A global game: How Kumasi, Ghana, became Nashville SC’s African Backline

This is the story of how YouTube, a goalkeeper in Ghana, and some local good Samaritans in Nashville led to the creation of a more than 20 member strong Nashville Soccer Club supporters group in Kumasi, Ghana.

Adam Suleman Nyamekye plays as a goalkeeper for a soccer club in his hometown of Kumasi, Ghana. Always interested in improving his game, Nyamekye was watching goalkeeping highlights on YouTube earlier this year when he ran across a nice save by Joe Willis, Nashville SC’s remarkable keeper.  Nyamekye was so impressed with Willis that he began following both Willis and Nashville SC in general on various social media outlets. 

Finding himself now watching full highlights from Nashville SC games, Nyamekye began sharing his excitement with some of his teammates from his local club. The group found themselves enjoying the play of many of Nashville’s players, putting particular focus on Hany Mukhtar, Walker Zimmerman and Jhonder Cádiz.  Nyamekye claims that these players “caught the heart” of those watching the highlights, and they decided to start a group, “The Lovers of Nashville SC”.  Wanting to be part of the larger community, Nyamekye began posting about the team on different Nashville SC Facebook groups.

What happened next is precisely how community grows when its members take care of each other.

Nyamekye’s posts caught the attention of a number of fans, including Greg Roberts, Andy Detwiler (whom others in the group look to as the point man), Paula Pierce, Nestor Patino, Jeremy Devito, and Jill Smith. The group gathered merchandise and paid to have it shipped to the Ghana group. Nyamekye notes that the package included a Nashville SC flag, 3 scarves, 3 pair of socks, a soccer ball, a pump and 5 shirts. This gift, the act of giving more than the merchandise itself, he notes, gave the Ghana group even more reason to “grow some love for the Boys in Gold.”

Photo courtesy Adam Suleman Nyamekye

When I reached out to the group in Nashville, they were not only thrilled to talk about the Ghana fans, but it’s clear that there is a lot of back and forth going on between the groups. Paula Pierce noted that she works for Fanatics and did all she could to help get the group merchandise that they could use. Nyamekye was so touched that he asked if he could refer to Pierce’s children as his brother and sister. 

Roberts told me that the group has been a great deal of fun to work with, and he loves the idea of helping spread Nashville SC support abroad. Detwiler observed that he was impressed with how people responded when he started to put together the package. Even FedEx, when he told them the story, were extremely helpful about making sure that the merchandise would arrive through customs without the Ghana group having to pay any fees. When a photo was put up a few weeks later, of the Ghana supporters smiling with the merchandise, it made the entire project seem simple. 

“All this makes me realize,” Andy notes, “that Nashville SC fans aren’t just a group or a club… they’re a community!”

It doesn’t end there. Earlier this week, when Nyamekye mentioned that the supporters in Ghana did not have a digital TV to watch matches (they often were watching highlights later), NSC supporter Greg Raucoules saw the post and, independent of anyone else, started a GoFundMe to take care of the problem.  Before the day was over, Raucoules had raised $175 (more than the goal of $150) and was able to wire funds to Nyamekye. Both Nyamekye and the original group of NSC supporters who had sent the merchandise were thrilled to see others stepping up.

Photo courtesy Adam Suleman Nyamekye

Prior to the television, Nyamekye would stay up all night during games to make sure he relayed every post from the official NSC account to let the other Ghana supporters know exactly what happened. Kumasi is six hours ahead of Nashville, making a 7 PM start for us a 1 AM game for the Ghana group.  After the game is over, the group celebrates victories and bemoans losses.  After the recent first round playoff victory against Inter Miami, Nyamekye organized a pool party to celebrate. For Tuesday night’s win over Toronto, the group simply stayed up to watch the game and celebrated every bit as hard as any of us.  

Currently, the Nashville SC Supporters Union in Kumasi has 23 members. Other MLS teams with local support include the Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids and (yikes!) FC Cincinnati. Some of the interest in MLS in general and in Colorado and Columbus in particular derives from the fact that Lalas Abubakar, a center back who has played for both teams, is originally from Kumasi. This makes it even more remarkable, in my mind, that this group has latched on to Nashville.

Nyamekye and the rest of the supporters play friendlies in the community under the name of Nashville SC. And while they still face some challenges (they have very few soccer balls, some of the players do not have proper jerseys, the pitch needs work), they are optimistic about the future, both of their community and of the team itself. 

Adam, the man who started it all. Courtesy Adam Suleman Nyamekye

There is something special about soccer communities without a doubt. As I sit at home, watching during the pandemic, it is comforting to think of a larger community of us doing the same thing and cheering, arguing and talking through social media. The fact that there is a group in Ghana right there with us makes it all the more special.

On Sunday evening, when Nashville takes on Columbus in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the game will kick off at 1 AM for our friends in Ghana. I’m sure they’ll be watching, and I may just imagine I’m there, cheering along with them.

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