Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup Diary Day Fourteen: The Decider

Funny how insignificance creeps up the hive of giants and makes them squirm. Until this week Ghana was to the United States no more remarkable than an unnamed star in the Andromeda Galaxy—maybe the same black star that appears in the center of Ghana’s flag. Today, the fate of the United States at the World Cup hangs in part on what that little African nation, whose GDP is less than Bill Gates’ personal worth, can do to the Team USA. Today, Ghana is the giant, the United States the upstart, the underdog, the pretender.
These Ghanaians managed to beat the Czechs, 2-0, and claim the upset of the tournament a few days ago. But these Ghanaians also managed to win the African Nations Cup four times, to out-perform the giants of African football (Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa) and qualify for Germany 2006, as the giants didn’t. They take their football seriously, these Ghanaians. They’re the best African squad in Germany. They looked better than the United States in their win over the Czechs, the same Czechs who humiliated the United States, 3-0. And they’re known as the Black Stars all over Africa. And their president (like Italy’s recently defeated president, who owns Italy’s most famous football club), is president of a football club in Kumasi ( Ghana’s Chicago). He’s declared today a national holiday. He’s made it clear that this isn’t just a football match. It’s African taking on the United States, as he put it in his personal message to the team. “The chicken is never declared in the court of hawks,” goes the Ghanaian proverb. The question is, who are the hawks today, and who the chickens? The African press has dubbed the match “The Decider,” an obvious slight at our own “Decider,” and the presumptions he wears on his nation’s sleeves. Read the rest...