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Delaney: World Cup Reflections

07/16/10 5:55PM By Dennis Delaney
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(HOST)  The World Cup may be over for another year, but commentator Dennis Delaney is still thinking about what we can learn from these epic games.  

(DELANEY)  Sometimes history has a way to heal deep wounds.  And what could be a deeper wound than slavery?  A couple of weeks ago the West African nation of Ghana did some healing with glory and sport. Here's the story.

There was a time, along the West African coast then known as the slave coast, when hundreds of thousands of Africans were seized, stacked like cordwood in the dark bellies of slave ships and sent to the plantations of the new world, including those in North America. A few weeks ago, at the World Cup of Soccer games in South Africa, that slave coast, now proudly bearing the name of Ghana, again met America, this time not as master and slave, but as equals on the field of sport. Ghana beat us. Imagine the surge of pride that team and their fellow citizens must have experienced.

Of course I cheered for the U.S. team. I was traveling when our matches were up for play, but I found my way twice to a Hooters sports bar to watch, once even at eight in the morning. Only the most addicted sports fan would go to Hooters at that hour.

That said, Ghana has a special place in my heart. Not long ago I worked there as an advisor to its parliament and a more friendly people is not to be found on the planet. I have to add however, that while watching them play soccer, I concluded that the Ghanaian team has also raised tripping to an art form!

I love soccer, or football as it is called in the rest of the world. I played it in school and even showed some modest talent. At the World Cup this brand of football is known as "the beautiful sport" - an apt description I think, because I don't believe any other sport can match it for speed and skill. The only equipment a player has is what nature has endowed and hard work has emancipated. No sport showcases more thrillingly what the foot can do. Watch the instant replays and still disbelieve what you see.

There is almost something transcendent, in a sports' sense, in world class soccer. It's combat, not with tanks and bombs, but with incredible speed and skill.

In the background for each match was something that sounded like a mass attack of very angry killer bees, but bees it was not. The African "vuvuzela" it was. That's a small reed instrument, with thousands of them sounding together in the stadium stands. No horns, trumpets or throbbing drums. Just the African "vu-vu-ZE-la" telling the world that Africa is finding its place in the world on the brilliant path of football.

And here's a footnote on Ghana and World Cup soccer. Decades ago, when a Ghanaian team went to the World Cup in England, the team played in bare feet. They couldn't afford shoes.


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