Ghana is Through: A View From Accra

 

A loss never felt sweeter at Semi's Place.

 

———

Matt Muspratt watched the Black Stars go through to the second round at Semi’s Place in Asylum Down. Matt is an American who has lived in West Africa for the past two years – the last five months in Ghana. He drove by the French Embassy in Washington DC minutes after the 1998 World Cup final; watched Ronaldo’s 2002 final goals on a car-battery-powered TV in a northern Cote d’Ivoire village; and listened to Zidane’s 2006 headbutt on a radio in rural Sierra Leone. He wants to see Rooney, Dempsey, Drogba, or Gyan score in the 2010 final . . . on a flatscreen in Accra.

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It’s a good day when one of your teams qualifies for the last eight of the World Cup.

That’s right. Knock-out stage brackets haven’t even been fully determined yet, but thanks to a last-minute Landon Donovan goal and sturdy play from Australia, both the USA and Ghana advanced today to the round-of-16 — where they will play each other Saturday for the right to a quarterfinal spot.

Winner gets my support. Until then . . . .

It almost didn’t happen for either team. I shivered out the heart-thumping US win in an A/C ex-pat sports bar straight out of Ann Arbor, MI — I knew I could count on them to simultaneously show the USA game and England’s must-win-and-they-did contest against Slovenia. (I hit the trifecta today — I’m an England supporter too.)

With my Anglo-Saxon victories in the bag, it was on to Semi’s Place in Asylum Down for Ghana versus Germany. I misjudged the potential for Accra’s denizens to actually show up early for a scheduled event and found myself seated at the far back, vuvuzelas in the ear and the projection screen a hundred hollering heads in front.

All was good though, even the couple of “Are you German?” questions.

“No. American!” (And can’t you see the yellow Ghana jersey I’m wearing?)

We’ll see how that answer flies in a couple of days.

The Semi’s crowd was active. Singing, cheering, standing for every Ghana rush. Halftime was particularly raucous, with Ghana still holding on to a tie and K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag World Cup anthem throwing banners and arms and vuvuzelas to and fro. “Driving the passion” read the swirling flags.

In the end, the final celebration was a bit subdued. Ghana had lost to Germany, but news of Australia’s victory over Serbia was at hand, and that was cause for shouts and horn bellows — Ghana was through to the knock-out stage.

“Are you Australian?” shouted one man.

“No. American!”

“Next!”

“Yeah. Saturday!”

This will be tough, but I do know whom I will support. I — along with everyone else — truly wanted an African team to advance out of the group stage. To have it happen to my country of residence is even sweeter. I’ll be happy with them, and my Ghana shirt may even get another wear.

But tomorrow will tell what it’s like to be an American in Accra. My taxi driver home tonight lamented how strong Germany was and how lucky Ghana had been to advance.

“The US will score Ghana,” he said.

“But remember four years ago. You guys won, and eliminated the US.”

“We did. But the teams, they are different.”

“Yeah. The US is strong.” •

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Photo Credit: Matt Muspratt

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