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Friday, October 16, 2009

Africa Wins!!

Last night we watched the Under-20 World Cup Football (soccer) Final match, held in Cairo, between Brazil and Ghana. It was the first time an African team had made it to the finals I think, and a pretty big deal since the World Cup is held next year in South Africa. This was the teen-version of the event, and since many of the best players in the world are 19 or 20 years old, an exciting match, the culmination of around-the world qualifiers and play-offs. We've been able to hook into satellite TV for sports for most of the year now. We don't use it much (time and power are issues!) but it has become a real way to relate to our friends in our home (a missionary justification? oh well, thankful for a little cheering to balance out all the smelly blood-and-guts real missionary work). Our CSB students are on a weekend mid-term break--two had to go back to school after dinner because their major O-level exam period starts Monday, and they are in high-gear. But three stayed for a football sleep-over.
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.


Heather Pike Agnello said...

um, I love this one...

Daniel said...

Go Ghana!

Joel Watson said...

I am a medical student and an African missionary kid. I grew up in Zaire, Kenya and Madagascar and so I was so excited to see Ghana win! Great commentary on the game - excited for the future of Africa!