USA vs. An Entire Continent
By Iyanna M. Holmes
I am not a soccer, or football as it’s called, fan. As a basketball fan, I have difficulty getting excited about a sport whose cumulative scores rarely exceed five. And as an American, I struggle to grasp my head around a sport in which a game can finish and there is no clear winner or loser. If there is no winner, then the game isn’t over… right? Someone. Must. Lose. (Or is this just me?) Despite all of this, I still revel in the excitement, camaraderie, trash talking, celebrating, and mid-week bar visits that a tournament like The World Cup brings. In 2008, I made my second trip to Ghana while the country hosted the Africa Cup of Nations. The amount of energy and enthusiasm that was in the air during that time was extremely infectious. I was definitely looking forward to that same feeling while being in Liberia during the first Africa-hosted World Cup.
Six African teams began in the World Cup: Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa. During the first round, all but one African team, Ghana, was eliminated. The elimination process included an especially “embarrassing” (a description I heard used more than once) 3-0 loss by South Africa to Uruguay. So going into the second round, the pressure on Ghana was very high. As someone who has fallen in love with Ghana, I was torn as to who I should root for in the game; the USA, my home team, or Ghana, a small nation who held the hopes of an entire continent. In the end, I settled on Ghana. Let’s be honest – the vast majority of Americans don’t pay any attention to the game of soccer, on an international level at least (as I know that these days, soccer has replaced Little League baseball for the youth’s sport of choice), until the World Cup. With this win, Ghana would become only the third African team to ever make it to the quarterfinals of The World Cup. No, Ghana, and Africa as a whole, had much more riding on this game.
And an intense game it was. At the end of the 90 minutes of regulation time, the game was tied at 1-1. I was relieved that my utter disdain for tie games was no longer an issue, because after the first round, every game must have a clear winner. So began another 30 minutes of extra-time. In the third minute, Asamoah Gyan scored a tie-breaking and what would become the winning goal. For the rest of the game, the room was a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and anticipation. Our collective heartbeats fluctuated with every close call, every blocked goal, every missed point. As the clock ran out, the room erupted into celebration! Shouting, vuvuzelas blaring, hugging, dancing, congratulations exchanged. One Ghana supporter captured the relevance of the victory when he exclaimed, “They thought they were coming to play one country, but they came to play an entire continent!” Indeed they did. And Ghana, with the pride of an entire continent riding on its back, was victorious.
Iyanna Holmes is a Kiva Fellow working with Local Enterprise Assistance Program (LEAP) in Monrovia, Liberia. Join the LEAP Lending Team. There are borrowers from Liberia with LEAP, and many other entrepreneurs from around the world, who you can help by making a loan on the Kiva site.