Redemption is recovery

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I am an African Liverpool supporter and so welcoming Suarez to the fold was not always going to be an easy task.

Firstly however, he is doing better than Torres and secondly, after a performance like that against Manchester United, all is forgiven! Suarez is not the subject though.

Lucky Dube sings in one of his songs that you can tell some chap is looking for a fight, “Look at his nose!”

I used to find that line amusing but it is the impression one gets when one looks at Asamoah Gyan.

Clearly looking to fight for 90 minutes.
Flashback to the World Cup when he personally stood on the cusp of greatness, ready to propel Ghana to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

There was a shot at goal right at the death, Africa rose as one in anticipation, Suarez deliberately handled and Africa fell back on their pub stools in anguish, hands held to the head as only Africans know how to do.

Seconds later the roller coaster of emotions continued as the referee flashed red at the culprit and Africa rose again in premature celebration. Penalties are a cruel thing, for both sides, but when you have an entire continent and Diaspora already celebrating Africa’s rise, they are more than cruel when you miss.

It is not just missing by a mile, which could have been better, it was straight on to the crossbar, Africa fell into a stupor as the cameras panned to Suarez in the tunnel, his arms raised in triumph, a hero in his country, a villain to all Africans. Gyan’s mother must have been devastated at that particular point, although she proved a pillar of strength to him later in the way that only a mother can.

Enter the English, almost a year later and Gyan was still looking for a fight, hassling the English defence at will, powered by noise from a crowd that had not been heard for years at Wembley.

The tackles suggested this was no mere friendly and again at the death, when it seemed easier to pass the ball to the right wing, Gyan twisted and turned like the Harmattan wind, saw the gap like a cheetah and tucked a beautiful left-footer past a forest of defenders into the net.

There was no pub this time, I pumped my arms silently in the air (the family was in bed) and texted one word to my Ghanaian friends and pubmates: redemption!

Gyan performed his dance, Wembley danced and the English players, including Carrol, the new Liverpool signing, trooped off the pitch quickly, sullenly. Whatever happened to handshakes?

Look, it was only a friendly . . . really? Trust me it was a lot more than that.

What did we learn from Gyan last week?

Look for a fight, Not any fight, but your fight and by this, I mean “your will to win (in your goals) must be bigger than your fear of losing”.

I heard this on the radio on Thursday morning from the Indian cricket team motivational chap. Beautiful. It was easier for Gyan to score the penalty during the World Cup but in fighting till the death and scoring a gem of a difficult goal, he emancipated not only himself but millions of fans of the games.

I am sure even the Nigerians were celebrating.

Show up, Ghana showed up on the night and how! They harassed the English defence like Libyan rebels, prodding, running non-stop and not overawed at all at Wembley, a name though not as hallowed as Anfield, the Camp Nou or the Maracana but a big name nevertheless in football. The Ghanaians owned the space around them and were not intimidated.

I am never impressed by the false humility that interviewees display when they walk in to a boardroom.

It might get you admiration in the village but not in the concrete jungle of the private sector. You cannot play gentleman’s rules in a street fight.

Stay in the fight, You might be punching above your weight like Muhammad Ali versus Foreman in the rumble in the jungle, a young Peter Ndlovu at Coventry against Arsenal’s David Seaman, Kalusha Bwalya against Italy at the Olympics when Zambia smashed four goals against them with no reply, Emperor Menelik’s army against the Italians in Ethiopia or Jesse Owens at the Olympics in Munich. Whatever the odds, a lousy economy, unemployment of 80%, keep fighting the good fight.

Dance — Celebrate success. Even though the match was a friendly and a draw, England having drawn first blood through Carrol, Gyan danced as if he had just scored in the final of the World Cup.

It is a quality the world admires about Africans; the spontaneity, the wide grin, the Arthur Mutambara or Welshman Ncube nose, proud, flaring and seemingly looking for a fight!

Bob Marley said it best: “None but ourselves can free our minds!” No apologies for quoting a Liverpool great in closing: “People tell me football is a matter of life and death. They are wrong. It is much more than that!”

Innerzela is about something inside that is so powerful that it drives you the way Gyan was driven for redemption and that is what counts in this week’s article — how you recover from a huge psychological blow.

If you are tired, go out there and redeem yourself. Innerzela walks with you.

Albert Gumbo is an alumni of the Duke University-UCT US-Southern Africa Centre for leadership and public values.

Contact: gumbo.albert@gmail.com