Thursday, July 17, 2014

That Time I Was on Ghanaian TV


The morning after I arrived in Natal, I was sitting downstairs, peacefully charging my tablet when the whirlwind touched down. Four or five guys entered the lobby, with noise and serious cameras. Bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, most of us already sitting in the lobby just stared, uncertain of what was going on. The guys introduced themselves as a TV crew from Ghana, there to cover the game. Before we really knew what was happening, they rounded up the Americans and interviewed each of us regarding USA's chances in the game the following day. They got three of us to sit on the couch and chant 'I Believe That We Will Win' while holding my USA scarf.

 Interviews in pajamas.

While none of us looked our best, I figured, it's not as if I know anyone in Ghana, right? At least, not till now. The guys were super-friendly and continued talking with us once the cameras were away.

 

The morning of the game, the Ghanaians were back in the lobby with their press passes, getting ready for the match. There was some vaguely misogynistic banter about the US being the wife in soccer and Ghana the husband (as opposed to the reverse in other respects, it was explained, as if that was what had made me side-eye the comment), but overall, the television crew's spirit was infectious. 

  
Hadn't quite perfected the war paint yet.

After a while, I escaped upstairs to get ready for the match. I had planned on going to the game with Adriana and Moto, a Japanese fan we'd met that first evening when the power was out.

  

And then, after all the wait, it was off to the stadium...



 
 

While I missed the amazing American Outlaws march, there was plenty to see as we made our way toward the stadium. Adriana, Moto, and I made plans to meet up after the game, before heading to our individual seats. Despite having category 1 tickets, I was in the upper tier of the stadium. On the plus side, it was a first-row seat.

 

  

I've been to maybe a half-dozen USA games before, dating back to the 1998 World Cup qualifiers. Not a lot, but enough to know the drill. But this was my first World Cup game. This was special... the stadium was still relatively empty and inspirational FIFA music and video played on the large screens. Not to mention, Arena das Dunas is gorgeous. I got a little emotional, not gonna lie.

 
 
                   Almost time!                                                  'My Guess' - this shirt was everywhere


Ghana fans trickling in. You can see the section in full-force in the video above.

 
'Straya?

For those who don't know, Ghana has been American soccer's bogeyman in the past two World Cups, defeating us and sending us out of the competition in both 2006 and 2010. Add to that the fact that this was our first game, and possibly our best chance of getting a win in a tough group, a lot was riding on this match. After a Clint Dempsey goal put us up in the first minute, we hung on to that precarious scoreline till Andre Ayew scored for Ghana with eight minutes left to go. Four minutes later, American defender John Brooks became the hero of the hour with a beautiful header. We went crazy. Beer was spilled. It was wonderful.

Not so much for Ghana - it would soon become apparent that in-fighting and problems at the federation level had weakened the team since 2010. Back at the hostel, our Ghanaian friends were subdued. Meanwhile, I was ruing my decision to leave Natal so soon - just a block down the street, Americans were celebrating. But for me, it was time to move on to Manaus...

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