Most of you know by now that the USA was unceremoniously knocked out of the World Cup on Saturday night by Ghana, the only African team remaining in the first Cup ever played on African soil. Due to a lack of electricity at the lodge where I stayed in Murchison Falls National Park this weekend, I was unable to watch the game, but seemingly everyone in Uganda wants to discuss it with me after learning I am American.
The world knows that as a nation, we have not adopted football, but Ugandans also see the USA as the preeminent superpower on Earth, and take tremendous glee in the fact that an African nation beat us. "But this isn't that surprising," I try to convince them. No matter. In their eyes, a little African nation beat the all-powerful Americans. Case closed, time to celebrate.
There is some truth to this worldview. With unparalleled resources and a huge pool to choose from, the U.S. should theoretically succeed in football (and just about everything else, for that matter). In comparison, Ghana is tiny, relatively poor, and shouldn't stand a chance. But that's the beauty of the World Cup. In no other forum could a small West African nation stand up to, and beat, the United States. I can understand the jubilation taking place all across Africa right now. I don't like it, but I get it.
Over the past few weeks, I have become quite the USA football fan. I wear my jersey proudly, brag about Donovan, Dempsey and the boys to anyone who will listen, and watch every game. They were a scrappy, physical, resilient bunch, and easy to root for. Even though I'm happy that an African nation has advanced, I wish it wasn't at the expense of the Americans.
On Sunday, I was talking about the game with a security guard at the national park. He asked me if I was sad about the result, and I told him yes. He smiled and said, "I am very happy that Ghana beat the United States." He paused for a second, and then continued. "But you are a superpower, so in the end, you win."
I guess we do...