Pitch to Pitchside: How sickness forced a female Ghanaian footballer into commentary

ACCRA, GHANA: Joyce Annor Yeboah grew up wanting to play football. However, a sickness that nearly killed her made her quit the game to pick up a new passion; football commentary.

Pitch to Pitchside: How sickness forced a female Ghanaian footballer into commentary

Having mastered the art of talking fast while serving all the sports news, Joyce nails it to the core as has been the norm in Ghana for sports shows.

This style of presentation started in Kumasi. Most radio stations had limited time for their sports updates and resorted to talking fast to deliver all the updates in the various sports disciplines within the shortest possible time.

Years on, this act of fast-talking has become a trait of every sports show in Ghana, sneaking its way from radio to television too.

Joyce Annor Yeboah had always known her talent when it comes to the game of football but what hit her was something she never expected. Commentating on the game was just a backup plan.

Joyce was born in Buokrom, a suburb of Ghana’s second-largest city, Kumasi. She, however, grew up in a small town called Asankare in Asante Akim South Municipal of the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

“Asankare was a village at the time I was there. I grew up there. I completed Junior High School there and also went to the Presbyterian Senior High School at the same time," Joyce told Pulse.com.gh.

“That was when I completed SHS, my first SHS.”

Financial hardship was the reason Joyce Annor Yeboah had to spend another time in a senior high school despite having already had that formal education in Ghana.

According to Joyce, she was ready to pursue her tertiary education when her mother sat her down for a conversation.

Her mother disclosed to her that she had to enrol in another senior high school because her elder siblings were about making their entrance to tertiary and there was not enough financial backing to support all of them. She agreed and started all over again at Collins Senior High.

In all this, Joyce’s love for the game was a highlight in her life story.

The love for the game had started at an early age of 5. Joyce used to go out with the boys to watch football. Sometimes she played to the point of tearing her footwear.

Watching football for the first time on television is something Joyce remembers very well; the UEFA Champions League semi-final game between Chelsea and Barcelona in 2012.

That was the start of small beginnings in football commentary.

Joyce started playing football professionally after her first senior high school stint. Following her participation in the inter-district football trials, she was selected to be part of a regional female team representing the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

Sandra Owusu Ansah, a Black Queens star was the captain of the U17 team that Joyce played in. They travelled to the Volta Region for a national tournament which they won. At this time, Joyce was still in Asankare but her mother moved their family back to Kumasi following the national tournament she had participated in.

Joyce's professional football journey was starting to take shape as she pushed herself to the best she could, leveraging on all the support she could get.

“There was this man who was interested in my talent,” Joyce tells Pulse.com.gh.

“He was pushing me hard. He decided to help me so he got me a team called All-Star Ladies. We used to train at Prempeh College. Our head coach was Mr Anokye.

“He got me that team, registered me and promised to take care of my boots and everything but my parents should support with transportation money.

“It got to a time that my mother, my brother, my sisters were complaining they could not pay the transportation from Buokurom to Sofoline.”

The determination Joyce had to make her choice of career work was more than the challenges at hand, at least in that moment. One of the most determined things she had to do trying to find her feet was to walk (jog sometimes) from Buokurom, a suburb of Kumasi to Prempeh College just to keep her place in her team – approximately a 7km distance.

“It got to a time I had to walk from the house to training,” Joyce continued her story to Pulse.com.gh.

Reality set in and her body could not support the stress anymore. Joyce was tired so she stopped the training.

In Ghana, there is a stereotype that a female being around males could only end up in one activity – sex. This is arguably a stereotype across the globe too and Joyce’s story was no different.

Having quit her 7km trek to her football training, her love to continue pursuing a playing career in football had not died out. It was still a passion for Joyce who joined a colt team that was close to her place of residence. Rare Kids team had all boys but Joyce.

That was when the interruptions started and people in her community tried to scare her mother of a possible pregnancy because she was always with the boys.

“People will tell my mother to advise her daughter otherwise the guys will impregnate her,” Joyce Annor Yeboah told Pulse Ghana. “It wasn’t easy by then.”

“In August 2015, I fell sick severely. I nearly died. I stayed at home for a year because it wasn’t easy. I did not know the type of sickness that attacked me but it was severe. It was serious,” Joyce Annor Yeboah tells Pulse.com.gh about the sickness that ended her football career.

“Doctors declared that I would not survive but it was by the grace of God that I am still alive.”

Joyce enrolled in Collins Senior High School and was immediately made the school’s team captain. She had led them to win games and was their captain for Milo games.

Despite that being her second senior high school due to the inability of her mother to support her tertiary financially at the time, Joyce had to quit the school that gave her another chance at football.

It was serious. She got close to the point of dying. After staying at home for a year, she changed high school after she got healed.

The aspiring footballer still wanted to complete the education she had started and enrolled in a third secondary school, Garden City Commercial at Buokurom, Kumasi as a day student.

Her passion for the game was still at a high level but her body was weak. That was the end of an era. An era of Joyce Annor Yeboah playing football.

“That was the end of my football career. After being sick, I wasn’t able to play football again,” she sadly disclosed.

With all the knowledge Joyce who was affectionately called ‘Neymar’ during her football days had gathered, she chose to find another way to make her love for the game work.

From following people to the stadium, watching games, going to television centres to share her passion with others, the former female Ghanaian footballer picked up commentary. But that was not an easy switch.

Joyce had earned her accolades of a great football player. In her community, everyone knew the lady who played like Neymar. ‘The lady footballer who played better than men’.

Letting it all go after the sickness was a big blow. A blow that affected her psychologically.

“Psychologically I was not good. All I heard in my mind was ‘So, I can’t play football again?’,” Joyce reminisced on what was not meant to be.

“The football was part of me.”

With the help of family and friends, she pursued her education, got over the shock and until her admission to the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).

The jump to football commentary did not start immediately for the retired footballer. During her playing days, she had developed the love for commentary listening to Obuoba FM working at a washing bay.

That coupled with her passion for the game, and a few friends who help with going to games at the Accra Sports Stadium after enrolling in GIJ made Joyce better at what she does.

She understands the challenges she faces doing what she does as a female.

“I know football commentary is a male-dominated profession in Ghana,” Joyce told Pulse.com.gh.

“What I can say is, I can do it better than the males. There is a saying, what men can do, women can do better. I believe this is a talent from God, and I can do it better.”

Joyce has a vision for the future when it comes to football commentary after playing the game did not work out. For her, being recognized by FIFA as a commentator is the ultimate goal.

“In the near future, I want to be recognized by CAF and FIFA when it comes to football commentary,” she told Pulse.com.gh.

“That will encourage other females who have the talent. People who have been discouraged by friends and family will be encouraged.

“I want is getting to the level of CAF and FIFA to impact lives.”

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