Monday, June 19, 2006

Ghana 2, Czech Republic 0

Saturday was World Cup magic for Ghana.

It seemed a pretty impossible situation, though you would never think so on the ground here in Ghana. After dropping their opening match 2-0 to Italy, the #48 ranked Ghana had to beat the #2 ranked Czech Republic to keep their World Cup hopes alive. Though most of the foreign media didn’t give Ghana much of a chance to win, everyone I talked to in Wa was completely convinced that Ghana would be fine. Their team shared this sense of confidence; the Ghanaian captain actually laughed at reporters who told him their chances were slim. Simply put, Ghana has a fantastic side and they know it.

The game was to start at 4pm. Earlier in the day I welcomed Ian, a fellow EWB volunteer, to the Upper West, as he had just been transferred to an NGO in Wa. Shortly after checking him into the hotel, we set off with one goal in mind—finding a good spot to watch the game. Most of Wa’s streets were emptied as everyone crowded around the few small TVs that were around in the outdoor bars. We checked our watches and realised that it was already a minute or two into the game, and so made our way towards a nice looking hut with a big crowd ….

We were still 10 meters away from our destination when suddenly the entire place exploded into celebrations; people were jumping over the few chairs and tables, hugging each other, dancing on or around anything in sight and screaming GOOOOAAALL!!! Ian and I exchanged an excited grin and went running into the madness high-fiving everyone we passed. Eventually the place finally calmed enough for us to see the replay on the 15” TV that everyone packed around. It was a beautiful play and the first World Cup goal in Ghana’s history. Despite the fact that it was a series of replays, the bar treated every showing as a new goal, exploding into a fresh set of cheers, chants, and celebrations each time they saw the ball go into the net. Ian and I just looked at each other and burst out laughing; it was shaping up to be a good afternoon!

As the game got back underway there was an overwhelming feeling of hope and excitement in the room. It was clear that we were in a football crazy crowd as every good pass or play was met with enthusiastic applause. The funniest element of the match to me was that everyone was so confident in the Ghanaian squad that they essentially assumed every shot on net was a goal, which led to a lot of excited confusion for Ian and I since the preemptive celebrators usually jumped up in front of the screen and we could never tell whether or not it was an actual goal (didn’t usually matter for the Ghanaians, they celebrated anyway).

Picture this exhilarating euphoria extended over 120 minutes and that’s basically how the rest of the game went….

I’ve always said that Canadians are generally obsessive about their hockey. And I think that’s true; we love it and can never get enough. But, frankly, the Ghanaian love for football makes us seem indifferent about our national obsession. The post-game celebrations of their 2-0 victory were unlike anything I’d ever seen; the streets of Wa were absolutely swarmed with people! Everyone who owned any type of motorized vehicle packed it full of their friends and went flying down the streets with the horns blaring. Ghana’s World Cup theme song—“Straight to the Top (Come on Black Stars, Ghana)”—could be heard blaring from every TV and stereo set in the city. Ian and I laughed and sang along with the music, high-fiving and hugging everyone we passed.

Most people were very quick to ask us where we were from and which team we supported; and they were even quicker to embrace us at our answers. I don’t even know what I could possibly compare the celebration and atmosphere to; I’m struggling to find any words that can convey the overwhelming sense of hope, pride, and sheer jubilation that pervaded the air. People we passed shouted to us that “now the world can see how well Ghana plays football!” It was a near-religious triumph for a country that absolutely breathes the sport but struggles to promote its wealth of talented athletes on the global market because of limited resources.

However, as we neared the hotel one particularly interesting Ghanaian enthusiast ran up to Ian shouting “We beat you people! We beat you!! We were shocked. As two people who were sporting bags with Canadian flags and were walking around screaming “Two-Nil!!”, “Go Ghana!” and cheering with everyone else, this absolutely floored us. But it also opened our eyes. This dark insight into the mentality of a former British slave colony changed our mood for the rest of the walk home as we began to see the true depths of the celebrations and what this victory really meant for Ghana and, likely, all of Africa. This was more than a simple sporting victory and it was more than a great underdog story. This was a symbolic triumph that is dear to the hearts of every Ghanaian. This was success despite harsh oppression; this was Ghana succeeding in a world where the odds are stacked against them.

I only hope that it’s a sign of things to come....


At 1:15 p.m., Blogger Emily said...

How incredibly fantastic; Something you are never in a million years, going to forget!

At 3:27 p.m., Blogger Emily said...

Can I just ask another quick question? (but really, would bother trying to stop me?)
Is there a delay on when we can read your posts? Because I check the thing every bloody day and while the last post on the World Cup is dated last Saturday, it didn't show up until the 24th . . .

At 12:18 a.m., Anonymous Edouard LeBlanc said...

Hey Bryn! One word, Fantastic. Don’t get caught up in the “we are the conquering westerners feeling”. Sometimes analyzing a cultural situation to much can make you forget about the simplicity of the matter, (and the other thing your thinking now “Censored”). Try to put yourself in their shoes for a minute and now think to yourself what they really may be thinking of us. Have you heard the words (Fiata Doky) as of yet? Does this scare you? If it does why do you not speak of this in retrospect? I spend very little time in Ghana, but I have had my share of the surrounding area.

Diplomacy can be dangerous to ones ego (One Way) (Country) so does that mean that war is the only (Direct) answer. Or maybe war is the only way to kill proliferation. = This dosnt make much sense for me ether just something im thinking about.

At 2:11 p.m., Anonymous chickety said...

NPR had a fascinating report the other day on the joyous exuberance after Ghana's World Cup victory over the US and I wondered if you were seeing it. What an amazing experience.

At 2:44 p.m., Blogger Laura said...

I love the World Cup. I wish I was in a country anywhere other than North America to be apart of this incredible celebration that most of the world is going through. I am jealous of that. But even here in Canada, bars are filling with supporters of different teams crowding in a cheering. I love that about the World Cup. It brings the ENTIRE world together.

At 3:03 p.m., Anonymous Brian said...

watched ghana vs brazil today. unfortunatly the game went to the brazilians, but it was one of the most entertaining games of the world cup so far. Ghana had brazil on its heels for most of the game. Anyways, i love the soccer crowds. During the game they showed a section of fans wearing the colours of ghana and they were playing instruments. there were 10 drummers and 6 horn players and they played music to the beat of the game. Definatly the coolest thing i have ever seen. I would have loved to be in the streets after that win. But think about it, it would be the exact same feeling if Canada beat the USA in hockey (ie salt lake city olympics, or more recently edmonton fans on whyte ave). Anyways glad to see you are taking it all in


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