Sunday, June 18, 2006

How brightly can a *black* star really shine?

Evidently with blinding intensity, when the stars in question are those on the Ghanaian national team. I am still on an undescribable high after the game yesterday. Simply ecstatic after such a masterful display of football :-) I'll let up with the superlatives now, and admittedly there were several chances the team missed, but it was an excellent game, whichever way you look at it.

There was a lot of disappointment after the game on Monday, and I for one was heartbroken. It was an excellent game, but an inability to finish our attack and convert the many chances to goals left us with a 2-0 loss against the Italians. Hence the euphoria in the wake of yesterday's game, and against the Czechs nonetheless. The last *obstacle* is now the U.S. I can't wait till Thursday, and I hope that is a victory, if for nothing at all, to show that we are a country (and continent) to be taken seriously.

I'm always in awe of the phenomenal unifying power of football, and i was reminded of that again yesterday. There's unification on a large scale, such as the stories we hear from the Ivory Coast. The players are acutely aware of these responsibilities, clear from Didier Drogba's statement on behalf of his teammamtes to the country "Ivorians, we ask for your forgiveness...let us come together and put this war behind us."
Yesterday though, I was reminded of how football pulls people together even on an everyday basis. I was in my element after our first goal came so early, and evidently so were a lot of other people. My phone was struggling under the burden of calls, vociemail and text messages from all over the world. My friends who were Zimbabwean, Nigerian, Zambian, Mexican, Ghanaian, American, from St. Thomas - everyone was keenly following the game, and living each tense moment with the Ghanaian fans. In the words of one of my friends "Congrats, every African is happy."
These were sentiments I shared as I watched the other African teams play - praying that Angola could sustain the draw against Mexico or take the lead, wondering if there was any hope for Ivory Coast after they were down 2-0 to Argentina, hoping Togo could sustain their 1-0 lead over South Korea...

Times like these take me back to thoughts of how much of a force Africa could be if this support extended beyond football. We've been disappointed by all the African teams at some stage - none of us won our opening games. That doesn't deter us as fans thoguh, we continue to offer our support, and hope that perhaps the next game will be better, hope that perhaps if Ivory Coast loses, Togo might still have a chnace, or that if Angola is out, Ghana might win and still leave us with an African team in the running. Is it easier because there is so little to lose? Or perhaps because there is little effort expended on our part?

I am still chilled when I recall comments I heard on a Ghanaian radio station about refugees from Darfur in Ghana.. Callers to the programme were largely of the opinion that they should be sent back where they came from, and that they were not welcome in Ghana. I know it is a lot more complex of a situtation than simply having a governemnt take in people from anywhere who seek refuge, but there was complete disregard for their plight, not even a wish to help balanced by a regret that the country only has limited resources.

There was also the day I was listening to the same program, this time with Nigerian friends of mine, as callers discussed a shooting incident that had taken place at a Ghanaian university, ostensibly involving Nigerian students. I could only hang my head in shame at the preposterous generalizations the callers were making - branding all Nigerians as criminals. There was a call for the wholesale expulsion of Nigerian students from our schools, and comments on how they were introducing unheard of criminal elements into our society. Arguably, many parts of Nigeria are more accustomed to violent crime than parts of Ghana, but is that to say that none of the crime in Ghana is attributable to Ghanaians? Or that none of the commendable things in our society are attributable to foreigners?

as we watch the games and revel in the successes of the African teams, I hope we can build a culture that is supportive both in good times and in bad..

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