When Aston Villa take on Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday in the Carabao Cup final, thousands of ecstatic Villa fans in England will be hopeful.
Almost 5,000 miles away, hundreds of Aston Villa fans in Juaben, Ghana will be singing and dancing ahead of the big finale.
Juaben is a small town in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipal District, a district in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. In this town, most of the residents identify as one people because of their mutual love for Aston Villa.”
Ghana Lions is the name of this passionate supporters group which was founded by 20-year-old Owusu Boakye Amando in 2010.
Founder of Ghana Lions – Owusu Boakye Amando
Out of the 700 Aston Villa fans in Juaben, about 200 of them are currently active members of Ghana Lions.
Ahead of Aston Villa games, the 200 plus members meet in the morning to sing loud chants and dance in the streets of Juaben because they believe the positive energy penetrates borders.
The love story between Juaben and Aston Villa dates back to two generations ago when Owusu learnt about the Claret and Blue from his late grandfather.
“I have supported Villa for the past 15 years. When we were kids my Grandpa used to tell stories and history about the club to us.” Owusu told BirminghamLive.
“He used to talk about a certain player – ‘God, God, God’. So the kids with me 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 said: ‘There is a god in football and his name is Paul McGrath.’
Paul McGrath managed 323 appearances as a centre-back for Aston Villa between 1989 and 1986. In his seven-year spell, Aston Villa finished second twice in the league and won the League Cup (Carabao Cup) twice.
Paul McGrath is held in high regard by Aston Villa fans worldwide
After the 1992-93 season, McGrath was adjudged as PFA Players’ Player of the Year, and up-to-date remains only one of the six defenders to win the award.
McGrath’s legacy still lives on even though Owusu’s grandfather passed away nine years ago. Owusu, as a result, inherited the group and is impacting his community with limited resources.
“I have a football club here called Aston Villa where I train and teach the children who have the talent to play football but their parents can’t pay for them to go to football academies. We have the under-10, under-12, under-15 and under-17 teams,” he said.
Ghana Lions are the only Aston Villa supporters’ group in Africa registered in the UK and have been endorsed by the Aston Villa Foundation. Owusu’s dream is that Aston Villa will start an academy in the West African country.
“Our vision is to see this Aston Villa team in Juaben grow to become an academy which will be sponsored by Kappa[who are Aston Villa’s kit sponsors].”
“The talents in the Ashanti Region are incredible and if we do get an academy here, we can produce great players for the Ghana national teams, Aston Villa and other clubs in Europe”, he added.
Off the pitch, these guys thrive on the saying “Aston Villa is more than a family”. In Juaben, they look out for one another and have the interests of each other at heart.
“Every Sunday morning the Aston Villa fans here meet and keep fit by jogging and singing various Aston Villa chants. If a member of Ghana Lions is in dire need, other members contribute to help,” Owusu explained.
He added; “Even when a member is getting married, the group supports them financially.”
Ghana Lions have been an epitome of how social media can be used as a tool to reach a larger audience. Since 2018, the group have gained a lot of prominence worldwide through their posts on Twitter.
The group recently benefitted from the Aaron Smith fund as they were on the receiving end of jerseys, cones, football and bibs from donations made in the UK.
Ghana Lions recieved donations from the Aaron Smith fund
Freddie Stewart who is an organiser at Woodgate in England also started a fundraiser for Ghana Lions which saw Aston Villa stars Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings donate to the cause.
Currently, Mr Stewart is working with the Villa Foundation to ensure the money is put to its best possible use for the Ghana Lions.
On Sunday, Aston Villa will look to make history when they face Manchester City. Owusu believes the people in Juaben are confident ahead of the big match.
“We the Aston Villa fans in Juaben are really excited ahead of this final because we just moved from the Championship to the Premier League last year. It’s not been easy this season but our prayer is that Aston Villa will win the cup and play in Europe next season.”
“We are confident we will win because we conquered Europe in 1982. We are the Villa boys of Aston, we travel near and far. On Sunday, the boys will have our full support all the way from Juaben.”
Ghana Lions will be chanting for Aston Villa when they face Man City in the Carabao Cup final
Over the years, Ghana Lions have grown in numbers and they believe each day, they take a step towards their vision of giving children in Juaben a future through football.
Owusu Boakye Amando lives knowing that the mantle has been passed to him and it is his responsibility to help make Juaben a better place in his own small way.
His mantra is: “We love Villa. We did not choose, we were chosen.”