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   Date: 5/2/11 Bookmark and Share

The Search for Higher Meaning

Shining in a White World: The Black Stars—by Hanna Meghji ’11
(Page 4 of 4)

An American tourist whom I had stood behind at dinner caught my eye and my body was wrought with guilt. I was an American citizen. I should be mourning that goal.

The excited voice of the commentator signifying an almost-goal for the U.S. jolted me out of my internal crisis, and I turned my focus to the game. The minutes drew on, sprinkled with sighing and howling from both sides of the tiny lounge. Knaan’s beats returned signifying halftime, and the Americans turned to the Africans to order their favorite pastimes—beer, ginger ale, and cigarettes. I decided to step outside and snag some fresh air. Perhaps it would clear my head.

As I made my way down the staircase, I bumped into Welcome, who was coming upstairs with a new crate of Kilimanjaros, the most popular beer in Tanzania.

Dada!” he called out to me—Kiswahili for “sister.” I was taken aback by the familiarity of his address. “Dada! Today, we will show those wazungu that they cannot walk over us as they have in the past.”

Elephants roam the Serengeti plain as Hanna Meghji drives by.

He grinned toothily. I was speechless. Was I in? After all this traveling around Tanzania searching for acceptance and belonging, had they begun to see me as one of their own? How could it be that a simple gesture such as the involuntary raising of my arms during a football match be the sole determinant of my loyalties and identity? I contemplated this as I stood along the balcony and enjoyed the light breeze rustling across the savannah. It was completely dark out there. But it was in this darkness that I felt comfortable with my conflicting desires.

Cheers erupted from inside the building, and I made my way upstairs, nodding at Welcome. He grinned again.

In the second half, the United States team was a tyrant—merciless and ready for vengeance. This was the team that we had been expecting. Their first half had been full of mistakes—holes in their formation allowing for Ghanaian penetration and carelessness with the ball causing an inability to maintain possession. It seemed that they had learned their lesson.

After much stalemate, the Americans caught a break 25 minutes before the game ended. Clint Dempsey, one of the American team’s power forwards, was racing toward the goal only to be knocked over by John Mensah, who slid into Dempsey in an effort to regain possession. As both players were already inside the box, Mensah conceded a penalty kick, which star striker Landon Donovan calmly launched into the right corner of the net, past the giant Ghanaian goalie Richard Kingson.

It was the 62nd minute, the game was tied, and the Americans were playing the football that they had been known to play. As the tourists cheered and the Tanzanians began to frown, I felt my heart skip a beat. I loved Donovan. Humble in his interviews and flawless in his technique, the man was a beast—an attractive beast, one that I admired.

I glanced over to Welcome again, who was distraught and worried, and realized that my heart had chosen: Ghana. The next 28 minutes were agonizing. Every single person in the room was at the edge of his seat. Some were standing because it allowed them to feel less helpless. With every attempt from the United States, I frowned and whispered a note to God. “You will help them win. They deserve to win. They need to win. This continent needs a victory, and you will be the one to deliver it.”

A Memorable Finish

As the match came to a close, the score was still tied at 1-1 and fans and players alike were exhausted. The referee declared two minutes of additional time to recover time lost during the match. The players got ready for the last two minutes of the game before having to go into overtime. The hotel was eerily silent.

Altidore to Dempsey, Dempsey to Bocanegra, Bocanegra advances into midfield, Bocanegra to Clark, Clark to Donovan, Donovan races forward…and intercepted by Ghana! Mensah to Mensah, Mensah to Asamoah, Asamoah to Ayew, Ayew spins a long ball with this left foot into the dangerous path of Gyan, and…

My hands lifted to my mouth. Everyone in the room leaned forward. The ball bounced twice upon Gyan’s chest. He steadied himself as it fell to the ground. Running, he faced Tim Howard, the American goalkeeper. Worry was eating at all of us. With one quick fluid motion, his left foot made contact with the ball. It rocketed over Howard’s fingertips and into the back right corner of the net—just as the referee called time.

They had done it.

Cheers erupted from the long line of employees who stood in the back, and I found my eyes watering with overwhelming pride, joy, and relief. What a match.

I realized a lot that day—a lot about myself, about my spirit, and about God. I know that everyone does not claim to believe in God, but there is something about epic events, times when one leaves his fate up to a higher power. We allow destiny to be placed outside the realms of our control. We place it, instead, into the hands of 11 men—11 men and something greater. Some call this power God. Others call it karma. And then there are those who call for it to remain nameless and unknown.

Whatever it may be, that night on the 26th of June 2010, 56 people in the Serengeti held their breaths, sighed, and howled as, for 92 minutes, they left the fates of the Ghanaian and American national football teams to the heavens. It just so happens that this time God worked in my favor. Perhaps he pitied the identity crisis that I was experiencing in light of this game.

Perhaps next time I won’t be so lucky.

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