Brazil came out strong, dominating the first half hour. And Ghana looked hesitant, cowed. And I watched our three young footballers, who play for CSB and most every day of their lives, wilting on the couch, bracing for yet another demonstration of Africa's inability to compete and win. I've read some commentary that Africa's crisis is not economic, political, environmental . . . Africa's crisis is a crisis of confidence, a legacy of colonialism, of encountering the rest of the world centuries behind. My heart was wilting with theirs, with the millions of teenage boys just like them all over the continent, watching. When one player was red-carded midway through the first half, in a call the announcers described as "harsh", we all assumed that would be the end and the heavily favored Brazil team would conquer the Ghanaians, who now had to play the rest of the match one man down.
But the game went on, and on. 0 to 0 at the end of the half. 0 to 0 at the end of regulation time. 0 to 0 at the end of the first period of overtime. 0 to 0 at the end of the second period of overtime. The boys from Ghana held on, determined. The hopes of the crowd rose. After 120 minutes of play, the championship went to penalty shoot-outs. And even then, the whole match hung by a thread. Each team scored their first two tries, then Ghana was blocked. It looked like it would be over, then Brazil was blocked. And so it went through the normal 5-shot penalty shoot-out, still tied. The sixth shot for Brazil was taken by the player who had dominated regular play. The keeper from Ghana, who had already had a fantastic game, was seen on his knees praying. Brazil missed, Ghana drove in the final shot, and won 4 to 3 on penalties.
This is the first time an African team has won. I'm sure it was terribly disappointing for Brazil, but frankly they win a lot of football. It was very exciting to watch these boys who look just like our friends, hang on, maintain their poise when they were down, fight hard, and win. Praying it will be a small ripple that spreads across the continent, building confidence.