Tonight in Malabo, host nation Equatorial Guinea took on Ghana to determine who would get a chance to officially kill off the remainder of Ivory Coast’s golden generation in the final. It was your standard David and Goliath story: The Equatoguineans —obviously David in this scenario — had no business being in the tournament, let alone the semifinal, but were thanks in great part to Moroccan fears about Ebola. Ghana, our Goliath, is generally always a Cup of Nations favorite, and was probably most sane people’s choice to advance to Sunday’s final. So what happened in this round of David vs. Goliath? In short, both expected and unexpected things.
But before we get to the unexpected, here’s the most predictable things that happened:
Ghana scored three goals against Equatorial Guinea. Goliath, unhampered by endearing Cinderella stories or tales of coaches appointed 11 days before the tournament started, unmercifully pummeled David. That means the Ghanaians, led by Avram Grant, will face Ivory Coast in the final — a final most people probably wanted to see from the outset. Even ailing Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan’s hair knew what was going to happen.
Great. Now that we’ve covered the expected, let’s move on to the unexpected.
This wasn’t a case of a disoriented helicopter pilot mistakenly veering off-course. This helicopter, rightly or wrongly, was flying over Malabo Stadium because unruly home fans were reportedly unhappy with the beating taking place at the hands of Goliath. It started in the first half, with local fans hurling projectiles at Ghanaian fans. By halftime, Ghana was already up 2-0 and had to be escorted by police to the locker room. The shields were to protect players from projectiles. That’s never a good sign.
By the time the second half reached the 80th minute, the police had begun to escort Ghanaian fans down to the field level to protect them from the raucous crowd. The game was suspended in the 82nd minute, with Ghana already ahead by three goals. Here’s a quick run-down of what followed: about 30-40 minutes of players staying on the field, away from the chaos; everyone awkwardly standing around; a helicopter hovering over the field; no one seemingly knowing what was going on; Equatorial Guinea players pleading with fans to calm down so they could finish the game that was already, for practical purposes, over; and, ultimately, a game restart, so that the players could jog around for three of the remaining eight minutes before the referee blew the final whistle.
Were the scenes a downer? Sure, you rarely want to see people get hurt. But was it a disgrace for African soccer? Or even all of Africa?
A disgrace, sure, but not to African soccer or Africa, unless fans on other continents are so empowered that their actions can disgrace entire continents after an evening of projectile tossing. Somehow I don’t see the need to condemn Europe when isolated sets of fans in Europe act a fool. It was an evening where things took an unfortunate turn for the worse. Simple as that. CAF will handle the fallout and hand out punishments. “Africa” needn’t run and hide because of the acts of a few.
Yet still, the scenes shouldn’t overpower Ghana’s achievement: beating David at David’s house in front of all of David’s friends. That’s not something to roll your eyes at, especially at the Cup of Nations, where the unexpected happens with frequency.
It’s a good thing all the madness and disgrace didn’t prevent Ghana from celebrating after the final whistle, because their next date is with another Goliath, and one Goliath will be sent home in tears. But in the meantime, get after it Black Stars. You deserve it.