Oh Ghana — We Were ”Nearly” There – Again!

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Group G - Germany v Ghana - Estadio CastelaoIn 2006, it was against the Czech Republic. We thrashed them 2-0 in a match that told the world that there is no “small boy” in world football. I don’t think the Czechs have ever recovered from that defeat, for I’ve hardly heard of them performing well on the international football scene ever since then. Even if they have recovered, they will never forget that thrashing which Ghana gave them eight years ago.

Of course, in 2006, we also taught America what “Ghana” was, in football terms. The big US TV networks had been going on about how most Americans did not know “where” Ghana was! Not surprising – the networks also tried to take Americans through an “a-z” lesson about football and its rules. (Or rather “soccer” [pronounced ‘saccer’] a game which foreigners called “football” but whose rules were completely different from those of the game Americans call “football”. Was it Bernard Shaw who said that Great Britain and the United States were two countries divided by a ”common language”? Can’t remember!

Say – come to that, will the Americans ever refer to “soccer” as football? I doubt it: after all, they are so satisfied with their own of doing things that they call their internal baseball competition “The World Series” (though only the USA and Canada take part in that competition, as far as I know! I suspect that Cuba might have formed part of it at one time, but was thrown out as soon as Castro got into power in Havana).)

No – I think the USA will ask the rest of the world to call football “soccer” instead, as soon as the game takes hold seriously in the US! Now that the US has beaten Ghana and drawn with Portugal, the chances are that the game will become a serious enterprise in the US. But wait – it might also become big business in China, in which case, the tussle over the name will become more interesting. That is because since the Chinese went capitalist, a few things have begun to change on the world scene.

The Chinese yuan is becoming more and more visible in the “basket of currencies” whose value determine the external value of many foreign currencies. Moreover, FIFA looks like one of the organisations that salivate over showcasing their product in countries whose currencies are strong!

There is now a Formula One Grand Prix in Beijing. Can the World Cup stay behind for too long? If football gets the backing of the yuan, football will never become soccer world-wide. And maybe, to avoid confusion, the US will add “American” permanently to their version of “football”.

Ghana gave a dose of agoroh (show-boating or football showmanship) in a World Cup match in Germany in 2006, and repeated the performance in South Africa in 2010. So, we all thought that meeting the US again in 2014 (how is it possible to meet the same country three times in a row in the world Cup? FIFA has some questions to answer, if you ask me!) yeah: we thought that 2014 would also go our way again.

But the USA had, in the mean time, gone and hired a German soccer wizard called Jurgen Klinsmann, who had put together a team that could as well be called ‘Made-In-The-Rest-Of-The-World-That-Resides-In-the-US’! Unfortunately, our rather dim coach, Kwesi Appiah, only appeared to think in germs of our shows against the US in past World Cup appearances. “Ho? The US? We always dispatch them!”he must have thought to himself. “We know their number!”

But it was rather the US that knew Ghana’s number. Klinsmann, having watched our videos, knew that we always started off slow, as if we were waving sleep away but could not quite manage to avoid being droopy. Appiah had rested two of our most experienced players who could have shaken us out of our stupor — Kevin Prince Boateng of Schalke, Germany, and Michael Essien of everywhere! And did the Americans teach us a lesson?

They banged in the first goal against us in under 30 seconds dead! What was Appiah thinking? He was reported as claiming that he was waiting for the Americans to “get tired” before bringing on Essien and Kevin. But that can only be an excuse thought of in hindsight. Because even after the Americans had scored first and he had realised the mood they were in, he didn’t bring on the two experienced players.

By the time he brought KPB and Essien on, rigor mortis had set in and our ability to reverse matters in our favour was non-existent. We were being shown the way home by our mediocre thinking. We were in a “Group of Death” inhabited by a Mammoth (Germany) and a Cheetah (Portugal with Christiano Ronaldo in the side!) And yet we had lacked the wit to realise that the US would be our bitterest opponent, due to the humiliation it had suffered at out hands in the past!

Now, if the only apparent duffer in the Group of Death, the USA, had dispatched us because of our timidity, then what chance did we have against the Mammoth and the Cheetah?

By the time we met the Mammoth, Germany, on Saturday 21 June 2014 (the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere), we were pissing in our pants. Nevertheless, at the end of the game, it was the Mammoth whose morale had been shot to pieces. Yes, the Mammoth wished it had lain in its lair all through the summer, just as it had done during the Winter Solstice!

The Black Stars showed a form against Germany that looked as if it could take them to the World Cup Final – no less. It reminded Ghanaians of the performances against the USA of 2006 and 2010; against the Czechs in 2006; and against the team-with-two-goalkeepers — the disgraceful Uruguay team that proved such a horrible obstacle to Ghana in South Africa in 2010.

It was a Black Star team whose inhibitions had been torn asunder. They were good even in defence, and as for their attacking prowess, it was phenomenal. Arm-chair theorists like Yours Truly who have always advocated the strategy of fight, fight and go down fighting (if you must go down) smiled complacently to ourselves and took gulps of beer down with every Black Star move that validated our theorems.

The Mammoth bit first. But so what?We retaliated with a finer goal – a magnificent header by handsome Andre Dede Ayew. Then our goal merchant, Asamoah Gyan struck with another beauty. As he and his fellow-forwards did their mocking dance, we thought everything was possible. We were leading by two goals to one. Against Germany, four times World Champions.

And then we got an opportunity to seal our names in gold into history: Jordan Ayew got a ball, dribbled past the German defenders, and looked: Asamoah-Gyan was standing in empty space just a few yards away. A pass to him, and Germany would have gone down 3-1. But Jordan Ayew tried for glory instead. He shot feebly at the goal-keeper. And the goal-keeper saved it.

After that disaster, no-one was surprised when the Germans equalised not too long after. Once again, Ghana had “”nearly”” done it.

When shall we stop being “nearly” there? Only Jah knows!

What is left now is for us to beat Portugal so well that we shall have a better goal advantage than either Germany or the USA – the two countries which will edge us out if they merely draw against each later this week. Conspiracy theorists have already begun to suggest that Germany, with a German coach, and the US, with a German coach, will manage not to eliminate each other! (The Germans have done that before – they connived with Austria in 1982 during a World Cup tournament!)

If they sweep us out, it will be our own fault”in the World Cup, one should never allow one’s fate to be decided by other teams (as England, trusting in Italy, now know to their cost).

We can only pray and hope that Germany will play fair. And also, that despite Ronaldo being in the Portuguese team, we can overwhelm them thoroughly.

Hey, never say die – till the bones are what? Rotten!

Anyway, you don’t get charged for dreaming, do you?

 From Cameron Duodu

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