Wednesday, February 6, 2013 (Day 28)
It is like all my Christmases have come at once: a cold Star, a whirling fan above my head, a pub full of football-crazed Africans and two television screens: one showing the African Nations Cup semi-final between Ghana and Burkina Faso; the other broadcasting live action from Wembley of England v Brazil.
Burkina Faso have been the most exciting team of this tournament by a distance. Their front three are superb and the boys Bance and Petroipa a complete revelation. They have thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at Ghana and somehow they cannot score. Worse still a blatant penalty in the final minutes is not given and the referee instead sends off the attacker, Petroipa, for ‘diving’. It is one of the most shocking refereeing decisions you are ever likely to see. But Burkina Faso appear to have a very special spirit and despite everything going against them they manage to win through to Sunday’s final against Nigeria on penalties, sending the bar I am in crazy with celebrations and cheering. I am so engrossed in this exciting African encounter that I only give England v Brazil half of my attention. Well done Joe Hart for that double penalty save. And respect to Frank Lampard for the brilliant winning goal which once again shows he has a part to play in England’s campaign to qualify for Brazil 2014.
As it is late and completely pitch dark, Bob kindly walks me back to the house which is a good mile or more away from Yeane’s, where we watched the match. Strolling through the pot-holed darkness all the chat I can hear from the roadside and from the yards of houses is about the Burkina Faso match and how they were robbed of a penalty: “Such a thing could only happen in Africa!”; “The referee was clearly paid off,” are some of the comments I hear in the darkness.
They really do eat, drink and sleep football in Africa.
More Than a Game joined The Collective and the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone for a seven-week voluntary placement in January 2013.