Monday, February 04, 2008

As the Week Opens in Accra: We Were All (West) Africans Yesterday


I spent the better part of 4pm yesterday trying to craft this entry. To me, the day seemed like an all-African affair.

I had woken up to a beautiful harmattan-yet-dry day which, in retrospect, would augur well for the rest of the day. I would hear local station CITI97.3 FM reporting the build-up of excitement of the duel between Ghana and Nigeria.

BBC Worldservice would report on the imminent ousting of Chad's Deby; the station's Have Your Say would host one whole hour on Kenya and the violence there, trying to ascertain the extent to which it was an ethnic-driven conflict. Meanwhile, Saturday's news of Tanzania's Kikwete, newly-elected African Union Chairman, denouncing the crisis in Chad, as one which would see an "excommunication" of the country, only went to underscore--along with a BBC "From Our Own Correspondent" report on the recovery of Cote d'Ivoire five years after the 2002 coup -- that on Sunday, we were all Africans.

Then my Mum reminded me to check the Internet for the download of an interview granted me, Ndesanjo Macha, Sub-Saharan Editor of Global Voices and one John, a football consultant, a week ago on Radio Netherlands International.

Amy Walker, of Radio Netherlands, would ask me a few days before the interview on the significance of Ghana 2008 on Africa.

One of my more specific questions were on how football is a great "equalizer"--or not.

At 5pm on the dot, the whole family was seated behond the tv set, with the stage set for an explosive match between West African rivals of Ghana/Nigeria.

Ofcourse, Ghana would win--but not without enduring the (initial) rough game of the Nigerians; nor the 11th minute, when Yakubu missed the goal by inches; nor the free kicks awarded to Nigeria and Ghana; nor the red card handed to an irate John Mensah in the 59th minute--compelled to give his "captaincy" to Michael Essien. Neither was it without a yellow card to Nwaneri for kicking Hans Adu Sarpei; nor the 20th minute, when Quincy Owusu Abeye(sp?) missed a Ghanaian goal by inches; nor without the infamous penalty that secured a goal for Nigeria; nor without the Black Stars playing 10 men.

That the Algerian coach blew the whistle sometimes a bit too late, but contemporraneously overlooked some Nigerian "mistakes" only went to underscore the speculation that he was paying Ghana back for the Morocco game. Whether this was founded or not, it's clear that he overlooked some Ghanaian mistakes too.

Either way, it was always going to be about the goals--and boy did Ghana score. The videos I have posted attest to this. You will also see Nigeria--in the TV3 clip showing their penalty--and how they mocked Ghana's "kangaroo dance".

They got punished, if anything, for that alone.

But if we were to stop at the football for a second, it was not too hard trying to contrast the violence in Kenya with the jubilation over the "beautiful game." Whatever the case may be, it is a real shame about Kenya, plus the fact that it was not even able to enjoy solace from football by being participants in the CAN2008.

Long live West Africa. Long live ECOWAS! Long live Ghana.

Long live Africa.
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