Saturday, July 3, 2010

Black Stars Cheated Out Of WC Dreams

Ghana’s World Cup dreams ended on Friday with their loss to Uruguay. While it’s sad to see Ghana out of the tournament, it’s infuriating to see how they were knocked out.

If you haven’t been following the World Cup or the story of the “Black Stars,” they were the last African side still alive as the tournament entered the 16-team elimination round (the other five African teams did not advance past the round-robin portion). The entire continent rallied around them, an amazing feat considering how often Africa has been divided by political and/or ethnic strife. The president of Ghana prayed with the team before their match with Uruguay; their performance in the tournament even earned them an audience with Africa’s living legend, Nelson Mandela. The Ghana-Uruguay game seemed headed to a Hollywood finish – at the end of extra time Ghana striker Dominic Adiyiah sent the ball towards the net for a sure goal to give Ghana a 2-1 victory, that is until Uruguay forward Luis Suarez slapped the ball away at the goal-line. This led to a penalty kick, which Ghana missed and an eventual Ghana loss in a shootout.

Now I’m not an expert on soccer, but one thing I do know is that unless you’re the goalie, you can’t use your hands – simple enough rule. Yet Suarez did just that, saving a sure goal and Uruguay loss (since the ball would have clearly gone in, I don’t understand why this wasn’t simply an awarded goal rather than a penalty kick which could, and did, miss). That Suarez cheated to win the game was bad enough, but that he was laughing about it afterwards, “I think I made the best save of the World Cup,” Suarez said of his creative rule-breaking following the match, is infuriating (I’m glad here to see that the Associated Press’ John Leicester agrees with me on that count).

A friend of mine told me to get over it because it was “just a game.” But the big selling point of soccer/football/futbol to we Americans, the reason we should join the rest of the world in our obsession about “the beautiful game,” is that it’s much more than just a game: it is passion, human drama, and the mysteries of life all presented to us on a cool, green field (or at least that’s what the game’s proponents would like us to believe); the game even helped to spark a war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. It certainly wasn’t “just a game” to the millions of Africans across the continent who ignored nationality and adopted the Ghanaian side as their own.

In sports, the team you want to doesn’t always win. But to see Ghana lose thanks to the illegal action of some arrogant punk from Uruguay is pretty disheartening. It also kills my interest in the remainder of the World Cup. Frankly, I don’t care who wins – though I do hope Uruguay loses badly. For me soccer will now go back on the shelf of sports curiosities, next to bobsledding and curling, that I care about once every four years or so.
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