Its in the dying minutes of the first-half of the quarter-final match between Ghana and Uruguay at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. The first third of this half had seen a tentative, even nervous Ghana and an Uruguay that sought to assert its authority early on. But this was not to be, because it was Sulley Muntari of Ghana who blasted a shot from way off that nobody expected to amount to anything. The ball sailed past two Uruguay defenders and a hapless Uruguay goalkeeper straight into the net, just as the first-half ended. And around me all hell broke loose...
Okay, I'm a head taller than John, but when he leaped up from from his seat, he jumped so high I was scared that he might damage my carefully tended bonsai tree on the windowsill, or worse still fall awkwardly and hurt himself, ruining a perfectly lovely evening. And the yelling and screaming! Its almost as if John kicks the ball from thousands of miles away in London whenever a Ghana player is in possession. It became rather uncomfortable sitting next to him, having been kicked a few times, so I've left him and come to the desk to cool off by typing this post, but with one eye still on the game..
And then the second half begins and Uruguay scores and peace is restored to my living room.. Well, sort of.. What was excitement has now turned into anxiousness. Both teams are at level pegging and Richard Kingson the Ghana goalie is tested over and over by a now more aggressive and determined Uruguay. Then Ghana makes a substitution and my heartthrob Stephen Appiah comes on to replace Samuel Inkoom. And now the game has suddenly become more interesting, for me that is..
After three minutes of added time the game ends. At full-time the score is Ghana 1 Uruguay 1. This game is going into extra time, another half-hour of noise and chaos. Oh, I'm shouting back too as I type, agreeing to everything John says, just to keep him happy. I once heard that excitement can have an aphrodisiacal effect. I hope this is not true, because its been a long week and I really do need my rest. Besides, I'm not as young as I used to be..
Anyway, its now the 28th minute of extra-time and Kevin Prince Boateng has just missed scoring by a few inches with a powerful header from John Pantsil's throw-in. And then a desperate scuffle at Uruguay's goalmouth and one of the Uruguay defenders pushes away the goal-bound ball with his hands, right on the goal line. Referee issues the mandatory red card and the guilty Uruguay player is sent off. Referee awards a penalty to Ghana. The noise, the excitement, the tension.. And then Asamoah Gyan takes the penalty right at the last minute of extra time, but the ball goes straight to the crossbar, bounces over and beyond the goal and Africa's golden opportunity to make history is lost forever.
So extra-time ends and the much dreaded penalty shoot-out has reared its ugly head.. Asamoah Gyan takes the first penalty and scores, redeeming himself. Uruguay score their first penalty. Stephen Appiah comes forward and scores Ghana's second penalty and Uruguay responds immediately, scoring theirs too. Then John Mensah delivers a penalty which by all standards is poor and the Uruguay goalie saves it easily, but then Uruguay's own penalty that follows is also saved by Kingson. Ghana's next penalty by Dominic Adiyah is saved and Uruguay score their last penalty. This means that Ghana have lost and as with the whole of Africa I am terribly heartbroken. But even in my sadness, I must comfort my dear John who is now falling to pieces.. Later..