Monday, June 26, 2006

11 Men Carrying a Continent

11 Men Carrying a Continent - New York Times: "IN 1990, Pelé predicted that an African country would soon win the World Cup. Sixteen years, two Brazilian and two European champions later, Ghana, ranked 48th in the world, behind even Trinidad and Tobago, has defeated both the Czech Republic, ranked second, and the United States, ranked fifth, and will meet Brazil (ranked, reasonably, first) on Tuesday.

I found myself thinking that the situation was weirdly paradoxical, that both the United States and Ghana needed the same thing — a small, wily, dexterous sort of player up front, a player who could whirl and tap those passes into the goal for the Americans, a player who could dance through the soon-to-be-faced Brazilian defense for Ghana — and this player existed. His name is Fredua Koranteng Adu, but he wasn't playing on either side.

Seventeen-year-old Freddy Adu was born in Ghana and lives and plays professionally in the United States. Ghana's coach offered him a spot but Adu turned it down in order to be eligible for the American squad. Then he failed to make the cut, supposedly because he's too young, too short, too small — and it was too late to change his mind, even if he had wanted to join his homeland Black Stars.

Few sane Americans would give up United States citizenship for Ghanaian citizenship. Why play soccer for a nation that had never qualified for the World Cup before now? On a continent where just six years ago a national team (Ivory Coast's) was locked up in a military prison for two days as punishment for losing in the African Nations Cup? "

Sean Wilsey is the author of "Oh the Glory of It All," a memoir, and the co-editor of "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup."

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