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A Super Bowl lesson from Ghana

Ghanaians exude gratitude rather than arrogance.

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Last Sunday evening, in the final minutes of play, Ghana's Sulley Muntari scored a dramatic goal to defeat visiting Guinea. Seven hours later, at 3 a.m., we could still hear the horns and revelers on the street outside of our house.

And believe it or not, the party has just begun.

Mr. Muntari's heroics came in the opening match of the three-week Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament, which Ghana is hosting. The entire country has been gripped by "football fever," as the newspapers call it. Taxis and buses all fly the Ghanaian flag, honking incessantly as they pass. Wherever you look – on shirts, neckties, scarves, hats, and even earrings – you see the bright national colors of red, green, and yellow.

To an American, the most refreshing part of this celebration is the apparent absence of national jingoism or chauvinism. The Ghanaians are intensely patriotic, of course, but you don't hear people talking about how much better they are than other countries.

Quite the contrary: the airwaves and papers are filled with demands for the nation to better itself, especially with the tournament placing Ghana in a world spotlight. Please don't litter, a television news reporter told us last week; please use proper food hygiene; please conserve water; please drive more carefully.

And please, most of all, pray for the soccer team. In Ghana, a deeply devout and increasingly Christian country, religious fervor merges easily with football fever. "Sometimes one is tempted to believe that God is a Ghanaian," a local newspaper exulted, the morning after Ghana's first-round victory. "For the very spiritual, it was the hidden hand of God at work or simply the miraculous."

But even here, Ghanaians exude gratitude rather than arrogance. They all want God to shine upon the team, naturally, but there's no suggestion that He ought to do so. I even heard one television reporter urge viewers to pray for all of the African nations, lest anyone get left out.


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