The dancing pallbearers of Ghana – the Nana Otafrija Pallbearing and Waiting Services [COURTESY]

2020 has not been THAT year.

Ever since the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission in China reported what they referred to as a “cluster of cases of pneumonia” in Wubei Province on 31 December 2019, the world has never been the same again.

As of Sunday, May 17, 5:40 pm, more than 4.6 million people had contracted Covid-19, over 1.71 million recovered and 310,000 died.

To curb the spread, countries have implemented a series of health guidelines that have changed the way we live and go about our business. But amidst the doom and gloom, a group of pallbearers from Ghana have become a sensation.

Dancing pallbearers of Ghana

Nana Otafrija Pallbearing and Waiting Services need no introduction. This is a dance troupe led by Benjamin Aidoo, who is also the founder. The troupe is comprised of seven men, popular for their animated dance moves while carrying a coffin.

Get the latest sports news updates. Subscribe to our SMS sports service by texting ‘SPORTS’ to 22840.

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Aidoo said he wants to help the world hold joyful funerals. His greatest wish? “… If I had that chance, I dream of driving Ronaldinho to his last home. Then Maradona and finally Messi,” says Aidoo.

So who are the three soccer stars on Aidoo’s wish-list?

1.    Gaucho Ronaldinho

Paraguayan Supreme Court, Asuncion, Paraguay – March 7, 2020? Ronaldinho handcuffed and escorted by police at the Supreme Court of Paraguay [REUTERS/Jorge Adorno]

“I dream of driving Ronaldinho to his last home…Ronaldinho is a player who has always impressed me. It would be a tribute from the dancer that I am, to the dancer that he was in the field,” he says.

Speaking to Foot Mercato, Aidoo says he is a big fan of Ronaldinho. He reminisces the times Ronaldinho dribbled past defenders and scored goals while donning the colours of Brazil, Paris St Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan.

Ronaldinho, aged 40 is a star by all sense. He left an indelible mark on the football pitch during his glory days at Camp Nou, playing for Barcelona and the seasons of glory at AC Milan and Paris Saint Germain (PSG).

The tall man with buck teeth and insane ball control from Gremio, has broken almost every record as a professional footballer. He boasts, among others, the FIFA player of the year award in 2004, 2005 and the coveted Ballon d’Or award.

In recent times, Ronaldinho has made headlines for the wrong reasons. He and his brother were jailed for being in possession of forged passports while trying to access Uruguay. However, his lawyers now say he might be released soon.

Burial ceremonies in Brazil

Burial rites in Brazil, just like the rest of the world, are solemn and are moments where all has to stop for the honor of the departed soul.

Typically, interment in the Brazilian culture takes place within 48 hours of death. The sendoff ceremony happens in a velorios, which is a sacred building where family and friends gather to mourn.

Contrary to funeral services in most of the parts of the world, like the US, where funeral flowers are brought to the family members of the deceased, in Brazil it is a big No! They believe, the gesture, will water down the grief process. Food and beverages are also discouraged during the funeral service.

Brazilians believe that the period is dedicated for wailing, crying, and even hugging and kissing the dead! It is not a period of celebration of the life lived by the departed.

However, just like the rest of the world, interment by burying, cremation or embalming is acceptable, as a way of disposing the dead.

The same rules would also apply for the prominent members of the community, except for a few forms of exaggerated colour due to the opulence of the deceased.

Since Aidoo and his colleagues are used to the burials, just in the same way as it is done in Brazil, then the dancing pallbearers stand a chance in their wish. Perhaps just a few variations, since food is almost a must in most of Africans funerals.

2.    Lionel Messi

In this photo provided by FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi trains in Barcelona, Spain, on Friday May 8, 2020. Soccer players in Spain returned to train for the first time since the country entered a lockdown nearly two months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Miguel Ruiz/FC Barcelona via AP)

The second soccer star on Aidoo’s list is Messi. He says a man like Messi needs to be given a remarkable sendoff, due to his high unparalleled football prowess.

Messi has been the cornerstone at Barcelona since his junior years in the La Masia football academy. Although he has never won the World Cup, which is arguably the pinnacle of prizes world football, Messi, has won a record six Ballon d’Or in his career.

The ‘little magician’ as he’s referred to in Catalunya, boasts a vast trophy cabinet. Messi holds the records for most goals in the Spanish league (438),50 goals in a La Liga and European league season, scored most hat-tricks in the La Liga  (36) and the Champions League (8), holding the most assists in La Liga (181) and the Copa América (12).

The 32-year-old still believes he has more to offer the world, besides the fact that he might be approaching retirement.  “I am aware of the age I have but I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football and doing this,” Messi said.

Burial in Argentina.

Argentina is majorly a catholic state. Sources from the country say more than 80 percent of the locals believe in the catholic doctrines. In fact, the current pontiff, Pope Francis, hails from the religious country. Thus, burial rituals in the country follow the catholic way.

A catholic funeral normally comprises of three sections; the vigil service, the funeral mass and the rite of committal. All these follow each other respectively after the passing on of an individual.

However, undertakers are free to advertise for their services, just like the dancing pallbearers do. This could be an easier ground for them, and I bet, their dramatic package would easily sell here.

In Argentina, undertakers will have posters of their services, outlining their services, including the the cost of the casket, the embalming methods if there are, and of course the add-ons. In this case, for the Ghanaian pallbearers, the pomp and colour they induce during the burial service.

3. Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona in the stands in World Cup match between Argentina and Croatia, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia – June 21, 2018 [REUTERS/Matthew Childs]

The third soccer star on Aidoo’s list is 59-year-old Diego Maradona from Argentina.

Football stars who died

Joe Kadenge, one of Kenya’s football legends, died in July last year. The arguably Kenya’s greatest of all times in football passed on aged 84.

The legend had problems in breathing, among other health complications before he succumbed to the illness in Nairobi.

Similarly, some, however, have died in the line of duty. The memory of their astounding performances on the pitch, still dawdles fresh in the minds of many football fanatics. 

Cheick Tiote, an Ivory Coast player, shockingly died on the field while training for a match.

The lad, who was a former midfielder at the English team Newcastle United, died of a heart attack, in June 2017, aged 30. The Ivorian collapsed during a training session with the Chinese League one side Beijing Enterprises.

Other renowned players who passed on include, Colombia’s Andres Escobar, Marc-Vivien Foe from Cameroon and the Spanish goal machine, Antonio Puerta just to mention a few.

In Ghana, burials are a big deal. Reasons could be subjective, sometimes outrageous.

From the fantasy coffins to the colour and pomp that characterize the final journeys. There are many Nana Otafrija’s in the country making a kill out of the otherwise sad moment, owing to their unique colour during the funerals.

For More of This and Other Sports Stories Subscribe to the Standard Epaper


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here