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Ghana @66 – The Black Stars – A glimmer of hope

Our national soccer team, the Black Stars, is a veritable, emblem of Ghana. Nothing else overly excites our animal spirits. Not the national flag, unfurled at the mast – though, we admire the imaginative genius of Theodosia Okoh.

Not Philip Gbeho’s lyrical national anthem. Not Ephraim Amu’s patriotic hymnal. Not the pledge of allegiance. Each of these symbols is evocative, exhortative, and exultant. None, though, arouses as much passion as the beautiful game. We are a smitten nation.

The strength of the Black Stars derives from talent – drawn from a pool of youngsters whose circumstances are nearly, always crippling. Theirs is, often, a life of hardscrabble. But hard work and self-discipline pay off. Then a humble young man turns into a virtuosic footballer. Then his achievements earn him fame and fortune. Then he enters our pantheon of the greats – a worthy scion of Ghana. A national icon.

In every match, we cheer raucously – cooing, even drooling, at every clever play. We also jeer at the littlest of careless play. Mostly held in suspended animation, we break into riotous jubilation whenever our team wins. The Black Stars’ victory is ours. We claim it. Jealously. Boastfully. The team’s loss is our defeat. United in grief, we vent post-match grievances.

Casually, all this must be intriguing to a foreigner. But for us Ghanaians, the Black Stars are a subliminal measure of our national identity. The team is a proxy for a cohesive nation. At rare consensus. A winsome ethos. So, defeat is a bitter pill to swallow. It makes us feel sick and stymied. Our progress is stalled. Figuratively.

Our obsession with the Black Stars is a form of psychic relief. Because the sport is more than an aerodynamically engineered, spherical ball. Or the impressively sculpted physique of a player. Or his dexterous skill. Or tactical coaching. Or the rules of the game. Or even a paroxysm of emotions a game excites. Our national team represents something, avowedly, transcendental.

As a people, we seem sluggish. We hem and haw about how to kick out poverty. When the skies are surly, we find shade under a tree or some canopy. When sombre clouds gather in the heavens, we seek shelter from a drenching downpour. Heat and rain are nature at play. But when our team plays, we brave heat, wind, and rain. We share a collective joy – the well-heeled, the huckster, and the hustler alike.

In nature, dark surfaces and objects absorb heat energy. But our Black Stars radiate a unifying energy of purpose. In the night sky, a black star, if any, isn’t visible to the naked eye. But our Black Stars are a metaphor for black people everywhere – ascendant and determined.

Our dear nation is 66. Here, a footballer, often, a lowly upstart, stars in a vocation that brings us together. There, in other endeavours, in other vocations, we need not look far, for an example to emulate. To knit our strands into a rich tapestry and roll it into a ball of unity. We may yet shoot for more goals to light up our nation’s scoreboard. Our future anniversaries would be euphoric. As jubilant as the day the Black Stars returned to their winning ways.

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