ACCRA – The streets of Accra – known for their traffic gridlock - were suspiciously quiet on Monday as Ghana took on South Korea in their second football World Cup match in Qatar, which, to many locals here, was a must-win ahead of the explosive meeting with Uruguay on December 2.
Oxford street, a buzzy stretch dotted with all kinds of middle-class shops in the heart of Accra’s central business district, looked abandoned as many Ghanaians took to the pubs, or stayed home, to catch the match against South Korea.
It is suspected that a number of workers either called in sick while some shops decided to count their losses by closing early to be able to catch the Black Stars, who were eventual winners against South Korea in a tense match that ended 3 – 2.
But if that early afternoon match on Monday betrayed any hints of what Friday might look like, then Accra will surely is about to come to a standstill. The match against Uruguay is not by any means ordinary. Just over 12 years ago, on that cold Friday evening at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg on July 2, 2010, Ghana became the closest African country to nearly make it to the semi-finals of a football World Cup.
Towards the end of extra time in that nervous match, in the 122nd minute, Dominic Adiyiah’s header was surely going to seal the win for Ghana and send the West African country to the semis – a first for any African country. Then the unthinkable happened; Uruguay’s striker, Luiz Suarez, parried the ball away, getting a red card in the process.
Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s top striker, stepped up to take the penalty. He missed, breaking Ghanaians and African hearts. In the resulting penalties, Uruguay won the shootout and progressed to the semis.
“Suarez?! That guy! We shall skin him alive if he ever steps in Ghana!,” said one Ghanaian fan during the public screening of the game against South Korea in the parking lot of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation’s offices.
The last meeting between Ghana and Uruguay might have taken place more than a decade, and none of the players that took to the pitch in South Africa that day are in the current set-up in Qatar, but the wounds – and the pain – remain raw.
“Friday is going to be explosive. This place is going to fill up,” said another fan.
The blaring sounds of drums and the high pitch noises from whistles are not expected to go quiet on that day. At the moment, football has brought many Ghanaians together at a time when the cost of living has shot through the roof.
Many families are struggling to put food on the table as the current inflation rate is now at 40 per cent, one of the highest on the continent. Many people here are looking to the Black Stars’ conquests for some relief during this economic downtown. There will not a better a relief that anyone can give Ghanaians right now than a correction of that historical injustice in South Africa.
“If we win, then maybe the pain will reduce. But we shall never forget what Uruguay did to us,” said the fan.