Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan thanks the Lord after scoring against the USA in extra time. AFP
Watching the USA exit the World Cup might have been a nerve-wracking experience for President Obama, but for real football fans it should come as something of a relief. For the third time an African nation has progressed through to the last eight, and the hope, albeit remote, that an African nation will win the first African World Cup, remains alive.
Things didn’t look good when Landon Donovan sent the game into extra time with his third goal of the finals. The Americans were on top, and I was wondering whether I could charge overtime for my labour. I almost missed Asamoah Gyan’s surging run into the American box to score what proved to be the winner. As the final whistle blew, my sigh of relief was even louder than the vuvuzuelas.
It’s not that I have any anti-American tendencies, a point I wish to stress for any members of the embassy’s politburo who happen to read this column. Rather, I believe that football’s World Cup should be won by teams that actually play football, rather than soccer.
The Americans have never really embraced the world’s most popular team sport, preferring baseball, basketball and their own version of football. All are team sports that can stress the importance of the individual rather than the need to play as a team.
More importantly, they incorporate very little use of the foot, apart that is from using one to stand on as you throw, catch or hit the ball.
Even when the USA embraced football with the creation of the North American Soccer League in the early 70s, the rules had to be ‘Americanised’. A shootout decided matches that ended in a draw. The nation that had been embroiled in Vietnam for so many years had little concept of a sporting stalemate. Of course, things are very different now.
The early days of North American soccer and its head-on clash with football’s governing body FIFA was like the infinite force meeting the immovable object. There was always only ever going to be one winner.
Four years after the NASL folded in 1984, FIFA awarded the USA the World Cup for 1994. The move was calculated to rub salt into the wounds of the NASL rebels, who had previously been denied the chance of hosting the 1986 World Cup, ostensibly due to US rule tampering, although I hope it had something to do with their intransigence over the name ‘soccer’.
Please send your comments to our World Cup columnist Mark Jackson at [email protected]