To The Shout Of "Ghana", You Respond "Respect"

Elizabeth Ohene's World Cup Diary Part Three

Sunday, June 18 2006 - The Ghanaian Times

I couldn't make an entry into my World Cup diary last night. If the truth be told, I was in no fit state to either face a computer nor compose a sentence, nor even gather my thoughts by the time I made it to my room.

It had been a very long and boozy night after the history making events at Cologne Stadium.

I suspect that when it is all over the date June 17, 2006 will become like the day President Kennedy was killed or the day Princess Diana died or 9/11. Everybody will remember exactly where they were the day the Black Stars of Ghana made World Cup history by playing the most beautiful football and bringing pride to Ghana and to Africa.

Again I had been afraid we would be "out-shouted" by the Czech crowd: the Czech Republic is an hour's distance away from Cologne and seeing as they are members of the European Union, they do not need visas to make the journey.

The stadium was mostly a see of Czech red, but the Ghanaian crowd made its intentions clear right from the afternoon: my hoarse throat was evidence. But I need not have worried, we had vociferous and colourful support from the Germans and before the match, it was obvious that match tickets were at a premium.

There was one particular Japanese young man who was so desperate for a ticket I had to ask him what his interest was: "I like the style of the Africans and my wife always speaks about Ghana, since she had served as a JICA Volunteer in Ghana." I was sorry I couldn't help him and I sincerely hope he managed to get a ticket to get inside the stadium because by the time my group got to our allotted area, 100 Euro tickets were changing hands for a thousand euros.

I had dressed very carefully to match my decision that this was a RED LETTER DAY for Ghana and for the Black Stars. The colour scheme was red and the flag was bigger. I had run out of bandanas because that was the easiest thing to give away to all the people who were asking for Ghanaian paraphernalia.

There was a determined Swede who appeared intent on making me strip so he could have my top. Fortunately for everybody and the horses that might have been frightened, I am no longer that brave, so I only gave away bandanas.

Inside the stadium, we sat down; behind me and in front of me were two young men who had come prepared to lead the choruses and had the proper accoutrements: bugles, "dondo" drums and well-oiled throats.

I must confess I missed the moment of the first goal and had to rely on the replay on the giant screen but that did not stop the total delirious dance and screaming which must have lasted for more than three minutes.

And that is how it went on for the full duration of the match. Yes, we could have and all are agreed we should have scored far more goals than the two we ended with and we got too many Yellow Cards but last night nobody cared about those. Plus I can tell you that the Czech contingent told me Ghana could have scored five goals at least and I am not about to question their judgement.

I saw grown Ghanaian men who are normally very shy and reticent, dancing and dragging out long forgotten yells and chants and songs from their innermost beings.

I was hugged and kissed by interminable multitudes. Every Ghanaian or friend of Ghana was showered with congratulations beyond belief. The Czechs were generous in defeat even though if they had understood the meaning of some of the songs we were singing, they might not have been so accommodating.

The instant celebrations at the Cologne Cathedral Square could not have been better planned and then came the celebrations at the team's hotel: after a while, the hotel staff did look a trifle concerned as their lobby was turned into a dancing ground.

Sammy Osei Kuffuor and his wife mingled with the crowd and were happy to pose for photos, Tony Yeboah and his wife worked the crowd expertly. The calm Minister for Education, Science and Sports, Paapa Owusu Ankomah came down still wearing a smart suit, the Deputy Minister with responsibility for Sports, O. B. Amoah was there and you knew he had all the strands under control; P.V. Obeng was obliging and one thought he had waited for a long while for this moment, the GFA boss had a smile that would have charmed the Czech Goalkeeper, Peter Czech to let in a few more goals and a good time was had by all.

But my most treasured moment came at the train station as we were staggering to the journey to hotel in the wee hours of the morning. An academic looking German gentleman approached us at the platform. "Ghana?" he asked, we nodded and he said: "RESPECT" and then bowed to us and walked away.

That was the perfect summary: RESPECT, the Black Stars had given and restored respect to Africa; For far too long, African teams came to the World Cup and were treated as though they were there just to make up the numbers.

Here we are at the 2006 World Cup, England have played two poor games and they have qualified for the next round, la Cote d'Ivoire have played bravely and beautifully and they are out of the competition, Angola has been entertaining and they are out of the competition, Ghana had played well against Italy and had lost and the same could be said of previous competitions with Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal etc.

Yesterday, the Black Stars brought RESPECT to Ghana and to Africa; it was a comprehensive victory and it should be savoured.

Of course, this means Nuremberg on Thursday will be special and I am nursing my sore throat and lost voice to make sure the USA is drowned.

GHANA, RESPECT, that is the new slogan and I have no doubt the Black Stars will deliver the same goods on Thursday. It was again a good day to be a Ghanaian in Germany.

See also and Firmly On The Map (Part Four)

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