THERE is no fine time to be a Ghanaian than now. Yes, not when the Black Stars of Ghana is dangling preciously on the lips of everybody – especially since Saturday’s heroics when the senior national team spectacularly carved their way to the quarter final stage of the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup.
One needs to be at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Stadium in Rustenburg, where the Stars created history by upstaging a dogged USA side 2-1 after extra time, to experience the kind of atmosphere that ricocheted around venue.
Back in Pretoria, about three hours after the game, the drinking bars and clubs were jam-stuffed with mostly South African supporters – almost ceaselessly chanting the name of the Black Stars and blowing their elephant-noise like vuvuzelas.
It was around 1:30 am, but the jollity and conviviality of the feat blind-folded the celebrants. For them, time spent for a heroic victory, like that of the Stars, was always worth it.
Of course, the Stars were not the first African team to reach this far at the World Cup. Indeed, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions struck it first during the Italy edition in 1990.
It took 22 years for that phenomenal feat to be replicated in Japan/South Korea. This time, it was the Teranga Lions of Senegal.
But what made Ghana’s feat so singular and inimitable was that all the other African countries, highly favoured to “do something” were flushed out in the opening round.
Host country South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and mighty Cameroon all fell by the wayside.
The massive expectation of the continent driving into the last eight, to at least save the blushes of the continent, was drooping into thin air.
Heartily, Ghana did not disappoint when the continent entrusted its confidence into them to ‘rescue the perishing.’
But the result had to come the hard way because the Yankees were not prepared to succumb to the Stars again - four years after the same West African side had eliminated them at the group stage in Germany.
The Americans had dared to take the Ghanaians to the woodshed. And, Bob Bradley’s charges really worked their fingers to the bone after Kevin Prince-Boateng had given the Stars a perfect start with a fantastic 5th minute goal.
Telegraph’s Sports Journalist, Rory Smith, hit it right on the head when he said the Stars may not boast the continent’s greatest stars, particularly after Michael Essien was ruled out of the tournament by injury, “but they are the most coherent, effective representatives it has in the tournament.”
Indeed, individuals like the Samuel Eto’os and Didier Drogbas, have long since departed.
Only the collective is still standing, within 90 minutes of history.
This display was more than enough to send a warning to Uruguay that there will be no easy passage into the last four.
For all that the section of the draw has been labelled a soft route to the semi-finals, Ghana are stout and solid, athletic and disciplined.
They have been imbued by Milovan Rajevac with Serbian virtues.
And there is, of course, no shortage of flair, much of it provided by a man who has been Ghanaian, and African, for just a matter of weeks, at least in the all-seeing, all-powerful eyes of FIFA.
Boateng’s nationality was only changed to the land of his father, as opposed to Germany, the land of his birth, on May 12 – last month.
Perhaps, there is no fervour like that of the convert.
His goal, after just six minutes, was celebrated with such wild-eyed enthusiasm that any suggestion that this was a marriage of convenience can be swept aside.
He may have been born and raised in Germany, earning 41 caps for the land of his birth at youth level, and his half-brother, Jerome, was part of the ‘nationalmannschaft’ when they thrashed England 4-1 in Bloemfontein on Sunday - but there can be no doubting his patriotism.
Indeed, Boateng’s goal was really worth celebrating - a fine individual effort, skating past Jay DeMerit after robbing Ricardo Clark and firing low past a stranded Tim Howard.
He tore off across the pitch, chased by his new team-mates, his new countrymen, convinced he had set Ghana on their way. The USA, though, are not short of pride, either.
They staunched Ghana’s flow, going close through Robbie Findlay and Benny Feilhaber either side of the break, before Jonathan Mensah clipped Clint Dempsey just inside the area and Landon Donovan, emerging as a genuine star of the tournament, converted calmly from the penalty spot.
Donovan may not have used this tournament to change his nationality, but his reputation has certainly altered.
The good work started during his 10-week loan spell at Everton has continued here. Donovan is a player of class and poise, capable not just of matching elite company but putting others in the shade.
He does not, though, have in Bob Bradley’s hardworking team the class of player around him to turn the screw against opponents as energetic, as forceful, as Ghana.
Jozy Altidore - looking ever more like the American.
Emile Heskey - scooped wide with just minutes left on the clock after out muscling John Mensah, but there was to be no Hollywood moment to match Donovan’s goal against Algeria.
Extra-time beckoned. Africa’s time beckoned. Gyan, a handful all night, all tournament, held off Carlos Bocanegra as he chased down Andre Ayew’s long pass.
One touch, and a fierce drive past Howard. The United States had no response. They pressed as best as their exhausted legs would allow, but soon they had no time, either. That, for now, for another 90 minutes, belongs to Ghana, and to Africa.
If there is any refrain that for a long time to come will be on the lips of Ghanaians, then it is the usual “the Stars were not given a dog’s chance.” Mark it.