Search for Higher Meaning
Hanna Meghji ’11
(Page 3 of 4)
As evening set in, the game
came to a close with Uruguay winning the match 2-1. I asked
a staff member to accompany me to my hotel room. The hotel
was like a large living organism. The administration building
was the nucleus, a large central structure, and surrounding
it were fifteen cottages, each with four suites split between
The water was hot and vicious.
I hadn’t felt so clean in ages. The askari who
had accompanied me home now walked back to the dining area with me. I took in
the delicious smells of both traditional African food and a general all-health-conditions-friendly
buffet of fries and pasta. Candles were the only source of light in the dining
area, creating a dim, romantic, and peaceful environment. I ate quickly, anticipating
the showdown that would ensue later. Almost all of the guests were Americans.
I knew that every local in the hotel was cheering for Ghana; hell, the entire
continent was! I could not wait. It was not long before the actions of those
in the hotel mirrored those of the American and Ghanaian football players.
they assembled into their respective locker rooms, we, the
inhabitants of the Serena Hotel in the Serengeti, hurriedly
forced the last morsels of our dinners into our mouths. The
Tanzanian natives—brown-skinned, laid back, hospitable people
dressed in khaki uniforms with gold nametags attached to their left breast pockets—began
to murmur as the countdown for the kickoff drew nearer. The white tourists let
their sunglasses hang around their necks as they swarmed into the lounge excitedly,
leaving no couch, countertop, or inch of wooden floorboard bare. The African
workers stood behind their guests, maintaining a respectful distance but also
eager to watch the game, laughing and chattering excitedly amongst themselves.
It was a pleasant yet strange
scene: two populations coming from entirely different backgrounds
crowding around one television that sat atop a table in a
small bar in the most luxurious hotel in Tanzania. As the
undertone of Canadian artist Knaan’s song "Waving
Flag"—Coca Cola’s token theme for all commercials during
the World Cup—faded, the excitement and chatter in the hotel
came to a standstill. In the distance, you could hear the
wind blowing. A cheetah yawned preparing for another cool
winter night on the savannah, and a herd of wildebeest lowered
their shaggy necks and curved horns to the earth, taking
shelter amidst the long blades of grass.
It was in this silence that
I first noticed it. With the fragrance of garlic potatoes
still lingering upon my tongue, I surveyed the room. Everyone
had bowed their heads. Some had closed their eyes. Others
whispered to themselves fervently. Two worlds—the East and the West, the wealthy foreigners, and the
obliging locals—had united in silence, united in prayer. What was it about sports
and the preservation of honor and legacy through friendly but intense competition
that urges us to call upon our spiritual senses? How is it that two entirely
opposing factions can share one prayer and hope prior to facing off with one
another? And, yet, there they were: a white-skinned man held his white-skinned
wife’s hand, clutching her fingers tightly as he sat in a red sofa directly in
front of the African bartender, named Welcome, who had clasped his two hands
together in front of his lips, praying silently.
I even found myself calling
to God, though I was not sure whom I was praying for. I wanted
Ghana to win. They were the underdogs, and they needed to
show the world that this continent had more than just poverty
and STDs and civil war. This was a landmass exploding with
skill, prowess, and perfection. And there was a part of me—a large part
of me—that was an American, a part of me that thought, “Hey, if the U.S. makes
it to the quarter-finals, maybe, just maybe, that is what it will take to spark
some interest around international football in the States.” The game was beginning,
and I still had not sorted out my allegiances.
Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai
gave the football to the Ghanaians, and The Black Stars took
off with force. Within the first five minutes, Kevin Prince
Boateng danced his way through the American midfielders,
the first line of defense. Facing three American defenders,
he entered the boundaries of the penalty box alone and unsupported.
With a gentle and deft flick of his left foot, he launched
the football delicately into the back of the goal…and, before
I could stop to think, my arms were above my head in triumph.
I yelled and howled with the workers who were standing next
to me as the Western tourists gaped at the television, floored
by the fact that this little team from West Africa had just
scored a goal only five minutes into the match.