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Friday, July 2, 2010

Ghana's World Cup

Ghana's eventual loss today was devastating. All of Africa was tied into this, our freedom moment. Uruguay was never a colonizer but somehow, just by their origin, they represented more than just football opposition. Deep down inside we were tying them to the colonizers and oppressors who have tread on our soils. Their South American connection felt repetitive of past World Cups and this, this was Africa's moment.

As Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take the penalty today in the waning minutes of the overtime game against Uruguay today, hundreds of millions of people were holding their breath. If you're like my wife and I, then you barely sat down for a minute of the whole game, stealing occasional glances at the television, while seemingly trying to do innocuous tasks around the house. For the millions of us rooting for Ghana, the only remaining African country in the 2010 World Cup, it more than intense. Luis Suarez, whose handball created this opportunity for Africa to unite in one shining moment, was making his way back to the locker room weeping desperate tears. After Gyan sent the shot hard against the crossbar and over the goal, the camera showed Suarez in exasperated relief, realizing that his very life had been saved. My own laments come to my ears as I questioned God's loyalty to our cause.

There was just this prevailing feeling that this was the year that an African country would break the jinx. This confirmation that we would finally lose the moniker of 'potential' bridesmaid and actually become part of the bridal party. The Black Stars were showing the world that African football has finally arrived at the highest level on the world stage. It took me about six hours to calm down today, eventually needing to go to a garden store to buy some flowers and do some subsequent planting. Therapy, I needed therapy.

Ghana has nothing to hang its head down about, nothing to be ashamed about. Mightier teams have fallen, and earlier in this tournament. Italy, England, France, and Brazil all have made their exit. Ghana put on valiant effort and unlike Luis Suarez whose handball made him an unlikely hero because of the outcome, reminding us again that Africa continues to knock on the door of greatness. This was just not a game, it was our continued strive to forget colonialism, Apartheid, neo-colonialism, elitism and racism. All these seemingly unconnected things are the subliminal, unsaid things that these games represent to us. Uruguay may not have been a colonizer, but their origins allow us to use them as a symbol of all we have fought against.

I want to shout, "Our civil rights were violated, this is racism!" I can't because, this is football and FIFA is doing all it can to send the message that this game transcends race, color, creed, economics and nations. This is the beautiful game - that one game that is truly a world sport. What transpired today was just what Asamoah Gyan said, "It's hard luck. You know, we had opportunity to win this game," Gyan said, "but unfortunately, that is football for you."- (Associated Press

Today, we witnessed why this game is so great, why even after losing a job almost a month ago, I have been carried through what should have been a difficult period with nothing but memories of the opportunities to watch each and every game. With my first day of new employment coming next week, Ghana's exit could not have come at a better time, somehow Uruguay, Netherlands, and whoever wins tomorrow, don't raise my gander. I'm really not interested anymore and will watch only because football is my religion. I will not worship at the altar because my favorite African preachers have left and the choir isn't singing any of my favorite songs.

As for Asamoah Gyan, my hats off, much respect. Stepping up to that penalty kick, he carried the weight of all of Africa. His shoulders should have been sagging as he stepped up to that ball. We were all riding on his shoulders, offering advice on how he should place that kick, how hard he should kick it. His miss was our miss and as Ghana's fortunes go, so went Africa. We are reminded however, in Asamoah's statement about the resilience of Africans, we never dwell on the pain, but recognize that our success is in the fact that we're still standing here today. Ghana played beautiful soccer and Africa rejoiced, Ghana lost and so did Africa, but that was only today. Tomorrow will come.