Don't Blame Ghana!
Commentators are unfair when they say African teams failed at the World Cup. A lot of perennial soccer powers left the tournament long before the Black Stars.
Sports commentators and pundits would like us to think that Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan went from hero to villain in a second, when he missed a last-minute penalty against Uruguay Friday and his team lost. You might think everything Gyan did for Ghana and Africa in this World Cup -- including scoring the goal that eliminated the United States -- went down the drain in an instant.
Ghana's loss wasn't the worst of the tournament so far. Brazil, the five-time World Cup champions and tournament favorites, began their samba dance back to Rio De Janeiro only a couple of hours earlier. And former world champions France and England and defending champions Italy didn't make it as far as Ghana. Yet sports commentators want us to believe that Ghana's exit from South Africa was more devastating than that of the soccer powerhouses.
"Devastation for Ghana's Gyan," a Wall Street Journal headline proclaimed. (Compare that to "Dutch Mount Historic Comeback Against Brazil," the headline that followed the tournament's greatest upset earlier in the day).
Throughout the tournament, pundits kept reminding us that Africa had "a disappointing performance." Ghana, they said over and over again, was Africa's only hope. And why was it important to keep hope alive? Because this was the first time Africa has hosted the World Cup, and, for reasons unknown to me, a country from the continent was supposed to win the cup. "A great disappointment for the continent," ESPN commentator Ian Darke said after Ghana's loss. "What a heartbreak for Asamoah Gyan, Ghana and Africa."
But was this really supposed to be Africa's World Cup?
Although we Africans were elated when FIFA announced that the World Cup was coming to our soil, very few of us expected any of our teams to be among the last four, let alone win the tournament. Of course we're proud and ambitious. We went into the tourney just like every one of the other 31 teams, promising to give it our best and hoping for a miracle. But most of us were realistic. We knew that even with divine intervention, we'd still need more help. In fact, I know many Africans who supported African teams but put their money on foreign teams.