QUOTE: “Uruguay are a good team. But we are good too. We are capable of beating Uruguay. We are ready to live the ultimate dream.” UNQUOTE — Samuel Inkoom
That is the spirit, Sam. The victory over the US has come and gone. Now, our eyes must be on Uruguay.
They are not exactly second-class material. They beat South Korea 2-1,t Mexico 1-0, South Africa 3-0 and drew 0-0 with France.
I sighed after viewing those stats. The only comforting thing to find in them is the victory of Uruguay over South Africa.
Yes, in an ironic sense. That victory will guarantee Ghana a superior vuvuzela-decibel level when we play Uruguay. That is: if anyone can actually distinguish between whom the vuvuzelas are cheering, and whom they are trying to jinx.
It doesn’t really matter. The South Africans will know whom they are supporting. They would know that they are supporting Ghana, even if the Uruguayans had not whupped them 3-0.
Let Ghana beat Uruguay and our name will be written all over South African hearts for ever.
In fact, the process of Ghana becoming an icon in South Africa has already begun. The Washington Post reports that a cartoonist of the Johannesburg Times newspaper, Jerm, has, in tribute to Ghana as the only African country left to try and ensure that Africa stays in the tournament, redrawn Ghana’s flag, replacing the black star in the centre with — a black map of Africa!
What a brilliant idea — we are being told through football that indeed, we can be a United States of Africa. It is beautiful: you can see the new flag here on the Internet:
Indeed, were Uruguay to be able to drive Africa out of the 2010 World Cup tournament by beating Ghana, Uruguay’s name would become associated with what the South Africans call muti (malignant juju or African magic) for ever.
So a lot hangs on our match with Uruguay. Can home-grown ‘African electronics’, operating on a combined wavelength radiating from west to south on the African continent, outwit its Latin American counterpart — or rather — rival? That is the question! You think there are no ‘boundaries’ in cyberspace? You wait. Pity Okomfo Anokye wasn’t able to resurrect himself before cyberspace was invented!
But not to worry. We have something which wasn’t given to us by metaphysics in any shape or form — the communal euphoria that our victory over the United States has transmitted into the soul of every Ghanaian alive. Especially the Black Star players.
The ‘viral’ nature that this euphoria has assumed on the Internet is breath-taking. Yet it is not as if we haven’t beaten the US before — true, we gave them an identical walloping in the 2006 World Cup. But this year’s match had as much drama in it as if it were a contest between an unknown ‘Asteroids Eleven’ and a mystery opponent extruded by the Icelandic Volcano known as Eyjafjallajokull!
One pre-match report, no doubt calculated to strike fear into every Ghanaian, emphasised that “the Americans have come back twice in the tournament, to draw against England and Slovenia, and scored deep into injury time, against Algeria to win their group, ahead of England.” Whereas Ghana had actually been beaten (1-0 by Germany) and had drawn 1-1 with Australia, with its 1-0 victory over Serbia as Ghana’s only notable achievement in the tournament.
And yet come the day and what do we see? The stats are shown to be irrelevant. Ghana’s forwards who, in earlier games, had appeared not to know how to shoot, have suddenly found their feet. First, Kevin-Prince Boateng works his solo magic past several Americans, and instead of passing the ball, releases a shot through the legs of the Americans opposing him. And in it goes — sroh!
Yieeeeeeeeh! We shout loudly enough to burst our lungs.
But then, the Americans equalise with a penalty (which, as usual, creates controversy amongst us, the arm-chair players.) Anyway, they score. It is one-one.
And the feared words come into use again — what we call “extra time” and the Americans call “overtime”. Oh no! Not penalties? The awesome word hangs over the proceedings like smog over a modern industrial city.
Play goes on. One can sense that this is the stage at which the men are separated from the boys. This is when men die fighting: ‘aduru mmarima wuo so!’ (as the Akans say).
We go forward and go forward. Nothing happens. Every Ghanaian fears the match will end in a penalty shootout, for the Americans match us in every respect, and with our poor shooting record, we aren‘t exactly expecting anything by way of a remarkable strike from one of our forwards. Boateng, our sole cannon-ball-footed genius, goes off injured anyway.
