Monday, February 4, 2008
So after all this time writing about African football and my journey to the 2010 World Cup final, I finally got to see an African football match. And it didn't dissapoint.
Ghana-Nigeria was as good as it gets. Drama. Something on the line. Genuine antagonism. A boiling cauldron of a crowd. All the elements were there for a great football match. I can honestly say it was one of the better ones I've seen in some time.
I arrived early to grab a seat at my local football bar, Nevada Smith's. I figured many people wouldn't be there to watch the match, the bar being Irish and all. But I was wrong. By kickoff time, the place was jam-packed with Nigerians, Ghanaians and other fans curious to see the action. The place was hot and sweaty with anticipation.
The screen shots were poor. It was as if the game was being funneled to us from someone's iPhone. But the sound was excellent and we could hear the crowd pulsate with every neat ball flick and every near goal.
Here are some thoughts I jotted down from my first African football experience:
- There's loads of talent on both sides. This Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie is quite good! Where does he play?
- Yakubu is not a good finisher. He had two good opportunities in the first half and fluffed them both.
- In the first half, Nigeria had opportunities but no real penetration. They played long-ball style, which to my untrained eye means they lack confidence in their midfield.
- A penalty! The throng at the bar exploded, so I didn't catch what he called. Was it a hand-ball? Yakubu finished that one, though. 1-0 to the Super Eagles.
- Ghana has loads of possession but no real shots to show for it.
- Strike my words! Goal by Essien! Beautiful header!
- It's a scrappy game, lots of hard fouls. It's clear these teams do not like each other.
- The Ghana goalie comes off his line to head a ball out of the offensive zone only to leave his net unattended. The ball comes in, the goalie runs back and *just* flicks the ball over the net. Great save!
- The 2nd half was much quicker, fast-paced and dramatic than the 1st half. They turned the engines on.
- Red card! A mental lapse or what some may call a 'professional foul' by Ghana captain Mensah. Ghana will need all their resolve to hold off Nigeria being down to 10 men.
- I can't say Ghana is playing for a draw. 10-man Ghana is still attacking with poise. They're being given loads of space by the Nigerian defense.
- The referee isn't very good. His personality is taking over the game.
- Ghana striker Agogo missed a sitter!
- Strike my words again! He scores a fabulous goal! The crowd goes wild in Ghana and at the bar! I am being doused with beer and hugged by strangers!!
- Who is down to 10 men here? Ghana look the better of the two.
- 89th minute and Nigeria is furiously battling for the equaliser. They're coming close!
- And it's over! Ghana are through!
What a game! What an atmosphere ... I really enjoyed my first-ever African football experience ... can't wait to see more!!