Ghana’s relationship with the man whose hand rocked the cradle of Ghanaian dreams and turned them into dust..
There are moments in life where everything seems to slow down, and your heart seems to stop. Your senses become extra-sensitive to the air, the temperature, the ambience of your surroundings – so sensitive that you can even sense that you are about to reach a crossroad in life, where one of two things could happen, both options having the ability to have a massive impact on your future.
The 119th minute of the World Cup Quarter-Final between Ghana and Uruguay was such a moment. And if you’re a Black Star, you can fully identify with the phenomenon I just described. Ghana had been applying pressure for ages, as the clock ticked towards penalties. The last African team standing in the first ever World Cup in Africa. The world was willing us on. Just one more goal, would take us to the semi-finals – and with confidence rising, and the continent’s support, who knows where we could’ve gone from there? Ghana pressed, and pressed; huffed, and puffed, heeding the call to destiny. Ghana felt destiny was in their own hands.
Alas, we didn’t know that it wasn’t our hands in which our destiny lay, but in the hand of one Luis Alberto Suarez…
Watching Dominic Adiyah fling his head at the ball as it dropped in the penalty box, time slowed down. Despite the speed of the shot, your eyes were able to track the trajectory of the ball. It was headed straight for the goal.
Away from the goalkeeper.
It’s a goal.
It has to be a goal.
Oh my God, it’s actually going to happen!
It’s almost there…
…And then, just as sure as the ball is going into the net, you see two hands raised by someone other than the goalkeeper and the ball begins to travel away from the goal. Dejection. Disappointment. Frustration heightened even further by Asamoah Gyan’s attempts to lob the ball to God with his penalty. Frustration morphing into blind fury as shots of Suarez jumping with glee on the sidelines came into view. If I had a pound for every supermalt bottle/kebab/Malta Guinness bottle/expletive which was thrown when those images first appeared across the world…
The vitriol aimed at Luis Suarez in the days and weeks following his treacherous act was incredible. Ghanaians across the world began to venerate him as a figure slightly less evil than, if not shoulder-to-shoulder with, Lucifer himself – an example of everything dark, twisted, dishonourable in this life we live. People even began to pray against ‘every Suarez in [my] life’! ’m convinced his irrational and nonsensical biting of an opponent a few months later was just a manifestation of all the curses Ghanaians had thrown his way!
So fast forward almost four years. Four years since our dreams were shattered just as they were almost tangible to touch, our place in history snatched by the Uruguayans hand. How is Suarez seen by Ghanaians today? Speaking to fellow football supporters, there remains an element of distrust and dislike towards a player who since his act has been brought to our front doorstep on a regular basis by plying his trade in the English Premier League, the most watched league in the world.
And yet, the harshness of ill-will towards him seems to have been numbed a great deal by his weekly displays of footballing skill and goal scoring prowess which baffle most observers consistently. This season especially, ever since his return from a ban for another bite (manifestation of his overdraft in Ghanaian curses I’d imagine) Suarez has concentrated on his football and cut out most of his dark arts. From a man whom many wanted thrown off our shores, he has now become a stand-in Liverpool captain, a front-runner for this seasons Player of the Year and Golden Boot and…whisper it…quite a well-behaved player.
The resentment towards the man whose hand rocked the cradle of Ghanaian dreams has cooled, it has negated a great deal. Retrospect has allowed Ghanaians to understand that despite the treachery of his actions, Ghana still had their destiny in their own control but yet they decided not only to sky the resultant penalty (the politics of which could be another article in itself) but sky a few more in the actual penalty shoot-out! Time has began to heal, began to allow us to take responsibility for our own failure. And time has allowed Suarez to grow from the petulant and uncomfortably-deplorable brat he was to the fearsome and driven footballer he is today.
Time is a healer. The pain will always be there. And I still wouldn’t hang my hat on Suarez being able to make it clean through Kotoka International Airport safe if he ever passed through. But both he and Ghanaians have made great strides over the years. Who knows, if Ghana make it through our Group of Death, we could be set with a shot at sweet revenge against one of the best players in the world. If that bridge comes our way, it may be time to start praying against every Suarez in our life again
Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)