On 2nd July, 2010, in the beautiful city of Johannesburg (Soccer City Stadium), the Black Stars of Ghana had all it took to get to the quarter-final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, so a lot of Africans believed.
With the host nation out of the competition, the ‘burden’ was on Ghana to redeem the image of Africa. First time ever, a tournament of the sort as a world cup was on-going on the Continent.
With a history of not-so-pleasing performance at the world cup – you should understand, apart from this year’s tournament, the only countries to ever get as high as the quarter final was Cameroon in way back 1990 in Italy, and Senegal (Korea-Japan 2002) – this was really a challenge. Most of the time African representatives were kicked out at the group stages, a plight that would not be welcome on our own soil.
Well, guess what? In South Africa 2010, all the nations of Africa, including South Africa as hosts, were ‘brave’ enough to desert the Black Stars at the GROUP STAGES.
Ghana, after the group matches, swerved the USA to the quarter final, a puzzle all American Scientist together, not even NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) could solve; how a nation as small as the “the state of Oregon,” according to a friend on facebook, could crush the worlds super-power. After all this is soccer not nuke-ball (if ever such a sport existed).
Then came the D-day. Ghana against Uruguay was a match even my grandma couldn’t have missed. For the first time, in Ghana’s second appearance at the World Cup, the great nation was playing in the quarter-final.
After the Sulley Muntari strike just before end of first half, a lot of questions might have run in the minds of his critics. For a journalist, the only possible question was if that goal had answered those critics?
Remember, Muntari got a spot in the match after Andre Dede Ayew (son of the ‘Maestro’ – as Sports Journalist Kwabena Yeboah would affectionately call him, Abedi Ayew Pele, one of the greatest footballers the continent has ever produced) was cautioned in the previous match with the USA, consequently missing the match against Uruguay as he already had a yellow card.
LESSON NUMBER ONE: “It is not the number of goals you score that wins the match, rather the RELATIVE number of goals – yours against the opponent’s.
Ten minutes into the second half and a free kick against Ghana was converted by Diego Forlan (C). Let us go a bit into what could have happened, if not what happened:
Richard Kinson, Ghana’s goalie, mounted a wall against a free kick and REMAINED BEHIND THE WALL (as if he could see through).
Forlan cleverly placed the ball where Kinson was, on his (Kinson) left side, possibly anticipating Kinson would move from behind the wall immediately or just before he (Forlan) kicked the ball, and …BANG! It was the equaliser.
If there was a sense of complacency among the Ghanaian players, it should have vanished after the Forlan strike as they played their hearts out desperate for a win.
Their efforts were rewarded with a header-at-goal from Adiyiah which was blocked by Luiz Suarez, fortunately or otherwise, with his hands. As far as the game of football was concerned, it was deliberate. What a relief for the average Ghanaian? Gyan’s hunger for goal messed the spot kick and Ghana was denied a winner.
Maybe Ghanaians should not have bothered with the penalty shoot-out. Many believe we are not very good at that.
QUESTION NUMBER ONE: Who the hell selected John Mensah to kick a penalty?! What was he/she thinking?
Uruguay v Ghana – Luis-Suarez’s hand ball
According to FIFA’s Rules of the Game, “A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences: …[bullet point 4] denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area).
LESSON NUMBER TWO: “Rule of law and Democracy are two different things. The fact that we rule by law does not make our actions right. The law in itself may be dictatorial”.
Many football fans, most sympathetic to the Black Stars, have argued to this day that Suarez’s action was a cheat.
The following were some of the comments:
“LUIS SUAREZ>>>>PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1″ [Chris via facebook].
“BY THE POWERS VESTED IN ME BY THE BNI …… I DECLARE ‘LUIS SUAREZ’ AS GHANA’S NO 1 PUBLIC ENEMY WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT AND PLEAD 4 PUBLIC PARDON ON GYAN WHO MANY NOW REGARD AS PERSONA NONGRATA”. [Kofi via facebook]
“It is cheating but at the end of the day I don’t think a big deal would have been made about it if Gyan didn’t miss the spot kick. Suarez could have well ended his team’s run in the World Cup. But to be proud of having the new ‘Hand of God’ title is terrible. I do hope fifa lengthen the ban” [Lewis to Sky Sports].
Suarez, according to Sky Sports, admitted, “This was the end of the World Cup. I had no choice. I have the ‘Hand of God’ now. I did it so that my team-mates could win the penalty shoot-out. When I saw Gyan miss the penalty it was a great joy”.
Oscar Taberez, Uruguay’s coach, argued “When there is a handball in the penalty area there is a red card and the player is thrown out of the game. Saying we cheated Ghana is too harsh a word to use. We also abide by what the referee did. It could have been a mistake. Yes he stuck his hand out, but it’s not cheating. I don’t think it’s fair to say that” [Sky Sports].
And it goes on without end…
LESSON NUMBER THREE: “You do not correct a corrupted rule by breaking it. Continue to obey it while you fight for a change in that rule”.
The rule has defined sanction for deliberately handling the ball under such circumstances as sending off. And as far as “FOOTBALL” is concerned, justice was served when Luiz Suarez was sent off and a penalty awarded to Ghana. It was up to us to take our chances.
By “take our chances” I don’t refer to Asamoah Gyan alone. Taking our chances meant and still means:
i) That we do not relax because we have a goal. THIS IS FOOTBALL FOR CH***T SAKES!
ii) That a match involves 90 minutes of play plus any additional time, extra time and penalty shoot-out where appropriate. We need to prepare for all and not be taken by surprises.
What, in the best of my opinion, we can and should fight for is a review in the rule governing such a circumstance. It is almost as natural as it may be hypocrisy to demand a further sanction of the poor Uruguayan.
As Milovan Rajevac concedes to FIFA: “All I can say is this is football. It was a very difficult game for us because in the previous game [against USA] we also played for 120 minutes and in the end we had the historic opportunity to reach the semi-final and we had the penalty. We have to be proud of what we have achieved. This is sport and justice. Today Uruguay were the lucky ones”.
QUESTION NUMBER TWO: Would we have wished a Ghanaian player acted otherwise should the situation have been the other way round?
GIVE CREDIT WHERE DUE
Ghana’s 23-man squad, together with the Manager and the rest of the technical team, deserve to be applauded. It was quite a fete and a step further from what Ratomir Dujkovic left us in Germany 2006.
Asamoah Gyan has been at his best and I don’t think that eleventh hour error, thought it caused us a lot, should erase all he had done up to the last game. Ghana can, however, not afford a repetition in future.
For those who would want to see this as consolation, according to Myjoyonline.com who quoted from Goal.com “FIFA have admitted Luis Suarez could potentially miss the rest of the World Cup after his handball against Ghana”.
What should not be left unrewarded are the belief, confidence and support of the continent of Africa which played a role in pushing as that far.
After such a performance, ‘disappointment’ is definitely not the word. Let us gather our ‘bows and arrows’ for I can only imagine how 2014 in Brazil is going to be! There is surely more to come for Ghana and the rest of the Continent.
GOD BLESS GHANA! ALL HAIL AFRICA!!