Search for Higher Meaning
Hanna Meghji ’11
(Page 2 of 4)
I could see the other safari
cars in the distance leaving trails of dust behind them as
they bounced along the rocky roads. Those cars were filled
with wazungu, expatriates here to tour and ogle. Those were
the people who expected Africans to serve them without question.
Not I. Then, why did they see me that way?
“Thank God for the World Cup,” I thought to myself.
It was only when we discussed
football together that the locals felt as though I was one
of their own. According to all the drivers, those wazungu couldn’t be bothered with football, especially
the Americans. They just did not understand its richness or significance. The
drivers also thought that because Americans drowned themselves in fast-paced
games like basketball or rowdy, heavy-contact games like American football—which
really was a spinoff of England’s rugby—they did not value
the skill and resilience that players required to play football
and so did not value the game.
“An hour and a half later,” I remembered a fellow Smithie crying once, “and the
score is what? Still 1-0?! That’s nonsense!”
But it wasn’t about the score. It was about the attempts, the defensive prowess
that turned certain goals into almost-goals, and the footwork that allowed for
a team to maintain possession as they delicately and purposefully danced their
way across the field.
During this year’s cup, things felt different. In the preliminary
round of the tournament, countries are classified into one of eight groups. Having
lost to Paraguay and tied with New Zealand, the Italians had underperformed,
not earning enough points to continue. France met the same fate. England had
been playing poorly, tying with both the United States and with Algeria. Germany
had lost to the Serbs, and Brazil had tied with Portugal.
Lost in this world
of football, I walked back toward the jeep.
“You are smiling,” Hashim, my driver, noticed. “You must be thinking about tonight.”
I laughed. He always knew.
“But who will you cheer for?” he asked me. “Have you decided?”
I shook my head, causing him
to laugh at me again.
“You see? It is true when they call you mzungu.”
I smiled at his teasing. Tonight
was the biggest match for all African countries. Of the six
African teams that had qualified to compete in the World
Cup, Algeria, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa, and Cameroon
had all been eliminated in the group stage. Ghana was the
only one that had made it through, and in this next match
they faced the United States. The American team was not only
littered with more seasoned players, but it had the morale
and mental strength to win. Yet, despite their younger and
less-qualified lineup, Ghana had become a beacon of hope
for Africans worldwide. Tribes, races, and countries united
in their support of the Ghanaians all over the continent.
They had become Africa’s token team:
The Black Stars. With the World Cup being held in South Africa that summer, “continent
pride” had superseded both “national pride” and “league pride,” and, for many
Africans, its intensity was increasing daily.
This unity and pride that backed
the Ghanaians was also the primary cause of my moral quandary.
Was I Tanzanian enough to choose Ghana and Africa over the
United States, a country that had been my home for almost
15 years? Both options came with an element of betrayal.
The only question was: which betrayal could I live with and
which could I not?
We had arrived at the Serengeti
late in the afternoon, as the drive from Manyara had taken
up almost the whole day. Hashim and I decided to pull into
the hotel to catch the second half of Uruguay versus North
Korea, the first post-group-stage game of the Cup. I rushed
into the hotel, picked up my keys and asked where the television
was. Instead of making my way to my room to wash away the
dust and grime that had collected upon my skin, I made my
way into the administration building. I could see the restaurant
where they would begin serving dinner in two hours on the
first floor. Above this dining area was a small bar, a row
of three computers, and a comfortable lounge with a small
walls were the color of ivory, smooth and curved. The ceilings were high and
majestic. Because they were located within the borders of the national park,
the hotel owners were unable to put up a fence around their property. If I wanted
to walk to and from my room after 6 p.m., I needed to ask one of the staff members
to accompany me because there was nothing keeping the thousands of animals to
which the Serengeti was home away from the hotel. It was a fantastic scene.