Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CAN Opener

The fervor of the biggest event to hit Ghana since, well, I got here, is now in full swing with the opening game of the African Cup of Nations 2008. In anticipation of the match I make the journey to Accra.

It is clear that the Black Stars are more than just a football team. They are a religion. All over Ghana, and on radio and television, prayers are being offered for a successful tournament.

Adorned with matching red, yellow and green head and wrist bands I take in the first game, Ghana-Guinea, at Twala, a renown obruni hangout on the beach, serving perhaps the best grilled tilapia and chicken on the face of the planet.

The game is being shown on a TV inside a small thatched beach bar. The TV faces the ocean, meaning everyone is ignoring the crashing waves of the Gulf of Guinea in favor of watching the Black Stars sending waves of attackers crashing into the porous defense of team Guinea.

The first half sees thuggish tackling and extremely slow play on the brand new turf. Three shots ring off the post and one goal is disallowed for Ghana's dominating effort. Guinea looks over matched. The crowd is bursting with anticipation for the first goal and a sure Black Stars victory.

The second half begins with some uninspiring play on both sides until suddenly, en route to the opposition's goal, a Black Stars player is brought down inside the box. It looks to me like the call could go either way. The tackle looks clean, but there is certainly body contact made. The referee calls for a penalty shot. The kick is true. Ghana pulls ahead. The crowd erupts in cheers, singing and dancing.

The game continues with an apparent change in fortune for Guinea. Following a harmless looking cross, a cracking header rockets towards the Black Stars goal. It hits the crossbar and angles into the net, but is kicked out of the air by a defender. The referee points towards the center spot indicating a goal had been scored. The damage has been done. Guinea 1 - Ghana 1.

The crowd anxiously hums in disbelief. I order another drink.

The game nears it's end and a draw seems likely, until something magical happens. Muntari breaks in alone, crosses up his defender and from just outside the box sends a bullet towards the net. The keeper dives, misses and watches the ball slam into the back of the net.

Chaos, jubilation and ecstasy erupts in the tiny thatched beach bar on the edge of the Gulf of Guinea.

The game ends and all is well in Ghana. The streets of Accra are rocking as vindicated believers of the Black Stars parade in celebration.

As the opening game ends, the rest of the CAN2008 tournament promises to deliver us from our soccer sins and bring us closer to football heaven.

If God is not Ghanaian, he's at least a fan of African football.

(With thanks to Me Pe Fufu)

1 comment:

matthew palmer said...

This morning I sat in a church watching roughly two hundred Ghanains pray out loud for victory in the Ghana-Nigeria quarter final match this afternoon. One woman had tears in her eyes. Hopefully God's a Black Stars fan.