‘Ho-Ja’: More than a chant

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Abdiaziz Guled has brought many things to the Ashland community. His services to the school district are immeasurable, and Abdi has left his mark on a few sports programs in a special way. For years, “Bubba,” as he is affectionately referred to by his students, has coached soccer and basketball at AMS and AHS. One year Abdi started a tradition with his freshmen soccer team that has lasted to this day. When his players were searching for a pregame ritual to use to get pumped up, Abdi suggested a song that he had heard many years before. Abdi is a native of Somalia and lived in Eastern Africa for most of his life. In the 1970s, he heard something on the radio that is now a part of Ashland sports tradition.

The chant has become known as “Ho-Ja,” but the official spelling is uncertain. Although it is in an African dialect, the song’s origin and meaning are unknown. “I have no idea what the song is saying; it just sounded good,” Abdi claimed. The team circles around Abdi, who leads the call and response chant. Some teams have since adapted to have a player lead the chant. This tradition has been passed down through the varsity soccer program over the years, but it made its way to the basketball program at some point along the way.

Current soccer players claim that the basketball team stole the chant from them, but Abdi maintains that this isn’t true. Abdi is pretty sure that Rodrigo Ramos was responsible for the chant’s introduction to basketball. Ramos, a 2007 AHS graduate and a two-sport stand out, led the chant in soccer and may have also brought it to the basketball team.

Abdi was the one who taught people about it, but he won’t claim credit for the chant. “It isn’t mine. Anyone can use it. Freshmen, varsity, boys, girls, it doesn’t matter.” Earlier this season, Abdi encouraged his soccer team to come up with a new chant for themselves, but the players were reluctant to do so. “I can’t play without ‘Ho-Ja.’ It gives me that drive, the fire inside,” senior defender Zane Pindell said. The chant has prepared hundreds of players to take the field and court and is a tradition that will surely continue.

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