Spare a thought for vanquished US as Ghana storm on
With all of Africa behind them - or so they claim, anyway - Ghana surge into the quarter final. But spare a thought for the US, watched by former President Bill Clinton and ageing rocker Mick Jagger as they paid for their lack of precision.
The burly policeman told me that ‘the red line’ had been extended.
Since it was invisible boundary along the rugged mountain landscape, it was difficult to argue.
Besides, commando Nel was quite a few inches taller and wider than me. And his gun was poised like an iguana.
The new buffer zone meant that the car had to be checked for bomb-making equipment and other suspect devices – my genius for example? - before we could be allowed near the stadium.
Neither was found.
The Royal Bafokeng – I keep wanting to call it Bakofeng - Stadium in Rustenburg has become a militarised zone since I was there for the Ghana v Australia match last Saturday.
There were hosts of Nel types and I’ve always found subservience the best policy when pistols are deployable over an unseen seen – as former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld might put it.
I and a colleague were asked to leave the car while my other colleague nursed it over ramps for closer inspection.
A chap who happened to be standing around in the lavish afternoon sunshine told me that the phalanx of drooling dogs were able to detect RDX which is the component in 90 per cent of bombs.
"You can look it up on the internet," he suggested. "R ... D ... X ."
"Thanks," I said. My intelligence reports it is a known known not to stand around and talk to men about bombs. So I smiled and got into the car.
We reached the media zone via a motorcycle escort. It was the closest I’ve come to VIP treatment.
High-ranking officials of world football’s governing body Fifa are probably used to escorts – the motorcycle ones I hasten to add. No, I take that back, they’re very used to escorts.
I’ve gawped at the leggy rainbow nation lovelies in red shawls who point them to the red-carpeted high-rollers vortex from their shiny limousines.
As the motorcycle sped back to Checkpoint Charlie for his next assignment, I hoped the football would be as thrilling as the entrance.
But with the temperature befitting a Cold War thriller, a very visible drama unfolded before my very eyes.
Ghana took the lead after five minutes when Ricardo Clark lost the ball in a midfield tussle with Kwadwo Asamoah. It broke to Kevin Prince Boateng who strode on, held off the attentions of Clarke and drove in past keeper Tim Howard.
The United States drew level just after the hour. Skipper Landon Donovan converting a penalty after Clint Dempsey was felled by Jonathan Mensah.
TV cameras swung to the Very Very Important Persons suite and there was Sir Mick Jagger taking pictures.
Yes, he the legendary lothario, and next to him was someone celebrating like a Jumping Jack Flash, it was the former American president Bill Clinton. Hence the new improved "red line". The unknown was known.
Clinton had obviously stayed to support the US of A. He’d been at their last gasp win over Algeria on Wednesday in Pretoria.
So he’d stuck around. Well that’s mighty neighbourly, as they say where he comes from.
After the equaliser, the US looked more likely to win and had a couple of good chances within the 90 minutes.
They paid the price for their lack of precision.
Three minutes into extra time Asamoah Gyan thrashed in past Howard from the left.
At the end Ghana had become only the third African team to make it to the last eight of a World Cup. Cameroon did it in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and now Ghana.
Cue laps of honour with the Ghana flag … and – exquisite touch this – a lap of honour with the South African flag.
Great PR. Especially when the whole of Africa is behind you.
André Ayew, who collected a yellow card and will miss the quarter final against Uruguay, spoke after his man-of-the-match performance about the unity of the players.
He said that the whole of Africa is being mighty neighbourly and whooping on the Ghana team because they are the only African side left in the etc etc.
He added that the backing of all Africa had been a source of energy to him and his team mates.
Well I’m all for minnow footballing nations making history but isn’t continental support just doping by a metaphysical name?
But then it does allow you a whole new stream of consciousness in match reports.
"He surged past Euro/South American/Asian/Australasian defender X like the high winds of the Kalahari," ... Where does it end?
Maybe against Uruguay in the quarter final in Soccer City in Johannesburg on 2 July.
But, amid all these intangible infusions, I feel it is right to spare a thought for the conquered.
I spoke to Ricardo Clark after the match.
"I have apologised to my team mates," he said, his voice quivering. "I shouldn’t have lost the ball in midfield. A player of my quality should not have done that. I am disappointed. I’ve said sorry and I take full responsibility."
His red eyes burned an anguish very plain to see.