Friday, July 2, 2010

World Cup!

It is a particularly hot Saturday morning. People are moving slowly under the oppressive, hazy sun. Most are laid out on benches in the shade of their roadside shelters or under trees. There is a sense of anticipation. Not much is being said, all are simply waiting for 2:00 pm to arrive. The vuvuzela blowers start making their noise as early as 8:00 AM, but they get more frequent after noon. I go to the market and it is bustling as usual, but even there, one finds a different kind of excitement in the air. As I head home the vuvuzela blasts are getting more frequent, louder, and a buzz begins to fill the streets more and more. There is a constant hum which comes from television sets locked on to the sports networks - a hum which has become synonymous with the games - the drone of the vuvuzelas in South Africa, which apparently keep the athletes awake at night.

Finally 2:00 PM arrives and small crowds of neighbors are huddled around TV’s in Spots (little local street bars), apartments, houses, local grocers, churches, shanties, and anywhere that someone owns a TV. The 3rd and final group play game, Ghana vs. Australia, finally begins. Early in the game however, Australia scores and there is a sick silence which pervades Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The game continues and Ghana has a good chance at the net. Some fans go hide, some open their doors in readiness, most remain glued to the screen. Finally Ghana scores, everyone screams, jumps up and runs out of their houses, apartments, churches, shanties and street corners blasting horns, waving flags, hugging, kissing and cheering with their neighbors, coming together as a passionate community. The game continues and there is nervous anticipation again, waiting for that next goal, that next break in the game. So many chances, so much good passing and amazing play, but in the end, it is a tie. A very quiet end to this game that we have waited nearly a week to watch since Ghana’s first game where they beat Serbia 1-0, scoring a goal with a penalty kick late in the game. Nothing will ever erase the memory of that win in our little neighborhood of Kokomlemle where large groups of children paraded with huge Ghana flags, blowing horns and whistles. People dressed in banners, flags, football jerseys, hair paraphernalia, crazy hats and jewelry all bearing the Ghana colors of Red, Yellow and Green.

We feel so privileged to be able to experience World Cup in Africa with the tournament being hosted by South Africa. The fact that Ghana is excelling in the World Cup however has been extraordinary and beyond anything we could have hoped for. Historically, I have never followed World Cup too closely, but here you live and breathe it. It brings everyone together, united in a love of something beyond themselves. Their final game of the group play was a loss to Germany, but even that carried a bit of joy as we discovered that we would still go to the elimination round. On Saturday June 26th, we were at the beach in Kokrobite with other VSO volunteers, all cheering for Ghana as they played the USA. I was completely stressed out. You want them to win so badly and they have all been incredibly close games. It was a real party atmosphere at the beach after that win. One of my favorite parts of the USA game though requires an explanation of a certain courtesy people practice here in Ghana. Any time someone trips, bumps their head, falls or experiences any sort of pain or accident here, the person beside them or the people around them say, “ohh, sorry, sorry”. At first we thought they were apologizing for having caused the hurt, but we soon realized they are simply expressing sympathy. They empathize with you in your pain and let you know how sorry they are for you. So, as the game against the Americans was coming to a close and it seemed very likely that Ghana would win, every time the TV cameras panned over or focused on the dejected American fans with their painted faces and drooping flags, the Ghanaians around us said in complete sincerity, “ohh, sorry sorry” to the TV.

Terry and the kids and I really need them to win this Friday July 2nd, against Uruguay, because we will be in our neighborhood of Kokomlemle again watching with our friends who live downstairs, one of whom lost her voice from cheering on the weekend. As everyone says here, “By the grace of God”, please just one more win!!!!