But then, penalty-specialist Asamoah Gyan gets the ball. He is tackled. He nearly falls over, but manages to right himself and stay half-erect. He goes forward, but has clearly lost his balance. However, instead of succumbing to all these assaults, or even waiting to straighten himself up properly, he shoots from his half-dangling position. Not only does he shoot — the shot that comes from his left foot is a sputnik shot powered by the thrust of a multi-headed rocket. And in it goes — wroh!
The vuvuzelas beep out. Ghanaians yell, shout and jump. We’ve done it, it seems. YIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Johannesburg goes wild. Accra goes mad. Africa — the whole of Africa — cheers and cheers and cheers– from Cape to Cairo; from Bissau to Mombasa.
But there is one small detail we’ve all overlooked — we have the clock to worry about. Five minutes to full time. Ohhhh! Go faster, won’t you, you damned clock? We count the seconds. We count the minutes. The Americans are playing their hearts out. And we know they are “come-back” specialists.
But for once, it is us that Lady Luck favours. We hold them off till the referee’s whistle blows full time.
And now, an amazing calm descends on our spirits. We have really done it. We realise the enormity of this event. It is not just a victory. It is a victory that was not expected. And that is why it is so much more sweeter — if one may invoke poetic licence.
Let me not talk any more, lest I over-brag.
Let the opposition do the talking for me. The New York Times thinks it was the youthfulness of our players that did it for us. Asamoah Gyan’s shot, it said, “was the shot of a younger, stronger, faster man. The shot that finished America and liberated the hope all Africans can share.”
The paper further reported that “In a television studio, the former Liberian striker. George Weah, the only African player ever to win FIFA’s ‘World Player of the Year’ honour, was possibly a shade too excited when he suggested that ‘Ghana is a team that can win this World Cup.’ But Weah always did think the improbable. He once scored a goal for A.C. Milan by dribbling the ball past seven men of Verona in one mazy run. Africans of a free spirit may not know their limitations.”
Well now, suppose I had written that? You see why our elders say that “a good thing sells itself?” If you do it and it is good, even the most unwilling observer will give credit where credit is due.
I like this bit and so I shall repeat it: “Africans of a free spirit may not know their limitations!”
An absolutely profound observation. Didn’t our own Dr Kwegyir Aggrey say something about “nothing but the best” being good enough for Africa?
Asamoah Gyan’s winning goal was not only improbable; it was impossible, as far as his physical situation of the time he shot the ball into the American net was concerned. The shot came from his imagination, which took him back to his childhood, when he used to play on hard, gravelly ground, on which he tried all manner of tricks to make him the envy of all his playmates, and the darling of the watching damsels. It was a “gutter-to-gutter” shot — you can’t shoot a football in that position if you have never played shabo-shabo or taken part in Saturday morning practice in the dust on the outskirts of Maamobi or Mallam or its equivalent somewhere in rural Ghana. It will be discussed and discussed and imitated and — bettered!
That is what our foreign coach may not always appreciate. Yes, our boys should be tight in defence and technically proficient in ensuring that we do not allow goals to go in.
But after all, football is a game to be enjoyed. And for it to be properly enjoyed, it must produce spectacular, imaginative goals. I am sure that if Gyan’s goal had not liberated George Weah’s mind, Weah would not have remarked that ‘Ghana
can win the World Cup.’ And if George Weah had not liberated the mind of the New York Times reporter two or so decades ago, he wouldn’t have taken any notice of what George Weah said, but dismissed it as the hyperbolic rhetoric of an unrealistic political wannabe.
But the guy had seen Weah do the seemingly impossible once. Dribble everyone in his path, from his own side of the pitch, straight on and on and on and on and on — past seven men till he shot straight into the net and scored.
Yes — it can be done.
So do it Black Stars.
Do win the World Cup for Africa on African soil.
Go there and get rid of Uruguay. To begin with.
And then we shall see.
Remember — Ghana did beat the soccer wizards, Brazil in the Under-20 World Cup. It is the youth who grow up to achieve the goals of MEN.
YOU can do it!
So go out there and do it.