About two hours to the start of the match between Ghana and the USA, I got a telephone call from a friend of mine in South Africa. He and his friends had organized a party to watch the match and he wanted me to know that a lot was riding on this match and Ghana had better not lose.
This time around, I had no butterflies in my stomach: I decided we were going to beat the USA: Having watched two of their matches, I made up mind that the FIFA world rankings were suspect. Maybe, the Czech Republic were indeed number two in the world, but the USA couldn´t be number five and anyway, whether they were number five or number ten, Ghana was going to beat them.
My group made the journey to Nuremberg by car. A four hour journey it was from Cologne to Nuremberg and we drove on beautiful roads with clear markings. The hired car, of course had a navigator, but I couldn´t get the settings to English and I was not feeling particularly brave to I stuck to my tested method of a road map. But I needn´t have worried, the signs were clear, the road condition was excellent and everybody drove extremely fast. But in a journey of almost five hundred kilometers we did not meet a single accident. People kept to the lanes, indicated clearly when they wanted to overtake and of course, you had confidence in the car you were driving and could have confidence in the other road users and their vehicles. There wasn´t a single road check point nor rumble strips. Maybe I am not being fair, these were the famous German autobahn. We do have something approaching an autobahn in the Accra-Tema motorway, but human beings walk across our own.
It was a pleasant drive.
The Americans were in full force, they don´t need visas to visit Germany and there are American bases in Germany. In the town centre, they gathered quite near where the Ghanaians had gathered at out team hotel. This was a grand hotel, aptly named, GRAND HOTEL. They had the numbers, we had the rhythm and we had passion and we had soul.
The stadium was placed in very beautiful and historic settings. I shall ignore the history bit and simply comment on the lakes and manicured gardens between the tram and train stations and the stadium. You could simply decide to make a day out of it and that appeared to be what many thousand Americans had decided. They had set up huge barbecue tents and were having a good old cook-out. Their paraphernalia were predictable: 4th July outfits.
The Ghanaians were improving with each match: I mean the gear of the fans. People had become extremely imaginative and the female fans were stretching fashion to the limit.
As has become the usual practice, the Germans were supporting us. I am trying to decide how long this support from the hosts will last: until we play them I suspect. One German told me he was supporting Ghana because many Ghanaian-born players had played and were still playing good football in their Bundesliga. Whatever the reason, their support was welcome.
But again I needn´t have worried, not only was the Ghanaian contingent in full voice and able to outshout the Americans, the Ghana Supporters group kept up their drumming and dancing throughout the match.
Was it my imagination or did the USA have such very poor ball skills? And why was the Referee so unwilling to let the game flow? I have now worked out how the match tickets were allocated: something to do with the alphabet your surname starts with and therefore the same people have sat in the same area at each game, and because our opponents outnumber us, I have always had Italinas and Czechs and now Americans sit in the row in front of me.
I told them before the start of the match we shall beat them; like the Italians and the Czechs before them, they took it as a joke. But now there was a clear difference, nobody was asking where on earth Ghana was and it only took about fifteen minutes of play for their Americans to lose their bravado. The truth of course being that many of them at the stadium did not really care about football and found it rather quaint. They were there to enjoy the atmosphere and if their team should win, it would be a bonus.
The Black Stars did what they had to do, and Ghana qualified for the second round at our debut of the World Cup. Our marvellous Captain Stephen Appiah was the Man of the Match and for me he has been an exemplary captain throughout the competition. And I wore a Number 10 APPIAH jersey to the match and felt quite proud of it too. We collected more Yellow cards and I have been too nervous to try and find out if the rules still say that the next round starts with a clean slate and the cards are forgiven. But really like the numbers in the stadium, where being outnumbered does not matter, I know that Ghana can field a team that will make us proud. We won. We were delirious and we showed it.
I am afraid we then took over Nuremberg city center till very late. The team left town for their base but a fair group of Ghanaian supporters then went into town and made our presence felt. People discovered they had hidden talents and as the evening wore on we became even more imaginative with our musical compositions.Try
"SWING LOW; SWING CHARIO-OOT; GHANA´LL BRING THE WORLD CUP HOME::: I WENT TO DORTMUND AND WHAT DID I SEE?, AND I WENT TO BERLIN AND WHAT DID I SEE; GHANA´LL BRING THE WORLD CUP HOME"Or, try to the tune of a well known Sunday School song:
"IF YOU ARE HAPPY FOR GHANA; SHOUT GHANA; GHANA, IF YOU ARE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT IF YOU ARE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT IF YOU ARE HAPPY FOR GHANA, CLAP YOUR HANDS.
Now in the clear light of day, it doesn´t sound quite as melodious, but believe me in the middle of Muremberg last night, it was magic. The Italians joined us, the Germans danced with us, we posed for numerable photos, the Americans bought us drinks and kept on saying with knowing looks: "we wish you luck with Brazil"
We tried to watch the Brazil-Japan match but not successfully, even though when Japan scored the first goal all the statisticians came out to say Ghana might not have to play Brazil if they lost to Japan and Australian won their match. Of course in the end, Brazil won emphatically and Ghana will be meeting Brazil in Dortmund.
Having waited for so long for this day, I am postponing my journey back home to watch the match. By then, hopefully I shall regain my voice, I shall get new flags and a fresh supply of match outfits.
The Black Stars are making history and we shall cheer them on.