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My heart’s in Accra… if only the rest of my body were, too

Man, I wish I were in Accra right now. It’s hard to be appropriately overjoyed about Ghana’s advance to the group of 16 in the US – the only people who actually understand football are dejected and grousing about crappy officiating. The way to celebrate today is with cold Club beer, fans yelling and singing and dancing along the sides of Ring Road.

But not even Markus Merk can spoil this one. The German dentist – who was somehow let onto the pitch in ref’s garb – gives the US someone to blame, but even without his absurd foul call on Gootch, giving Appiah the opportunity to send home a gorgeous penalty, Ghana outplayed the US and would have advanced on a draw. It was a tough, physical match, good fun for the duration, and Ghana deserved exactly what they got: a ticket to the next stage.

My friend Hank was a good sport about watching the US side lose, even giving me permission to cheer the replay of Dramani’s mugging of Reyna, leading to the match’s first goal. (His girlfriend was asleep during the first half hour, so I had to cheer silently the first time around…) And he’s agreed to root for Ghana against Brazil, a good thing, as divine intervention may be required to compensate for Essien being benched for the game. (I would not recommend that Markus Merk travel to Ghana any time soon.)

Contrary to the article in the Onion, the rest of my countrymen seem completely unaware that their national side has gone down fighting on a global stage. I left Hank’s house and went into downtown North Adams to buy a quart of paint and a hamburger while wearing my Black Star jersey, and didn’t get a single comment, or even a raised eyebrow. I was ready for jeering, rotten fruit or fisticuffs…

Fortunately, my global community watches football, even if my local one doesn’t – by the end of the match, I had text messages and emails from four continents, split between congratulations and condolences that we’ll be facing Brazil next. (I love that our crazy Serbian coach has told the media that Brazil will “suffer”. Perhaps the philosophy for the next game involves committing more than the 32 fouls we inflicted today…)

Well done, Ghana. Sorry the win had to be at the expense of a US side that played solid, if uninspired, football. Ghana’s the only African side to advance this year, and only the fifth African side in history to make the next round. I hope it’s a hell of a party tonight and that tonight’s celebration is only a foreshadowing of celebrations to come.

16 thoughts on “My heart’s in Accra… if only the rest of my body were, too”

  1. Here’s one countryman who is aware that we (USA) lost, and doesn’t mind cheering for Ghana from here on out….I was proud of myself the other day when, with a British and Australian friend, I was able to answer a World Cup question they couldn’t: which other African team advanced unexpectedly in their first trip to the World Cup (I’m talking, in the last few years)?….Not all Americans are as ignorant as one guy here who, when told that a fellow student was from Africa, said, “What’s the capital of Africa?” And some of us like the game, though I can’t say I know all the rules…thanks, Ethan (for giving us some perspective) & good luck against Brazil…remember- they aren’t perfect!

  2. Way to go, Ethan!!!!!! Too bad my medium -sized Ghana jerseys wouldn’t fit you; I would have sent a dozen or so over!!!

  3. Don’t get me started on Dr. Markus Merk. In the Bundesliga we’ve got to live with his disconcerting decisions week in week out.

    It’s particularly unnerving when he’s refereeing (if that’s a verb) my team’s matches (Hamburg SV), I suspect he just dislikes them. In any case, Graham Poll outdid even Markus Merk today by booking Simunic twice without sending him off, only to give him a third booking a couple of minutes later. To his credit: this time he did show him the red card.

    Anyway, none of this matters: Ghana has made it and that’s excellent, I’d love to be there right now just as much as you would and I just hope that somehow they manage to pull it off against Brazil who’ve already won more than enough anyway.

  4. All right!
    Seems to be a good year for upsets — we can hope :-)

    Which other African team did advance unexpectedly in the last few years?

  5. Ethan, I thought of you when I saw Ghana won. I thought, “He’s gonna be ecstatic.” I totally forgot that your neighbors might be less so (the ones who aren’t asleep on their feet, that is). The US has enough big stuff. I was rooting for Ghana right the way along. Although I also have to admit that I’m glad to see the US fielding a pretty reasonable team for a change. It’ll be nice when we actually join the community of nations.

  6. Ethan,

    Last week, in our local pub, wearing my 2001-2002 yellow black stars outfit, I was also reminded of my time in accra, especially of the last time i wore that same t-shirt, as i ran through the streets of accra celebrating a Ghana U17’s victory or something along those lines.

    Yesterday afternoon, watching Ghana, outplay the US, my thoughts echoed yours exactly. Oh, how happy it would make me to have watched that game in a chop-shop in osu, yelling, dancing, smiling and biting my nails with friends who appreciate the wonder that is the Black Stars :-)

    Luckily I live in a country where everyone is watching the world cup, even though we aren’t qualified, and everyone seems to appreciate the lively, yet disciplined attacking midfield of the Ghanaians. I have to say, that on tuesday, I am likely to again be sitting at my local pub, wearing my Black Stars outfit, although this time most of my countrymen will likely be rooting for Brazil.


  7. I knew that you would be ecstatic about Ghana’s win yesterday Ethan. In our local pub here in Germany there was a mixed crowd of U.S. fans, Ghana fans, Iranians, Czechs, Italians…and of course Germans. At the end of the match we were all excited that Ghana won and although I cheered my hometown team (U.S.A.) throughout, I let the Ghana fans know we were absolutely delighted to see them go through to the next round. After all, who in their right mind would want to face Brazil in the WM 2006 Achtelfinale? Certain death!

