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Opinions of Saturday, 21 August 2021

Columnist: Dziko Debu

Hustling in Europe: The real 'hustlers'

Many African-Americans participated in the Euro 2020 Many African-Americans participated in the Euro 2020

The Euro 2020 is over and I kept asking myself a lot of questions over and over again. Actually, I started pondering over the “daring” – if I am permitted to say so – exploits of those colleagues from West Africa here who went that extra mile in their “hustling” endeavours.

Ever since the names of Jerome Boateng (born September 1988) and Kevin Prince Boateng (born March 1987) surfaced in the larger Football arena, I absolutely saluted the “daring” attitude of that gentleman hustler from Ghana who fathered these two great footballers.

We Ghanaians felt so proud of these two half-brothers, although we read at the time that there was Jerome’s senior brother George too. To me, the Papa of the Boatengs was “daring”.

Through him, Ghana became more popular on the Soccer map. Why can’t we honour him? I personally met another great “European” of Soccer fame, Tony Baffoe at the 40th Ghana Independence Anniversary when I was invited to the occasion in Bonn Bad Godesburg by the Ghana Embassy’s Dr. Brandful. Tony’s sister used to be very popular in the German media. But Tony, I beg to say, would not fall in my borrowed definition “Hustlers” offsprings, being a son of a Diplomat or so.

As said, looking at life in the “hustling” field in Europe, one would agree that not all who travelled to the West (or elsewhere) were “hustlers” in this borrowed definition. Before the 1980s, travel to Aburokyire was normally by Scholarship and the like and through Black Star Line Seamen who emigrated. But around the time that one Nigerian Naira could fetch US$1.25,
it is said that this was the era that most of our guys entered Europe.

It also said that several started from “Ageege” and because the Naira was so strong, furthering to Europe was not all that difficult. For the “Hustler” Group, life was not considered so easy up there in the West.

On arrival, you would be briefed about how to start “earning”. The most common form of earning included cleaning, which I experienced myself. To be able to “work” you would need to regularize your stay. Regularize means you need a residence. Without residence, how would you go to the Arbeitsamt or Employment Centres? But who would be looking after you till your miracle of “residence” comes? Hence you must follow the experienced guys. Use
someone’s ID and get on board. (Do not think that the word ID would mean your photograph, which must be seen. No). Only the name mattered. And if “Emperor John” was legally resident and “loaned” his ID to me, it meant I would have to move to other areas which were not close to where “Emperor John” worked. And I would have to be guided to “Employers” who are moderate enough and since they would be paying you less, sometimes knowing about
your background, they cared not so much about you saying that you were (not) EMPEROR JOHN.

You would have to get several jobs so as to make it, because normally the said jobs in the covered category used to be two-hourly only. Hence you needed at least three other jobs within the day to be able to sum up to six hours at least.

In Germany, even Buskarte must bear your name and date of birth!
You would like to ask about Medical Care! How do such “hustlers” get medical care when unwell? In some instances, the Praxis or GP (in UK) would not be too bothered about the TRUE ID. So one could get through, at times but with risks.

Above is just a faint description of hustling life in Aburokyire. But all work no play makes Jack a dull boy, so the saying goes. So there are the days that one had to “enjoy”. Oh, I quite remember that it started with the Kölner Karneval which was just a short while after our “green-horn” arrival in NordRhein Westfalia state capital of Düsseldorf.

But sooner, we crossed borders and entered Amsterdam and lo and behold, the Karneval there could be near that of Sao Paolo.

I very well remember the only English Language Church Service we called JESUS HAUS in Düsseldorf. We had Pastor Frank from Naija and the two Ghanaian Pastor brothers, one of whom was coming from Dortmund. The Church, no doubt, was that ‘good place’ where one could get coaching about how to survive without papers being in place.

It was also that place where one could be seriously misled. In any case, the survival must be!!

Despite all the above, there were the “daring” ones who would soon find love. Yes, love did not matter you being a “Paperless” Immigrant of that sort. The European ladies loved the word LOVE. If it is love, so be it. One could then quickly get married and then the stay got regularized. There were also other ways by which one could trace an advert and follow that “lonely lady” who advertised. More other ways were there, especially in the discos.
Here, the “daring” ones became the ones who broke barriers. I recall being in the Concert Group that trained and performed on NRW State TV during the 200th Birthday Anniversary Celebration of the Düsseldorfer Heinrich Heine.
How could I be daring enough to honour these pretty German lady concert mates’ invitations?

Then that late evening in June 1998. I very well remembered this pretty English Lady tutor of this College in Kingston upon Thames who openly invited me (when she only met me at the Bus Stop) saying that “My heart is so devastated with the match as we (England) were narrowly beaten by Romania now. So painful. Please I need someone to give me that company. Will you
come home with me”? I was scared. I couldn’t be “daring”. Crazy me.

May I please emphasize that I am not by this article trying to say that these great footballers with African names (but with European nationalities that we see these days) are products of these opportunities. I am sincerely trying to salute our HUSTLERS who, despite the situations in which we found ourselves, were “daring” enough to take risks. They, in the referred instances, made Africa or Ghana proud today. The real “hustlers” in my world, are those who were “daring” enough to take risks beyond their comfort zone. The real “hustlers” in my world were those who were bold enough to (today’s word) date the European ladies.

Can’t I respectfully ask that we need to salute these real hustlers who may have made it possible for Ghanaian/African names to appear on the Team Sheets in Euro 2020?

Well done, daring Hustlers and may you be strengthened. I respect each one of you.