Ghana vs USA: A View From Accra

 

The ubiquitous vuvuzela was all up in fans' faces and ears after Ghana's win Photo Credit: Matt Muspratt

 

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Matt Muspratt watched the Black Stars go through to the quarter-finals at Honeysuckle in Osu. 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 Gyan score in the 2010 final . . . on a flatscreen in Accra.

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It had to be one fan or the other.

One was going to deflate at the sudden end to an inspiring World Cup run, and rue how far away Brazil 2014 seems. The other was going to keep riding, giddy at a weak quarter-bracket that makes a semi-final run very possible. Let’s call the first Fan A, for American, and the second Fan B, for Blacks Stars.

As a resident of Accra, I am confident my inner Fan B will surface by Friday — and anyway, I hate the Uruguay team — but Fan A is bumming the day after Ghana’s 2-1 victory over the States. If the result had been reversed, I bet inner Fan B would feel the same. And it’s not just because I’ve got both Fans in me, it’s because the Ghana and US teams represent similar, important dreams. It’s a shame one will have to wait four years.

There’s no need to re-hash the joy and pride Ghana generated by qualifying for the knock-out stage and then consolidated by becoming only the third African nation ever to reach a World Cup quarterfinals. Gyan and Ayew are dedicating their Ghanaian wins to Africa, talking of the entire continent’s support for the Black Starts — the last African team standing in the first World Cup on African soil.

Myself, though American, I have lived and worked long enough in West Africa to want to see an African success taken straight to a world audience and straight in the face of Western competition. Perhaps that’s a vague and unwieldy statement, but suffice it to say that I’ve kicked the ball around with my subsistence farmer friends in northern Cote d’Ivoire and seen the Kanda neighborhood guys playing every morning at 6:30am on the dirt pitch across from my Accra home. For me, a big part of sports is representing community — I want to see the farmers and Kanda win; I want them to win on the world’s stage.

But Fan A emerges when it’s crunch time. I am still an American — one that follows soccer — and this time Team USA was representing the very best of America. Cliches: The can-do spirit of come-from-behind victories; the blend of racial diversity; heck, even a star who is the coach’s son (just like my youth soccer teams!). I wanted to see American success taken straight to a world audience and straight in the face of world competition that doesn’t think the US cares about the planet’s sport. In two weeks the team had captured the attention of Americans and here was Donovan and Dempsey’s chance to fully bring the world’s sport to America and bring America to the world fully in a favorable light. I wanted to see that US win on the world’s stage.

For the game of soccer and for Ghanaians and Americans, it was important that their team win.

In any case, Fans A and B were bar-side at The Honeysuckle, an Irish-pub-style venue off Ring Road chosen as much for its eight flatscreens as the prospect of encountering both American and Ghanaian fans. My scouting missions had revealed that though the bar’s menu and prices lean ex-pat, Ghanaians always outnumber foreigners. Early arrivals included US embassy staff, but the tables soon turned and this was a Black Star crowd.

I may have been the worst sport there (or maybe it was the guy shouting “We will score you! We will put papayas in your eyes!” when Ghana went up 1-0), for when the final whistle blew there was dancing all around, and I just leaned over my Star and watched. The shaking bartenders, the ladies jigging atop the bar, the congo line circling around. Even the embassy folks were grooving — that didn’t seem right.

But that’s what the celebration was. Dancing in the bar. Dancing in the streets of Osu. I shot some video.

[http://web.me.com/mmuspratt/mmuspratt.com/NOTES/Entries/2010/6/27_Ghana_2_USA_1_-_Celebration_in_Accra.html]

I don’t think dancing features as prominently in American celebrations. In fact, after the US beat Algeria on a last-minute goal, a US student gathered a bunch of YouTube celebration clips into an homage to American support for the team [http://video.yahoo.com/watch/7718966/20539969]. No dancing, but I don’t think the videos are that different.

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