The Pride of Africa

Monday, October 19, 2009

The youthful Ghanaian U-20 squad has taken African football to a higher level. Last Friday in Egypt, the Black Satellites got the better of their Brazilian counterparts to win the Under-20 World Cup. With that victory, they made history as the first African team to win the trophy that had eluded Africa for so long. Both Nigeria and Ghana had been runners-up twice. But neither had won the cup until last Friday when the Black Satellites of Ghana showed that an African team also had the grit and guts to break the near-monopoly of South Americans on the U-20 World Cup – both Brazil and Argentina had respectively lifted the trophy four and six times.

The Ghana win is symbolic of the renaissance of African football in a year that has been tagged the African year of football. All the three categories in world football are hosted in Africa in a row – the U-20 (Egypt), U-17 (Nigeria) and the World Cup (South Africa 2010), not to mention the Confederation Cup that was hosted earlier in the year by South Africa. Last Friday’s triumph should and must provide stimulus for all African teams taking part in any of the tournaments to bend over backwards to do Africa proud, just as the Ghanaians have done in Egypt.

For a very long time, Ghanaian football suffered a decline, with the national team failing to make any impact at the continental level. It was not until 2006 that Ghana made its debut appearance in the World Cup. For a country that had won the Nations Cup for four times, it is not a flattering record. But the inspiration to derive from the Ghanaian experience is that Ghanaians have got their act together and are now on the ascendancy again. To prove their resurgent superiority in football, they have qualified for the World Cup in 2010 ahead of the other African teams. And their recent success at the U-20 has consolidated their position as the prime force in African football at the moment.

It is widely believed that any team that defeats Brazil is a no pushover in world football. Why? Because Brazil is football and football is Brazil; a synonym that Brazilians have elevated beyond the level of an art to the status of a religion. Brazilians worship football; that is why when they lose a football match, it is like they have lost their soul and salvation. And that is why a team that defeats Brazil is regarded with awe.

When the Ghanaians were pitted against the Brazilians in the final of the U-20 in Egypt, it was assumed that Africa would be consigned to second place yet again, a stigma that Africa needed to slough off. Both teams had excellent track records in the tournament, showing an attacking force that is marauding and fatal. Before the epic final, Ghana had scored 16 goals, while Brazil had netted 14. But in terms of defence, the Brazilians were more cohesive, conceding only four goals, unlike Ghana that let in eight.

The final lived up to its billing. At the end of 90 minutes, neither team found the net, not even with the extra time played. As is customary in football, the match was decided by penalty shoot-outs. Whether it was through sheer luck or skill, the Ghanaians broke the jinks and gave Africa victory and so rewrote the history of the U-20 World Cup. They are now the World Champions and the pride of Africa.

The Ghanaians have spoken loudly and clearly about what the world should expect from Africa this year (theU-17 tournament in Nigeria) and next summer in South Africa. They have shown that Africa’s moment has come in world football and never again will the continent play second fiddle to any team in the world. And the continent has the Black Satellites to thank for this glory. We heartily congratulate them.

“Professional football is no longer a game. It’s a war. And it brings out the same primitive instincts that go back thousands of years”.

Malcolm Allison