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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Devastated Ghana football team gets an honored treat

Yesterday Ghana suffered one of  the cruelest exits in World Cup History.  They were on the verge of becoming the first African team to reach the semi finals in the first World Cup help on African soil.  The hopes of a billion Africans rested on their shoulders, the five other African teams having already been eliminated. 

They were playing Uruguay and had the better of them for most of the game as well as the 30 minutes of extra time but the score was still tied 1-1.  With virtually no time left they would have scored the winning goal had not a Uruguayan player who wasn't the goalkeeper stopped the ball from crossing the goal line with his hands.  The rules of football decree a penalty with a red card dismissal for the offender.  

Asamoah Gyan who had played his heart out strode up to take the kick.  On average 85% of the time, the kicker will score.  The final whistle would blow as soon as the kick was taken.  Gyan who scored twice previously from the penalty spot in the finals got under the kick, the ball hit the crossbar and bounced out.  

They went to the penalty shootout where each team gets 5 penalties, each to be taken by a different player.   Gyan went up first, fighting God knows how many demons.  He scored but two Ghanaian players subsequently missed and Ghana were out while Uruguay were moving on.   A stunned silence came over the 84,000 spectators save a small pocket of Uruguayan fans.  Gyan was inconsolable. 

They are the youngest team in the finals, oozing with talent so they will, in all likelihood be back at the next finals in Brazil in 2014 but until then, the nightmare end to the game with a tragic Shakespearean conclusion will live with them.  

Today they received a little bit of grief counseling from the man without whom there wouldn't have been a World Cup hosted by the Rainbow Nation of South Africa. They met with a frail 91 year old Nelson Mandela at his home in Johannesburg..  It's little consolation but something that the team will remember for the rest of their lives. 

Yesterday, a billion Africans were all Ghanaian.  They came agonizingly close but a continent is proud of them as they share their pain.  

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