Battle lines are drawn as Ghana hunt for sweet revenge against Uruguay

The ball flies into the Uruguay penalty area. Then there’s a big tussle for it. The goalkeeper of Uruguay mistimes his save and the window of opportunity opens up for Ghana.

Dominic Adiyiah is there to strongly connect his head to the ball and suddenly a goal is inevitable. But a player in denim blue slaps the ball out before it crosses the line. That player is Luis Suarez.

The centre referee sounds his whistle and then points to the penalty spot. Now, Asamoah Gyan stands a few paces away from the spot kick.

On his shoulders, he carries the weight of expectation of not only Ghana, but also of the continent of Africa. History is about to be altered or not. Perspectives are about to be changed or not.

The Johannesburg evening air is now thick with tension, the seconds tick, and beads of sweat slowly gather on over a million foreheads back home. In over a million households across the African continent, there is dead silence.

This moment, this single kick of the ball, is probably the most precious of moments in the entire footballing life of Ghana and Africa at large.

The referee blows his whistle and Asamoah Gyan edges ever closer to the spot kick. He shoots. He doesn’t score. And for an instant, a frozen moment, Asamoah Gyan and Ghana and Africa feel their worlds crumble down all around them.

Luis Suarez and Uruguay wildly rejoice. Neutrals and curious football people imbibe every strand of this unbelievable spectacle. It is the 2010 Fifa World Cup quarter-final game between Ghana and Uruguay in Johannesburg and Asamoah Gyan has missed the unmissable.

Ghana is eventually eliminated, Uruguay makes the semis via penalties. And in the weeks that immediately follow, there’s serious and heated discourse in these parts of what sense should be made of the Ghana vs Uruguay encounter.

Was Luis Suarez the thief of Africa’s joy? Or was he simply the devil dressed up in a Uruguay shirt? Should have Gyan taken that crucial penalty? Or should he have shirked that responsibility to someone else at that particular point?

To this very day, that particular game, that particular miss, is remembered and mourned over. To this very day, Luis Suarez is viewed as a persona non grata on our shores, as the sort of plague to be avoided by Ghanaians.

More than a decade has already passed. Two World Cup tournaments have come and gone. Asamoah Gyan is semi-retired and doing punditry on SuperSport on the ongoing Qatar World Cup.

Luis Suarez is long past his prime and in the twilight of his career. And a promising generation of footballers have burst onto the footballing scene for both Ghana and Uruguay, but still the grudge remains.

On Friday December 2, Ghana plays Uruguay in the final group game with progression to the next round of the 2022 Qatar World Cup at stake. Anything but a win for Uruguay will draw the curtain on their World Cup campaign.

Black Stars will qualify for the knockout stages should they grab a win. There’s also a chance Ghana makes the next round with a stalemate against Uruguay should South Korea fail to beat Portugal.

In spite of Otto Addo brushing aside the idea of sweet vengeance, instead preaching forbearance and the blessings that come with it in his interviews with the press, deep in the hearts of many Ghanaians, a win for the Black Stars and any pain at all to Suarez will be cradled and preserved as something worth more than gold and silver.

Ghana knocking Uruguay out will not completely erase that painful memory of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. But at least, who will have the last laugh?

The battle lines have been drawn. And as a prepped and primed Ghana side sweat for three points come Friday, an entire nation will be more than ready to revel in sweet revenge.