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How Ghana won the World Cup

Under the Neem Tree

How Ghana won the World Cup

According to the football-aficionados of my village, Ghana ‘won’ the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. You see, they are used to making up the rules of football as the game goes along.

One of the more famous rules they enforce is that “seven corners make one goal.” Our local team has “won” many matches with that rule. For if, during a match, one of our strikers gets near the goalmouth of our opponents, he would not try to score but rather kick the ball at one of our opponents’ strikers, creating a corner-kick. If he and the other strikers were able to obtain seven consecutive corners against our opponents, we would argue that it counted as a goal.

If the referee disagreed, someone would give him a slap. If our opponents disagreed, they too would be set upon – by both our players and the villagers who had come to watch the game – and beaten.

This, of course, only happened when the match was being played at our home ground. If we were playing away, we would march off the field in anger, and drive home very fast. Very fast, because our angry opponents might chase us, and give us a walloping for wasting their afternoon. As we drove home, we would give ourselves Dutch courage by singing: “We are we! We are we! No-one can match us! We are we!”

Another song compared us to “the speedy dove of the skies”. We could turn and twist, turning cartwheels in the air. We were dove-birds. We dominated the football field. No-one could catch us. And according to our interpretation, then, Ghana should be co-world-champions with Germany.

Why? Like this: if the Ghana-versus-Germany match had taken place in my village, the Ghanaian players would have walked off the pitch as soon as Ghana went ahead of Germany by two goals to one. And even if we were kicked out of the competition for doing that, we would have claimed that since we were leading Germany by two goals to one before the match was stopped, we were, morally speaking, the real World Champions.

We know of so many ways to stop a match that we think we are going to lose. We learnt most of these ways when we were kids. Someone would whisper to the owner of the football (there was always one spoilt rich brat who owned a proper leather football, while the rest of us made do with old tennis balls or rubber balls riddled with holes that could hardly bounce) to take his ball away.

Why? Because we had “played enough” with it. If we played with it any longer, the rubber bladder inside the leather ball would be damaged. And he was short of the material used to repair punctures.

So the result would have been what prevailed at the time the match was stopped – two-one in favour of Ghana! If we had gone off, then, we would have beaten the Germans, and become, taking the high ground, the World Cup winners!

Anyone who didn’t like the idea could go and take a running jump. I mean – can anyone name any country that was able to go ahead of Germany during the competition – apart from Ghana?

Did anyone else draw two-two with Germany? By dint of sheer logic, Ghana was better than Brazil. Because Brazil lost 1-7 to Germany. And Ghana was better than Argentina who lost 0-1 to Germany.

And look at the results that the other “also-rans” notched up for themselves against Germany: Portugal (0-4); United States (0-1); Algeria (1-2) and France (0-1). And – to repeat lest anyone forgets – Brazil (0-7) and again, Argentina (1-0). But Ghana 2-2! Do you see the logic?

Whilst I am on the subject, I’d better tell you some more about how football was played in my village when I was a child. If a player stopped the ball with his hand in his own goal-area (as Luis Suarez did, in a memorable match Ghana played against Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup tournament) on a localGhanaian football ground, there could have been two referee’s interpretations of that incident.

That Suarez foul prevented Ghana from progressing to the semi-finals of the World Cup competition of 2010. A “genuine”, competent referee would, of course, award a penalty. But if the referee had been bribed beforehand or was a boot-licker (say a teacher who wanted to curry favour with the locals among whom he lived and worked) he would say that it was an “accidental foul” and not a penalty.

I must tell you that apart from “offsides” (which also require subjective assessments by the referee, and can therefore form the means whereby a referee can discharge his duty to the team  that has bribed him) “accidental fouls” caused more fights on football pitches than almost any other misdeeds. But there was another bizarre rule that could be used to prevent a visiting team from being able to achieve the unlikely feat of garnering “seven corners” and thereby “scoring” a goal. (Remember, seven corners make one goal!)

This rule provided that a ball kicked by an opposing player – especially a defender – that sailed ‘’aberve’’ [above] the bar that would normally constitute a corner, was not a corner!

With the connivance of a referee, the corner would be disallowed, on the grounds that it was an “aberve”! Of course, if the aggrieved team protested, there would be a fight. And perhaps, the match might be abandoned altogether. It all depended on the degree of tolerance the visiting team was prepared to exhibit. Having heard all that about the passion that surrounds the game of football in Ghana, you will perhaps not be too surprised to learn that:

1. As Ghana was preparing to meet Portugal in the World Cup 2014, a fetish priest called Kwaku Bonsam (Kwaku the devil!) was unusually interviewed by a radio station, and declared that he had cast a spell on the Portuguese ace, Cristiano Ronaldo! He said he had caused Ronaldo to suffer a “chronic knee injury” that would take him out of Portugal’s match with Ghana! Even if Ronaldo forced himself to play, he would only play at half-cock.

2. I was incensed and asked Kwaku Bonsam, in an article, why, if he had such powers, he had not caused the infernal hand of Luis Suarez to freeze and wither, when Suarez brandished it to knock the ball and keep Ghana out of the 2010 World Cup semi-finals? In fact, despite Kwaku Bonsam’s boast, Portugal beat Ghana 2-1. Ronaldo did play, and he scored against Ghana – in the 80th minute!

3. Although Ghanaian teams usually seek what they call “ways and means” [spiritual assistance] from the likes of Kwaku Bonsam and his ilk in the Christian ”charismatic church”, the greatest enemy of the Black Star team in Brazil turned out not to be their opponents at all but their own officials.

You see, the world football federation, FIFA, pays each national association a large sum for preparing and sending its team to the tournament. Included in the FIFA fee is an “appearance fee” of about $100,000 for each player. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) had other “plans” for the money.

4. Since the GFA had promised to pay the money to the players before the tournament, but on the eve of the match against Portugal, not a penny had been paid! Players threatened not to play, unless they were paid. Eventually, the Ghana government had to fly the money to the players in cash by executive jet to Brazil (costing about $3m in all!).

It was probably supposed to be a secret, but one deputy minister blurted out the fly-the-cash endeavour to the public! The government of Ghana became the butt of particularly snide jokes because not long before it flew the money to Brazil, it had enacted, through the Bank of Ghana, rules forbidding Ghanaian residents from taking more than $10,000 from Ghana without prior approval.

Was the Ghana government above the laws it had itself enacted? Not only did the “dollarcrazy” players become pilloried in the world media but also, they apparently endured a lot of discomfort in Brazil due to poor arrangements made for their welfare. One of the hotels in which they stayed had a leaking roof.

5. More embarrassment for the Ghana government occurred when it was revealed that 200 out of 600 Ghanaians the government had sent to Brazil to “support” the Ghana players, although mostly selected from the “foot-soldiers” of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDC), had refused to return to Ghana and had applied for political asylum in Brazil!

More fun is anticipated from the government enquiry into the Brazil fiasco. In the mean time, the same Ghana Football Association is busy preparing for the next tournament – the African Nations Cup. Watch this space.

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