There is nothing quite like football in Africa.
Towns erupting in cheers and moans corresponding to their team’s successes and failures. The national pride that follows a win is almost tangible. Even in quiet little Ho, the astounding 6-1 Ghana win over Egypt disrupted life for a few hours.
This was the first leg of qualifying preliminary matches for the 2014 World Cup. I, for one, am thrilled that Ghana is one step closer to redeeming its tragic loss against Uruguay four years ago.
In his brief essay on the politi-history of the World Cup, Laurent Dubois sums up that crushing defeat quite nicely:
Nearly everyone in the stadium was a Ghanaian that night. The team had been adopted by South Africans, whose dear Bafana Bafana had been eliminated in the first round. They called the Ghanaians BaGhana BaGhana. As we streamed towards Soccer City, people bought Ghana scarves and Ghana hats and Ghana shirts, got the colors of the Ghanaian flag painted on their faces. Inside the stadium, the buzz and crow of vuvuzelas urged the Black Stars on to victory. I’ve never been at a game saturated with such tense hope and energy.
They lost. […] After Luis Suarez blocked a certain goal with his hand, and Asamoah Gyan missed his last minute penalty kick—which would have sent Ghana to the semi-finals—the game went to a penalty shoot-out. I held my head between my hands for the entire time, somehow knowing in my heart what was likely to happen. I could tell each time a penalty was scored by Ghana from the ear-shattering cheers, and each time one was made by Uruguay by the groans around me. And I could tell when it was all over by the dead, sickening, sad silence spreading out, peppered by the cheers of the vastly outnumbered Uruguayan supporters.
I clearly remember that match – sitting on the front row sofas of RagTag Cinema in Columbia, Missouri, surrounded by friends, and cheering on the sole remaining African team in the first African World Cup. We left disappointed, enraged even, by the unjust calls. But this is football, after all.
It is time for Ghana to reclaim that stolen victory. Here’s to you, Black Stars.