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Obligation versus Affection: What Happened When England Faced Ghana

March 30, 2011

I thought I’d stray from the norm in regards a match review, steering clear of any play-by-play or tactical analysis and instead concentrating on things learnt from the whole experience rather than just the ninety minutes. After all, isn’t football about more than just the game?

• Asamoah Gyan’s goal is perhaps more symbolic than many would have you believe. Yes, it was an international friendly with very little if indeed anything at all riding on it other than the idea of professional pride. Until Asamoah Gyan managed to put the ball beyond the reach of Joe Hart and into the back of the net, the game could fit the quintessential African stereotype of such a match. Ghana played with more fervour and displayed more effort than the opposition and were arguably the better team yet were failing to convert it into any meaningful in regards the ultimate outcome of the match. Asamoah Gyan and his 91st minute strike changed that as Ghana got the bare minimum as to what they deserved in terms of balance of play. This can be taken perhaps as proof that Ghana, and to generalise African football, is finally losing the naivety that often plagues the achievements of such nations. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but this result could perhaps prove that the tide is turning and that Ghana are learning their lessons and come the next World Cup, I feel bold enough to say, they could seriously challenge the perceived big-guns of the global international game. Of course, some will highlight England’s dropping of some of their star players in an attempt to render my point meaningless but I feel that the result would have hardly differed had England been fielding their “best” team. But what do I know, after all England are the dominant force in world football, right?

• A huge factor in terms of my experience of the night can be determined by the idea of “commercialised football” and its “fans”. I was sat near the end of a seating row and was lucky to get a spell of 5 minutes of play without someone disturbing my view of the action. This was courtesy of people either having bladders like garden peas or people whom were engrossed with the constant desire to gorge themselves on the average fare produce by the kiosks of Wembley. I seriously doubt that they paid much attention to the game and indeed the spectacle itself such was their constant wanderings. I have nothing against people using the rest facilities provided but when a person needs to visit said facilities on six occasions (yes I counted) in the first half, you have to question such things. Indeed the said person’s health if nothing else.

• While on the rant as it were, it’s worth pointing out that when people look to move beyond you along the seats for whatever reason, the lack of manners on show is for a sheltered individual like me, somewhat a sad indictment of today’s world. In a time where following recent televised incidents in London, major British media outlets are showing younger people in as negative a light as possible, it’s quite something that younger people were much more willing to use the word “Thanks” than their older contemporaries. I’ll leave that thought there.

• That leads me onto the stadium itself. The atmosphere was fantastic and was of course in no small part down to the fans in attendance. The main away contingent to the left of the ground were of course wonderful but it is worth paying tribute to the vast majority of the crowd in attendance (by the time of Gyan’s goal, most of the pea-sized bladders and food-hoarders had departed thankfully and the goal could be enjoyed without interruption). When Gyan scored, the whole stadium erupted with joy. I saw England supporters celebrate with their Ghanaian opposites as it is safe to say Ghana’s goal was a beautiful and deserved moment. Ghana flags were littered throughout the entire ground and there was no hint of discontent or animosity from any of those in attendance. Of course, it was an international friendly and quite a few of those displaying Ghana colours were undoubtedly English but it shows than such an idea of integration is possible albeit on a lesser scale than one would dream of. Meanwhile the stadium itself appears to be desperate to claim an identity but as is the same for most recently-constructed stadia, it’s not quite got a feeling or an identity about itself yet. No quantity of relics from the past can cover up for that but given time, I’m sure Wembley will find an atmosphere worthy of such a stadium. It won’t be the same as that of old though.

NON-FOOTBALL

• Boys Noize’s “Oi Oi Oi” remixed album is better than the original.

• Barry Manilow isn’t all that bad… as a radio show host.

• The Guardian’s football podcast seemed to have some overtones of “smug” this Monday. It is a tad bit worrying though here’s hoping it was just a bad day in pod land for James Richardson, Barry Glendenning & co.

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