To cry is the lot of all mankind
And the eyes that shine in joyous delight today
Are doomed ere long to brim over,
As the welling tears overflow
And we moan: “Woe is today!
Woe is today!
Woe is today!
I wonder what R M Ballantyne would make of that. I first heard his “To part is the lot of all mankind” from the lips of a friend, now departed, called Kwame Asiedu Acheampong, at Kyebi Government School. Kwame recited Ballantyne with great feeling, and when he said the words, “When the quivering lips pronounce the word, farewell,” he made his voice convey the idea of quivering lips — so much so that one could actually feel oneself saying “farewell” to one’s friends. What an actor Kwame would have been, had the opportunity arisen for him.
It did once, briefly: when I was cast in a classroom play as Pythias to his Damon in an adaptation of The History of Damon and Pythias by Valerius Maximus. Teachers were erudite men and women then: ours was called Kofi Awuah Peasah, from Old Tafo, and I owe almost all my love of English literature to him. To have heard him declaim, “Frailty! Thy name is woman!” would have made one think that William Shakespeare was born on the very banks of the Birem River, and was there, to record the travails of the people of Tafo, when, as they believe, their ancestors emerged from the bottom of the River.
“Woe is today?” Why do I say that?
Did not the whole world see that Ghana had beaten Uruguay and should be the one to advance into the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup?
Was not the whole of the African continent afflicted with excruciating pain, when Uruguay’s Luis Suarez used his hands to push back a ball that had entered the Uruguayan goal?
Red card, penalty — was that Africa wanted? No! Justice demanded that the goal be awarded so that Ghana would the winner — the first African country ever to cross the semi-final barrier!
Uruguay cheated. Our missed penalty was just a red herring.
Uruguay cheated — and benefited from cheating.
Nobody on the African continent will ever forget that act of infamy. Especially after they have read these defiant words of the cheat, Luis Suarez.
“The Hand of God now belongs to me”, Suarez said after the match.
“Mine is the real Hand Of God,” he repeated. “I made the best save of the tournament. Sometimes in training, I play as a goalkeeper so it was worth it…. When they missed the penalty, I thought ‘It is a miracle and we are alive in the tournament’.”
Sometimes in training, “I play as a goalkeeper”, Suarez said. The question is: Does FIFA think it acceptable that a team should field two goalkeepers in a match?
FIFA’s rules were made by men, and are not immutable. This particularly transparent bit of cheating by Suarez is a warning to FIFA that it is in danger of creating a very bad precedent, which will be followed by a whole population of football player-cynics, who will do everything in their power not to lose a match. Isn’t one Maradona enough? Now. We’ve also got a Suarez! Cheats will be “Suarezing all over the place,” mark my words.
As could be expected, the Internet is awash with analyses of what happened to the Ghana Black Stars on Friday 2 July 2010.
The writer whose views are most cogently argued is Mr Solomon Amanzulley Akessey of Grinnell College, USA.
He notes that the World Cup in South Africa “has raised a long list of ethical issues against the beautiful game” that “FIFA must address if the game is to remain beautiful.” He thinks the most pressing of these are “deliberate hand ball fouls”, like the one that denied Ghana the chance of qualifying to the Semi-Finals.
“If FIFA refuses to look into this problem, then the message it seeks to send is that cheating , however unethical and immoral, is useful and players can and should cheat to win.
“Uruguay clearly did it [on Friday 2 July 2010]. Suarez, being the last defender on the line, deliberately arrogated the privileges of the goal-keeper to himself and handled the ball. Had he not handled the ball, it is pretty obvious that [Ghana] would have scored the goal… The rules were clear and the referee played fair and promptly showed him the red card and awarded a penalty to Ghana.
“But therein lay the problem. When a goal has clearly been denied in such an illegal way, it is simply unconscionable for FIFA to try to solve the problem in a way that does not punish the opposing team as they deserve, but rather rewards them.
“If a player is the last man on the line and he handles the ball, when he is not the goal-keeper, then it should be an automatic goal… For if a penalty is awarded, the pressure alone could make the [penalty] taker miss the shot, in which case the player who committed the foul would have been justified in committing it. And we saw [that happen] when Suarez started jumping up and down, when Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty.”
If you ask me — and I don’t want to generalise — it is not surprising, however, that Ghana was so blatantly cheated by a Latin American country. In Latin America, some people take football fanaticism to an almost religious level.
The most notorious incident of non-football football occurred in 1969 in Latin America when, during a series of World Cup qualification matches between El Salvador and Honduras, feelings were aroused to such an extent that riots occurred, followed by a “Football War” (known locally as La guerra del fútbol) between the two countries. It lasted for 100 hours or four days, during which 2,000 people were killed.
If you want to look it up, it is at
It was also trouble in stadiums in Latin America that made it necessary for moats to be built in some stadiums to prevent the football fans from invading the pitch and trying to lay hands on referees who have angered them. In one instance, a crowd surrounded a referee and tried to strangle him. And many of my readers will be familiar with the story of Andres Escobar, the Colombian player who was shot and killed after an own goal scored by him had caused Colombia to lose 2-1 to the United States in a Word Cup match in June 1994.
The world desperately needs protection from those who want to cheat in order to advance in the World Cup. Now that the FIFA president, Mr Sepp Blatter, has accepted the principle of using technology to assist referees in decision-making, all manner of cheating should be eliminated so that the world can enjoy football without any reservations. What is the point of leaving games to be decided by non-offside offsides; goals-not-given when the ball has clearly crossed the line; free kicks given as a result of play-acting on the field; etcetera etcetera, when 21st technology can help to eliminate all doubts from the minds of referees when they are making decisions?
The most amazing thing that technology has brought into cricket is to eliminate cheating. When the cricket ball hits the edge of a bat so faintly that it is difficult for the umpire to detect whether the ball had touched the bat or not, an infra-red video can show whether the ball did in fact hit the bat.
So we live in a world that has made incredible advances in technology. It is only our human intelligence that is lagging behind. I am sure that if Mr Blatter were walk in the streets of Soweto today, he’d hear someone say, “This is the man whose stupid organisation threw out the last African country from the World Cup, when it was only cheated of victory because there were two goalkeepers playing for its opponent, Uruguay.”
Everyone I know says “our boys did us proud”. The cheating they suffered will not be in vain, if it galvanises FIFA into action, to eliminate once and for all, such idiocies from thrilling football matches.
UPDATE JANUARY 2013: