2014 World Cup: Before the bite, there was the hand-ball that ended Ghana's dreams
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa will forever remain our greatest hour. Even Ghana’s first ever World Cup appearance in 2006 in Germany, which had announced our presence on the global stage, was not as dramatic and emotive as the South Africa campaign.
And this year has proven to be a disaster, as problems within the team (two veteran players, Sully Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng fought, and Muntari was alleged to have threatened an official while brandishing a broken bottle) and over money — the players wanted match bonuses paid in cash before a crucial final group game — laid waste to our chances. We were knocked out in the group stage.
But back to happier days. In 2010, Ghana played Uruguay in the quarterfinals, the farthest the national team had ever progressed in the tournament. In the last minute of extra time, with the score at 1-1, the entire continent roared and grumbled in disappointment when Luis Suarez in an extraordinary show of patriotic spirit handled a Dominic Adiyiah net-bound header on the line.
For the love of country, Suarez endured a red card and Uruguay suffered a penalty to avoid what would have signaled the end of his country’s World Cup dream.
Ghana’s victory would be inevitable with this penalty, we believed. We will make history for being the first African team to reach the semi-finals. Asamoah Gyan, our captain, our talisman, was elected to take the penalty.
That final kick that bore the spirit, the fate of the nation. His countenance was reassuring. The drumming and singing went louder. I felt my pulse with both palms over my chest as many others in the restaurant did.
The nation’s fate was invested into this single kick; this goal would send the whole nation into flames of joy this evening. Our president and many of his officials were watching from Cape Verde after an official meeting.
A win would, as in previous tournaments, divert attention from the current economic problems at home. The president badly needed this win.
There would be a public holiday the following day. Gyan knew all these things. No higher motivation than this. My friend, Ama, refused to look, she pulled her scarf over her eyes. In silence, we sat, for what seemed a year.
Shockingly, Gyan missed the penalty. His shot hit the bar.
The game went into penalties. Whilst Gyan courageously scored the first kick, it wasn’t enough. A shocking 4 – 2 loss to Uruguay. Our world cup dream died.
The nation went into mourning over what would have been the most successful world cup performance for Africa.