    P.S. I’m cheering hard for Ecuador to advance to the quarterfinals and beyond, despite their crushing defeat by Germany. Ecuador is the team to watch at the FIFA WM 2006 and I believe they can stop Brasil if they can clobber England on Sunday. Tunisia just bit the dust against Ukraine (0-1) and Spain is leading the Saudis 1-0. Can tiny Togo send the French team packing tonight at 9.00 and will South Korea stop the Swiss? Talk about upsets! What a nailbiter this World Cup has been. BTW: The beer is great over here and the Germans have simply outdone themselves as a host nation. They’ve recovered there national pride again after 61 years in the lost-and-found.

    Tor! Tor! Tor! Viva Ecuador! Go Go Go Ghana!

  8. Ghana outplayed the US??? Their first goal came from an out-of-position Reyna falling down and handing Ghana the ball and a 1v1 on the keeper. Their second goal came from a blatant and cynical dive, when Pimpong went down after minimal body-contact, clutching his foot. Instead of a yellow card for diving, he won a penalty. In any other sport that is considered cheating.

    Ghana out-fouled the US 32-16, received four yellows to the US’s one, and spent the entire second half diving and crying to the ref, fitting, as most of their good players (other than Essien) have played or currently play in Italy.

    I WAS going to root for Ghana if the US didn’t make it out of the group. After that display, though, not a chance. Right now, they top my anger list, second only to Bruce Arena, that tactical genius.

  9. To moderate my comment above, let me add that I still admire Essien, Muntari and Appiah, as they are very good players, who didn’t play negatively as Pimpong, Boateng, Dramani, and the less-skilled Ghanaian players did.

  10. Adrian – I wonder if we were watching the same match? Dramani took the ball from Reyna on a tough but fair challenge and beat a terrific keeper one on one. I agree that Gootch’s foul on Pimpong shouldn’t have been called and that the PK was a horrible error by the ref… but would you concede that a 100kg defender challenging a 70kg striker in the air might actually put the smaller man on the ground?

    My two teams in the cup were the US and Ghana, reflecting the only two nations where I’ve ever resided, and the two countries closest to my heart. I thought the US played with passion and grit against Italy… they disappointed me against Ghana and the Czechs.

    Yes, Ghana outplayed the US. Yes, it involved some dramatics and more than a little fouling. Yes, I hate the flop and cry school of football roughly as much as you do… but the US has to take more than a little responsibility for this loss.

  11. Oh I’m not saying that the US was robbed unfairly. The way they played I was amazed that they were even in the game. The entire World Cup, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and McBride (and, for as long as he was out there, Pablo Mastroeni) looked like the only players who cared about winning. But Reyna giving the ball away on a play during which he’s injured (even though I agree it probably wasn’t a foul, incidental contact) and then Ghana winning a penalty on a bad call (the players size is irrelevant if there’s no real conctact) doesn’t translate into Ghana “outplaying” the US. Even with the US lackluster performance and Bruce Arena’s tactical idiocy, the US still looked like Ghana’s equal. Neither side deserved to win that game – the US because of a lack of effort, and, in my mind, Ghana because of their style of play. For a team touted as “Africa’s Brazil,” diving and fouling their way to the group stages left me with a bad taste in my mouth both as a US fan as as a spectator of the sport.

  12. ok, we may think we’re happy but our joy is a limp whimper compared to the lady encountered in Accra by journalist Kwaku Sekyi Addo who simply screamed: “I want to have Stephen Appiah’s child!”

  13. ethan,

    i too have been thiking of you as ghana proceeds to the next stage. as someone who bleeds green and yellow, i look forward to seeing the amazing ghana team meet my brasil.

    i’ve always admired the african teams – nigeria, cameroon, cote d’ivoire, and now ghana. indeed, everyone is suprised it took ghana so long to reach the cup, seeing as they are considred one of the top teams in africa. and i am sad cote d’ivoire didn’t make it through.

    i think the internatinalization of football is raising the level of play globally, but the traditional powerhouses still keep churning out amazing teams, as witnessed by the usual suspects moving to the second round (argentina, italy, germany, brasil).

    the argentina-mexico game was a great match (more than i expected), but there are not as many hot matches this round as the ghana-brasil will be.

    you in the berkshires and me in suburban helsinki will be watching matches played in germany by our favorite teams ghana and brasil. we’ll be united with millions of our fellow ‘countryfolk’ across the globe who share our passion. i’ll be sitting right ‘beside’ you in cheering for a win.

    talk to you later.



    ps incidentally, i visited your site today for random tid-bits on accra nightlife for a story i am writing only to see you wax poetic and partriotic on football. funny guy.

  14. It was a tuff loss for USA soccer. I was disappointed in the Ghana vs US game, but was pulling for Ghana vs. Brasil. I guess the reffing caught up with Ghana (NO RESPECT – same as USA). All of Brasil’s goals were offsides. I still think the USA were the better side against Ghana — even whilst playing poorly. The real problem with this cup is the FLOPPING and the REFFING. LEt the daggum players play football. All these side activities take away from the game. Refs should NOT be noticed in the game. They are there merely to make sure the game is played within certain parameters. Blame it on pitiful FIFA for trying to be cute and change the reffing rules right before the cup. Great idea, DISASTER in practice. This cup was by far the biggest FARCE I have ever seen. Flat out pathetic display by the world body on many counts. Certain refs should be nominated as MVP for many teams.

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