Time for Africa to move on
Bye, bye BaGhana BaGhana. Some of you might be wondering which team have adopted this new name and the truth is that no-one has, by choice. It's the name South Africa has given to Ghana's Black Stars as part of their ambush marketing campaign. Africa's World Cup was in desperate need of some home success after five of the six continental representatives were booted out in the first round. Ghana were the sole survivors and as such they became the flag bearers for a billion people.
The Black Stars accepted their responsibility with maturity, with the likes of Asamoah Gyan saying that the team thrived on the support of an entire continent. They had a letter from Nelson Mandela wishing them well in their progression through the tournament. They had the South African media urging locals to kit out in green, red and yellow. I'm sure if black stars could be plucked from the sky, the South African media would have wanted to do that too. They were going to be our heroes, and then they failed.
The pain was unbearable. First, we'd watched as Bafana Bafana came so close we could taste the second round. We built our bridges and crossed them two weeks later when Ghana were to take us into untouched territory for Africans - the semi-finals. We waited nervously because we knew Uruguay well by now. They'd already shattered our dreams once, would they be so heartless again? Then, when Sulley Muntari's long-range effort found the back of the net, we erupted.
Although Diego Forlan brought Africans down to earth (again), Ghana were in pole position to advance. The opportunity was as ripe as the apple that Adam and Eve couldn't resist and the feeling was that Africa had won even before Gyan stepped up to take the penalty. He had scored twice from the spot in the tournament already, so why shouldn't he do it again? Some didn't even watch as celebrations began prematurely and when that shot hit the crossbar, the awful, awful sound you heard wasn't just that of the Jabulani bouncing off the woodwork, but the sound of a billion hearts collectively breaking.
What a way to be dumped. There was no gentle let down that a 1-0 beating would have provided, no quiet ending after 90 minutes. Instead there was screaming and fighting, there were tears and then there was the end. Just like any good break up, someone had to blamed. That poor fellow is Luis Suarez, who has been called names that I cannot repeat here. In short, he is the Grinch who stole the World Cup semi-finals from Africa's desperate hands.
A quick check around social networking sights shows that South Africans, never mind any other Africans, are furious with Suarez for handling the ball on the line and denying them a last gasp winner. He has been branded a cheat and the fact that he got sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty for his wrongdoing doesn't seem to matter. People are recommending that the incident be dealt with as a penalty try is in rugby and that since the ball would most certainly have been a goal if it wasn't for Suarez's arm, a goal should have been awarded, not a penalty, which only gave Ghana a 50% chance of claiming a goal which was rightfully theirs. Would the sentiment have been this strong if the incident took place on the other side of the park with Uruguay the ones who could have won through a last-minute spot-kick?
I think not. The emotions involved in Ghana being the only continental representatives are running so high that FIFA has even said it will further probe the Suarez incident and that he may be banned for longer than just one game. That smacks of emotional influence and should have the Irish feeling very angry. Thierry Henry's handball which resulted in the goal that saw France book their tickets to the tournament was not investigated and no action was taken. FIFA said there was "no legal foundation for the committee to consider the case because handling the ball cannot be regarded as a serious infringement as stipulated in article 77a) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code." So why is the infringement more serious this time?
Suarez received his punishment, as far as most neutrals are concerned, but some want more to be meted out to him. Some views are quite extreme, with one user on South Africa's news24 website, calling himself 'Dirty smelly Uruguay', baying for Suarez's blood. He posted (amongst other things which we will not repeat here), "Suarez should be dropped off in Ghana by himself for a day! Should be banned from playing for the rest of his life!" What's really disturbing is the smiley face that accompanied the vitriolic message.
Luckily, that fanatical mentality is not being displayed by everyone. Just as the majority got sucked in by the BaGhana BaGhana marketing, they are getting equally sucked in by the cries that reverberate around telling Ghana how proud Africa is of them and what champions they are despite failing in their quest. I believe it's called denial, the stage that follows blame after a break up.
The last chapter in heartbreak is acceptance and one can only hope that that stage is reached sooner rather than later and that Suarez is no longer pinpointed as the enemy. The Vancouver Sun quoted a fan as saying the tournament was symbolic of the unification of Africa. The paper said that our shared heartache would unify us even further. To that I say: check back in with us a year from now and we'll let you know how our new-found unity thing works out.