Eerily quiet matchdays have become the norm in England, but over 5,000 miles away supporters of one Premier League side are dancing in the streets… of Juaben.
When the day their team plays comes around, much of the town wakes up at 5am, dons their claret and blue attire and begins marching, dancing and singing songs through the streets to passionately declare their love for the Midlands team.
In the tiny village of Juaben in Ghana, they absolutely love football and one Premier League team in particular: Aston Villa
The residents of Juaben wake up at 5am to march through the streets and sing in support of their beloved team
At the heart of it is Owusu Amando Boakye, founder of the Ghana Lions, who has supported Villa for over 15 years
A small town in the Ejisu-Municipal District, a district in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
Located over 5,000 miles away from Villa Park
Population of 48,338, with at least 1,000 Villa fans
At the heart of it is 21-year-old Owusu Boakye Amando, founder of the Ghana Lions, who estimates there are now over 1,000 Villa supporters in the town. And that number is growing after he convinced supporters of the big names to move towards the team in claret and blue.
Owusu told Sportsmail: ‘Every Sunday morning it is our routine. We have to be fit and more active so that we can chant, so we do exercises and after that, we will chant and chant and go on for more than three hours.
‘When we come back we start the chants using the names of the footballers who play for Aston Villa, and we chant against the opponents we come to play against. We do some chants and we all watch them play together.
‘Most people were Chelsea fans, Man United fans, Barcelona fans. They are all joining us as Aston Villa fans now! Because what we are doing is amazing.’
So just how exactly did a town so far away become such avid supporters of a side who have not won a major trophy since 1996 and have spent recent years in the Championship? Owusu explains it is down to his grandfather and one Villa icon in particular.
‘My love for Aston Villa started when we were kids. My grandfather used to talk about lots of players, but there was a certain player he used to talk about most. He always talked about “God, God, God”.
Owusu’s Grandfather’s love for Villa ‘God’ Paul McGrath has led to an entire village becoming fans of the Midlands team
Owusu says he has convinced over 1000 people to support Villa and football is everything to them in the small village
‘So one day, I asked him, “Grandpa, who is this God you always talk about?” He said “there is only one God, but there is also a God in football and his name is Paul McGrath”.’
The supporters group’s carnival-like videos have proved popular on social media with domestic fans. Former Villa player and current youth coach George Boateng visited the village last year and wants to host them for a trip to Villa Park when they are able to. A petition was also set up by fans last year to get them to a game, with stars Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings donating to try to make it happen.
It proved not possible at the time, with the Aston Villa Foundation sending masses of shirts instead, but Owusu has not given up his dream of getting to the stadium one day.
‘It is our dream to go and see Villa Park. We want to see a game. All of my friends at the Ghana Lions say that.
‘When we finally get a chance to go to Villa Park, we are not going to sleep in any hotel, we are going to sleep in the Holte End because that is our home, that will be our room!’
Villa have a strong African connection these days. Egyptian co-owner Nassef Sawiris was considered the fourth-richest African in 2019, Ahmed Elmohammady and Trezeguet hail from the same country while midfielder Marvelous Nakamba and Bertrand Traore are the first Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso internationals respectively to play for the club.
It is the Ghana Lions’ dream to one day visit Villa Park and they plan to sleep in the famous Holte End rather than a hotel
Supporters go head to toe in claret and blue to show their support for the Birmingham-based side on matchdays
Their videos of self-written chants have proved a sensation on social media with Villa fans all over the world
For Owusu and his Villa-supporting friends, seeing players representing the club from backgrounds similar to them makes them burst with pride, while seeing a Villa star from their own country would be the icing on the cake.
‘If you are from Africa and you are playing for Aston Villa we feel honoured, to be honest. Whenever we see Trezeguet or Elmohammady or Nakamba playing, we feel proud because they are one of our own.
‘So we feel happy that they can represent us. What we really want is a Ghanaian to join Villa.’
The reaction to their videos has not always been positive, though, with the Ghana Lions also falling victim to the horrific abuse that can take place on social media. But overall, Owusu is feeling the love from the Villa fanbase.
‘Most people are saying that we are doing a great job here, but maybe two months ago, we received some racial comments.
‘Some people said “you don’t deserve to be Villa fans because of the colour of your skin”. But we are never going to let that distract us from what we are doing. We love Villa. Villa is more than anything to us.
Former Villa player and current youth coach George Boateng visited the village last year and wants to host them at stadium
Owusu says seeing fellow Africans such as Ahmed Elmohamady (left) and Trezeguet (right) play for Villa gives them pride
‘It’s all about the Aston Villa fans. They love us. It makes us feel that Villa is more than a family. Irrespective of where you are from. The way fans treat us, it’s awesome, it’s awesome! They always encourage us to stay strong and keep doing what we are doing.’
But amidst all the positivity they spread to fans all over the world, there is a sad truth. The football-loving people of Juaben haven’t been able to kick a ball for seven months because they don’t have a pitch good enough to play on.
‘We have a lot of talented footballers here but they are finding it difficult to show their talent because of the part of the world we live, and the financial difficulties we face,’ Owusu revealed.
‘To be honest, we have not been playing football for the last seven months because we don’t have a football pitch to train on. I’ve been asking the club if they can help us to get a pitch because football is always what makes us happy.
In the town of Juaben in Ghana, they absolutely love football and one Premier League team in particular: the Villans
Owusu claimed it is a much more relaxing experience to watch Villa play with the side having their best season in years
‘Football can make us unite. Our dream and goal is to get some of the Ghana Lions to play for Aston Villa and the Ghana National team.
‘My parents are poor so they couldn’t pay for my education. I don’t want the kids to be like me. I can see something great in the children, so I’m trying my best to help my village but I need some support to help that dream come true.’
Their difficult surroundings won’t waver their support for the Villa, though, with Dean Smith’s side this season bringing more joy than they had come to expect in previous years, a feeling that is certainly shared with Villa’s supporters back in England.
‘This is one of my best seasons and one of the Ghana Lions best seasons to support Villa. At times, when we were going to watch Villa games you would be nervous, you would be trembling. But now when we are going to play, I have confidence,’ said Owusu.
Fans sing, dance and chant for over three hours before they sit down together to watch the team play
‘When we played Arsenal, I told my friends don’t worry. Go to sleep and relax. Tomorrow we will beat Arsenal. And it happened exactly. So now I have confidence in the team, I feel relaxed watching Aston Villa. ‘
If by the end of the interview there was any doubt over the Ghana Lions’ love for Vila, Owusu declared ‘Aston Villa is everything to us’ before singing a three-minute long chant involving every Villa player from Emiliano Martinez to ‘Super’ John McGinn.