“GOOOAAALLLL BAFANA BAFANA!!! GOAL FOR SOUTH AFRICA! GOAL FOR ALL OF AFRICA!”
English commentator Peter Drury’s words on Siphiwe Tshabalala’s superb left footed strike for the opening goal of the 2010 FIFA World Cup rang very true. The hearts and souls of the entire continent were intertwined as one. Africans had never been and may very well never again be as invested emotionally into the sport of football as they wear in that glorious summer of 2010. Africa was called upon to produce something special, and what resulted was truly a magnificent spectacle to behold. From dancing players to colourful fans, from fantastic theme songs to boisterous vuvuzelas, that World Cup had it all.
I was nine years old when the World Cup came to Africa. I vividly remember the excitement surrounding the young Black Stars of Ghana, who had just finished runners-up at the 2010 African Cup of Nations hosted in Angola. This was a squad united as one and determined to take on all comers. And they did just that; triumphing over a much fancied and experienced Serbian side in the first group game courtesy of an Asamoah Gyan penalty in the 85th minute. This team united Africa as one with their progress to the knockout stages of Africa’s World Cup, with some South Africans even labeling themselves as BaGhana BaGhana fans. And the Black Stars did not disappoint.
A fantastic solo run and goal from Kevin Prince Boateng set the tone for a historic night for Ghana against the United States of America in Rustenberg. Landon Donovan may have pulled the Stars and Stripes level in the second half, but it was always destined to be our night. And when Asamoah Gyan majestically chested Andre Ayew’s long pass down, wrestled past Carlos Bocanegra and smashed home a volley into the American net, Africa erupted. It was a sense of euphoria never before felt. And we never expected to feel that way again. But we were wrong.
In the quarterfinal against Uruguay, things looked balanced for majority of the first half. Then, from completely out of the blue, Sulley Muntari, in for the suspended Andre Ayew, fires home a left footed strike from well over 40 yards out. What a goal!!! And on such a monumental stage as well! Was this the moment?? Were Africa going to make it to their first final?
Diego Forlan deflated hopes a bit with a sumptuous free kick in the second half to level matters, but we still believed. And then, with the last action of the game deep into stoppage time in extra time, we were awarded a throw in. John Paintsil threw the ball right to the feet of Stephen Appiah, who fired at the goal from point-blank range. Blocked on the line by Suarez! The ball popped in the air, and African hearts rose when Dominic Adiyiah, U20 World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner, connected expertly with his head, beating the stranded Muslera in the Uruguayan goal. The ball seemed to travel in slow motion, beating more players on its way till it was stopped dramatically by Luis Suarez. But wait. Did he use his hand? Yes!!! The referee awarded a penalty with the last kick of the game!!
Purists might argue that the ball had already crossed the line before Suarez hit it and therefore the goal should have stood, but here was a chance to win the game and make history by becoming the first African side ever to make it to the World Cup semifinals. I knelt on the ground in Soccer City, Johannesburg, praying that the penalty would be converted. I lifted my head up after and to my dismay, the ball was in the air! Asamoah Gyan had missed the biggest opportunity in the history of the continent. I was too stunned to even react!
We lost the subsequent penalty shootout and were eliminated. However, that marvellous performance by the Black Stars really put Ghana on the world map. Tourists streamed in to see the home of stars such as Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew and Anthony Annan. I will never ever forget my experience at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. My country made Africa proud.
By Nene Afadzinu