It may be hard for U.S. fans to adopt the team that knocked your country out of the World Cup, but, still, you should. Ghana boasts the youngest squad in the tournament; they’re quick, slick and, for all their demonstrable technical skill, have grit and spirit in equal measure. (See the above video, shot Wednesday night on a British journalist’s cellphone, for evidence of the team’s heartwarming unity.)
As the African continent’s last remaining side, the Ghanaians have already garnered great support in South Africa and it’s a solidarity that has spread far around the globe. Last week, as I slunk sleepily down a pub-laden strip in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district ahead of a 2:30 AM kick-off, I ran into Ivorian and Barbadian traders all plugging for the Black Stars — the nickname for Ghana’s soccer players. It’s a symbol loaded with meaning: in the early years of decolonization, the black star was a potent sign of pan-Africanism, an icon of a political and cultural movement that spanned from islands in the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean. Kwame Nkrumah, independent Ghana’s first president, marshaled such sentiments when helping form the Non-Aligned Movement, which threaded together newly liberated nations in Africa with others elsewhere, including the teeming democracy of India under Jawaharlal Nehru. With no teams left in the World Cup, Asians ought to find common cause with Ghana, but global giants like Brazil and Argentina still dominate the imagination of the continent’s football fans.
As it is, Ghana, beset by a string of injuries and suspensions, will need what help it can get against a dangerous Uruguay side that has its own unique World Cup pedigree. If they do pass that challenge, they’ll have their work cut out for them still, with the Brazilians, Dutch, Argentines and Spaniards all potentially in the mix. But a berth in the semifinals would mean Africa’s World Cup would have African participation till the very last weekend of the tournament. That’s something surely worth cheering for — and dancing to.