez Uzo, Peter Ntigne, and Yusuph Kalenga. Their team captain was Mat Arok and the coach was Rofas Sheikh Eldin.

Edmonton fielded players like Allan Zebie, David Doe, Darlington Sackor, Kehinde Onidare, Armando Garcia, Julian Gonzales, Abrahim Sheriff and co-organizers Kihara Waiganjo and Joe Adjei. Edmonton’s captain was Kiki Yuganjo.

Yuganjo.

The match got off to a quick start as the visitors from Calgary came close to scoring in the opening minutes. Then the hosts settled down and brought their game to their rivals. It was a keen, fast-paced contest as each side crafted chances; only for the opponents to foil their raids. The hosts eventually won 4-2. Doe and Sackor each got braces for Edmonton; while Ntigne scored for the visitors. A date for the return leg is yet to be announced but Saturday’s crowd turnout hints Calgary won’t have to wait too long to play host. According to www.timeanddate.com, “African Liberation Day began as African Freedom Day during the first conference of independent African states in Ghana in 1958.” It was the first pan-African summit in the continent. “Between 1958 and 1963 the movement, 17 countries won their independence. Then, 1960 was proclaimed the Year of Africa. On May 25, 1963, thirty-one African leaders convened a summit meeting to found the Organization of African Unity (OAU). They renamed Africa Freedom Day as “African Liberation Day" and changed its date to May 25. The founding date of the OAU is also referred to as “Africa Day”.

“Today, ALD is observed in countries like Ghana, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Events include formal gatherings with panel discussions, street marches, speeches by political and social leaders, special university lectures, and rallies featuring cultural entertainment, poetry, and speakers," reads the website.

Here in Canada, there is an annual Africa Day flag-raising ceremony. This year it was held on Thursday 24 May 2018; in front of the Ontario legislature building in Toronto. The Patriotic Vanguard‘s publisher/chief editor Gibril Gbanabome Koroma attended the event as communications director of the Federation of Sierra Leonean Unions in Canada. Saturday’s soccer match in Edmonton turned out to be probably the first ever ALD/Africa Day observance of its kind in Alberta.

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