Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Entire Country Weeps

Tonight is the final match of the World Cup: Spain vs. Netherlands. I can’t believe I’ve been following soccer for so long and feel so fortunate that I got to be in Ghana to really experience it. I’ve never seen an entire nation of people united for one sport. The excitement during the Super Bowl is nothing compared to the palpable fervor and energy of the World Cup. There are hoots and hollers for every referee call and steal. And the celebration that ensues when the Ghana Black Stars win is unparalleled. There is singing, dancing, chanting, and drum beating on the tables and chairs. Shakira’s World Cup anthem has even become a Ghanaian clubbing favorite!

I caught World Cup fever and have become a huge supporter of the Ghana Black Stars. Without much effort, during the quarterfinals match (Ghana vs. Uruguay), I was on my feet cheering for joy for goals and could feel my pulse increase whenever Uruguay approached the Ghana goal. My heart was on the line as the overtime minutes ticked and Ghana and Uruguay remained tied at 1-1. I didn’t just wish with every ounce for the Ghana Black Stars to prevail and continue towards the World Cup Finals, but also dreaded to see what would happen if the Ghana Black Stars were to lose.

If you want to see ultimate soccer drama, the Ghana vs. Uruguay game would be a perfect specimen. The last few minutes of overtime were oozing with drama. Ghana kicks a goal only to be thwarted by a handball by the now infamous Uruguay player, Luis Suarez. For his handball, the referee gave Suarez a red card pulling him out of the game and awarding the Black Stars a penalty kick. So much was riding on that one kick and Ghana Black Stars star, Asamoah Gyan overshoots his kick and just barely misses the goal putting the Ghana Black Stars in the unfavorable position of one on one penalty kicks to determine the ultimate winner of the match. When Gyan missed the shot, the medical school dorm JCR was silent with disbelief. I think I may have even stopped breathing. Not only could you see the heads of team Ghana hang low, but the feeling of demoralization permeated the room. Ghana’s succession forward was hanging by a thread and the psychological odds were not in our favor.

In the end, Uruguay succeeded in scoring more penalty shots than Ghana. The Black Stars players’ faces were covered in anguish and some of them even hid their heads under their jerseys. If I ever felt like crying over sports this was it. Sure, it was a huge upset to see the Ghanaian World Cup journey end here, but my heart went out to the Black Stars for their valiant efforts. They were not just holding the hopes and dreams of their country, but the entire continent of Africa as the only African team to make it past the first round of games and potentially make history by playing in the semi-finals.

Although I had lost my appetite, I walked out with the Ghanaian medical students to find food. The joyful chatter that usually fills our interactions had deadened. The usually busy and lively Bantama High Street was languid and morose. The entire country had taken a beating in that game. The only thing you could hear on the streets were arguments about the game and curses against Luis Suarez.

Since then, my interest in the World Cup has halved. I don’t particularly care who wins anymore except that I vehemently do not want to see Uruguay make it any farther. I peeked my head into the JCR during the Uruguay vs. Netherlands game briefly just to check that Netherlands was winning. Yesterday, I sat through the second half of the Uruguay vs. Germany match, again, only to cheer for the loss of Uruguay and hope that Luiz Suarez would get injured while playing.

Despite the disappointing loss, the Ghana Black Stars are being lauded across the country and the continent for making it as far as they did. They represented the country and all of Africa well and everyone is confident that Ghana has only more surprises for the world in the next World Cup. On the flip side, Luiz Suarez has become public enemy number one and his infamous handball has been deemed “Hand of the Devil” countering Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” handball. If I were Luiz Suarez, I wouldn’t plan any vacations in Ghana…ever.

Here are a few news clippings of Ghana’s loss.

While my favorite sport to follow is still basketball (in case y’all haven’t been paying attention, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James will ALL be playing for the Miami Heat!!!!), soccer has become a close second. At the very least, I will definitely be cheering for the Ghana Black Stars in the next World Cup.

As for who will win tonight? I’ll side with the octopus…Spain.

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