Monday, June 26, 2006

World Cup Quote du Jour

I've caught some crap for being what my son calls a fair weather World Cup fan given my tepid support of the vanquished U.S. team and enthusiasm over the play of Australia and Ghana, among other teams.

I feel somewhat vindicated after reading the thoughts of author and soccer maven Sean Wilsey in The New York Times:
In 1990, Pelé predicted that an African country would soon win the World Cup. Sixteen years, two Brazilian and two European champions later, Ghana, ranked 48th in the world, behind even Trinidad and Tobago, has defeated both the Czech Republic, ranked second, and the United States, ranked fifth, and will meet Brazil (ranked, reasonably, first) on Tuesday.

Ghana is the lone African nation still in contention. During the Ghanaians' crucial game against the United States, as the American team struggled to come back but couldn't score despite some beautiful deliveries into the six-yard box, I found myself thinking that the situation was weirdly paradoxical, that both the United States and Ghana needed the same thing — a small, wily, dexterous sort of player up front, a player who could whirl and tap those passes into the goal for the Americans, a player who could dance through the soon-to-be-faced Brazilian defense for Ghana — and this player existed. His name is Fredua Koranteng Adu, but he wasn't playing on either side.

Seventeen-year-old Freddy Adu was born in Ghana and lives and plays professionally in the United States. Ghana's coach offered him a spot but Adu turned it down in order to be eligible for the American squad. Then he failed to make the cut, supposedly because he's too young, too short, too small — and it was too late to change his mind, even if he had wanted to join his homeland Black Stars.

Few sane Americans would give up United States citizenship for Ghanaian citizenship. Why play soccer for a nation that had never qualified for the World Cup before now? On a continent where just six years ago a national team (Ivory Coast's) was locked up in a military prison for two days as punishment for losing in the African Nations Cup?

But four years from now, when Adu will almost certainly be on the American squad, the World Cup finals will be held in Africa for the first time and Ghana will have the always-compelling continental advantage. What looks like sanity today might turn out to be lack of imagination.

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