Football

The village of Aston Villa fans in Juabeng, Ghana

Several miles away in the West African country’s Ashanti Region is a community deeply rooted in The Lions tradition

It is common to find hordes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City supporters in various cities across Ghana.

What you are unlikely to see is a village of wholly Aston Villa fans, but that’s actually the case.

In the village of Juaben in the Ashanti Region, Aston Villa matchdays generate an unusual frenzy as streets are brought to life by fans clad in the Claret and Blue Army colours and chanting songs in support of the club.

It is believed everyone in the village  – 700 of them – supports the West Midlands club.

20-year-old Owusu Boakye Armando, the leader of the village’s fan group explained the English club’s fame.

“I live in a village called Juaben in the Ashanti part of Ghana, and my love for Aston Villa started because of my grandpa. My grandpa’s father lived with some white people and they were from Birmingham. They were Aston Villa fans,” said Armando, as reported by Daily Star.

“At that time my grandfather was in his youthful age and a footballer too.

“They used to tell my grandparents more stories and the history of the club. They said they were going to take my grandpa to play for Aston Villa.

“It is my dream, my heart’s desire, when my grandpa was alive it was his dream to come to Villa Park, but he couldn’t fulfil it, I want to do it for my grandpa.

“When we were kids, he used to tell us more stories and history about Aston Villa, and he used to talk about a certain player called ‘God’.

“So one day me and the kids went to him and asked him ‘Grandpa, who is that ‘God’ you are talking about?’ Because we all know that there’s only one God and he is in Heaven.

“He was laughing and he told me that there’s a God in football and his name is Paul McGrath. My grandfather passed away 10 years ago and I inherited doing what he used to do for us when we were kids.”

Boakye called the Villa fan group the Ghana Lions. He has formed the village’s own men’s and women’s football teams out of the Ghana Lions, to among others, support the community in multiple ways.

“Sometimes you will see the kids coming to me to listen more about Aston Villa, so I formed this fan base always to celebrate Aston Villa. Villa till we die!” he said.

“Aston Villa is so popular because Villa is more than a family irrespective where you are coming from, and because of what we are doing here in my Village.

“I got to know that there’s no football team in my village and there are a lot of talented players here so I formed the team to teach and train those who have the talent to play football but their parents can’t afford to take them to football academies.

“I have also formed a women’s team to get opportunity close to the ladies to teach them sex education to minimise teenage pregnancies in my village. So day in day out, our fan base is growing because of what we are doing here.”

Last season, Villa endured a difficult campaign as they finished just one place above the relegation zone, beating the drop in dramatic fashion on the final matchday.

The Claret and Blue face Sheffield United in their league opener next Monday, some 5000 miles away in Juabeng, a group of 700 fans will be cheering The Lions on to victory.

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