(As Ghana tries to capture the African Nations Cup in South Africaw, CAMERON DUODU recalls ‘A DAY TO REMEMBER’🙂
*Ten Tall Men is the title of a film about the heroic deeds of ten men, against severe odds. The actors included the late Burt Lancaster.)
To “stand tall” does not necessarily mean that one is physically tall.
It only means that one has done something that should normally be done by a “tall person” — in the sense that tall men, especially if they are also big, are associated with deeds of incredible valour. Thus, in the Bible, when the idea needed to be conveyed that Goliath was a fearful fellow, he was described as a man of gigantic proportions, who, should, in the normal course of events, have made the young, puny David take to his heels at first sight.
Similarly, whenever Ghanaian footballers encounter Brazilian footballers, our boys are supposed to go rigid with fright.
They — the Brazil soccer team — are not good at all. We regard them as figures of legend, who were gifted with football-playing ability from birth, and compound their gift with a resort to total recall — recollections of the feats of Garrincha, Jairzinho, Socrates and, of course, Pele. Recollections which then give birth to others– Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Romario, Roberto Carlos, Bebeto. Where does one stop?
The human being has not been born who, having seen these names in action, wouldn’t tremble on coming face to face with the who don yellow jerseys and blue shorts on a football pitch. It happened to the Ghana Black Stars in Germany in 2006. We had begun the World Cup in incredible fashion, losing to Italy but incredibly whacking the awesome Czech Republic 2-0 on 17 June 2006 and following that with a 2-1 victory over the USA.
But then came 27 June 2006. We came face to face with Brazil. And the name undid us. We forgot our feat against the Czechs of only ten days before, and froze on the grass. Our silly coach, for some reason, decided that we should curb our natural flair and go into defence mode against the master dribblers of the world.
Naturally, they drew rings around us as we appeared to stand still.
Not only that — our coach decided to try and catch the Brazilians with “offside traps”. But no team can catch Brazil with offside traps. They move so fast and so smoothly that they mesmerise both the referee and his assistants, and even when they do commit an offside, they create the illusion that they had been running all the while and that they had simply flatfooted the opposition. Our timidity and strategic backwardness were severely punished: 3-0! And we were out of the 2006 World Cup. Many were the tears that were shed for the unnecessary suicide we had committed.
So, come Friday 16th of October 2009, and we justifiably have many Brazilian ghosts to exorcise. Once again, it looks as if we are going to let the name do the job for the Brazilians. Unbelievably, our passing is very poor!
Our boys can hardly connect with any passes. Each time they get a ball that has the promise of being useful, they kick it to a Brazilian! Meanwhile, they are unable to intercept the Brazilians’ own passes. My heart is in my mouth — I suppose, like millions of my fellow countrymen and women.
They say troubles come in multiples. And they are right. For even as we play a match fit for mediocre sides, not Ghana, we are reduced to ten men by a referee whose powers of deduction must have been crafted in Mars. The rule is that if a player violently fouls another who has only got the fouler between himself and the goal, then it is a sending-off offence.
Our defender did stupidly foul the Brazilian. But he was not the last man between the Brazilian and the goal. There was another Brazilian defender behind him. So only a free kick should have been given, But an ignorant referee reduces our team to ten men. What! How? Is this possible? Is one inside a nightmare of a dream or not? It is reality, however. And man wants to weep!
But our ‘Ten Tall Men’ refuse to be beaten. They play and play and play. And they hold Brazil to Zero-Zero, even after extra time! Ghana have taken Brazil to extra time and emerged Zero-Zero?. With only ten men? Amazing. Impossible. It looks as if we have been spared. But what about the penalties to come?
Brazil’s first penalty goes in. We sigh with sheer pain.
But Ayew, our Captain, replies in kind — and it’s 1-1.
Brazil’s second penalty also goes in. Inkum, then puts Ghana’s penalty in. So it’s 2-2.
Brazil gets a third in.
Then, Jonathan Mensah loses our third. The sense of doom that I have felt all evening returns with a vengeance. It is Brazil 3 Ghana 2.
But then, our goalkeeper, Daniel Agyei, saves one from the Brazilian Souza! Amazing Agyei.
However, Addae comes and spoils it all. Handsome boy like that — how could he have denied himself the status of a hero by taking such a feeble shot? It’s a matter of training, you know. As soon as he failed to go back far enough before he took the shot, I knew we were done for. And so it proved to be.
Moican, the hero of Brazil’s game against Germany, comes next. I mean he must score, surely? My heart is…! But Moican shoots over the bar!
But it’s still 3-2 against Ghana.
Then Adiyiah, our golden boy, who has scored the most goals in the tournament, comes along. And he dispatches it. Beautifully and indubitably. We experience life after death!
We are now in ‘sudden death’ territory, though; in the penalty shootout itself: the zone of no return!You miss, you die!
And Toxeira from Brazil comes and shoots.
MAGICALLY, DANIEL AGYEI SAVES AGAIN!
If… if… if’… Ghana scores with its next penalty shot, we are the Champs of the World!
And who should come but Agyemang-Badu? This guy carries pedigree — he bears the resonant, weighty name of a famous Dormaa Paramount Chief. Will he do justice to his name? At such a crucial moment? Can he?
AND IT IS A GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!
Ghana are Under-20 World Champions. After beating Brazil! In a thriller of a thriller!
I put pen to paper: only a poem will do justice to this moment. The moment is so magical that the following is what pops out — in less than 5 minutes dead, due to sheer inspiration:
is this the most unbelievable day or what?
we get reduced to 10 men by some ‘referee’ t*w*t;
we are dispossessed each time we get the ball,
we look like shadows — with no hope at all;
and yet — and yet at the most dangerous moment,
when you cannot repent
if you err and the shot misses the goal,
we beat brazil with a penalty goal!
and we are champions of the world!
GHANA: champions — — of the world!
Oh Lord, thank you but please, when
Comes the really Big One?
Will you make me live till then?
I pray you do, Dear Lord — Amen!