I’m not proposing to replace or second-guess Ken Silverstein’s commentaries on the World Cup, but when the U.S. team faces the Ghana Black Stars tomorrow afternoon, I’ll find it impossible to root against Ghana. I’ve spent this week in Accra and have really come to respect the Ghanaians and their love of the game. More than that, the Ghanaians are easily the friendliest football fans I’ve ever encountered. My exposure to football mania has included near-death encounters with hooligans in England (Leeds United), rowdy alcoholics at a Bayern-München game, and a screaming, stampeding crowd at the Be?ikta? stadium in Istanbul. Curious sociological experiences, but I can’t say I enjoyed any of them. Many fans seem to view the game as license for alcoholism, anger, and general thuggishness.
But the Ghanaians are without a doubt the most kind-hearted, good-spirited football fans I’ve ever come across. They cheer their team, salute their players, and know them all by first name, but none of this translates into hostility to the opposition. Wednesday night I sat in the bar at Citizen Kofi in downtown Accra, watching the anxiety-provoking game between Ghana and Germany. The Germans were favored by 3:1. The stout Ghanaians stood their ground, however, dominating much of the game and allowing the Germans a single goal. When it was scored a voice behind me boomed, “They’re a good team, let’s give ‘em that. But we’ll learn from them and be better still.” When the game came to a close, the crowd erupted in cheers. True, they had lost, but it was to a fine team, and they’d be on to the next round anyhow—thanks to Australia, which had trounced Serbia, assuring a qualifying berth for the Black Stars.
The Ghanaians may not have the raw talent or the money of their American competition, but they have amazing heart. They deserve a win.