“Sometimes when I’m alone, I get up and put the DVD on and start watching that game. I wish the match could happen again because it really hurts me every time when I’m alone. It’s something that I can never forget."
Asamoah Gyan, with all of Africa behind him, placed the ball on the penalty spot in the 122nd minute of Ghana's World Cup quarter final against Uruguay, with the chance to send Ghana through to the semi finals for the first time in their history.
History beckoned, as the Black Stars would become the first African team to make the semi finals in the history of the World Cup should the ball find it's way past Fernando Muslera in goal. An expectant Soccer City stadium held their breath in nervous fashion, the crisp Johannesburg evening perhaps bringing their goosebumps to fruition prematurely.
This was to be the last kick of the game. Gyan, donning his iconic but unusual number three jersey, began his run towards the ball, the entire footballing world - bar Uruguay - waiting for a fairytale story to come to fruition.
"It is a powerful number. If you are lifting something heavy, you count to three before you lift. If you want to warn someone, you warn them once, then twice and the third time you take action," Gyan has said in the past when quizzed on why he wears number three. If you were to have told Ghana's all time top scorer what awaited him, however, even three warnings wouldn't have sufficed.
The ping of Muslera's crossbar met the eardrums of 84,000 spectators inside a hushed Soccer City, replacing the jubilant scenes of celebration that many were eagerly awaiting. Gyan had missed. His teammates had sunk to their knees. Olegário Benquerença, the referee on the night, put his whistle to his lips to summon penalties. Uruguay had one more chance, but it came via evil circumstances.
World Cup 2010 🇿🇦@Uruguay 🇺🇾 vs @ghanafaofficial 🇬🇭— Dribl (@driblfootball) June 1, 2018
Luis Suarez "saves" 👐 a header on the goal line.
Referee awards a penalty to 🇬🇭, and a red card to Suarez.
Gyan misses the penalty 😱🤨
🇺🇾 beats 🇬🇭 on penalties, progress to the semi-finals.#WorldCupStory pic.twitter.com/00BgiD6G6d
A tearful Luis Suarez, stood just outside the tunnel after leaving the field stricken with grief, was now vigorously celebrating, but why was he there in the first place? An untimely injury perhaps?
Uruguay's number nine had been given his marching orders in quite breathtaking fashion, after smacking a goal bound effort away from his country's net with his hands in what was a truly cruel act of cheating. Visions of another diminutive South American in Diego Maradona illegitimately using his hands arose as the infamous 'Hand of God' reared it's ugly head at the World cup once again; Ghana ultimately lost 4-2 on penalties, and Suarez had condemned himself as a criminal in the eyes of every Ghanaian forever.
The sight of the forward, of Ajax at the time and now of Barcelona, being held aloft by his teammates and ceremoniously praised by Diego Forlan after the game would be sure to boil the blood of many. It was a sight of a cheat being heralded for his actions, and something that Suarez seemed to revel in after the game.
"The Hand of God now belongs to me. Mine is the real Hand Of God. I made the best save of the tournament. Sometimes in training I play as a goalkeeper so it was worth it".
It's fair to say a majority were truly surprised by Suarez's actions in Johannesburg that night. However, since then, the pantomime villain's antics have made his save against Ghana look almost insignificant, and that's saying something. Uruguay's talisman has since bitten not one, not two, but three opponents whilst playing for Ajax, Uruguay and Liverpool, as well as being the centre of a racism storm due to an incident involving Patrice Evra.
The sad truth of it all, though, is that in this instance, evil prevailed. Suarez prevailed. Uruguay and their 'hero', in the context of things, progressed to the semi finals. Suarez has since earned big money transfers to Liverpool and Barcelona. He is a serial winner who will go to extreme lengths to help his side, and as unbearable as that is to watch as an opponent, you would love to have him on your side.
Even Gyan himself would agree with that sentiment: "He handled the ball, but at the end of the day I wasn’t able to score the penalty, so he saved his country. At that time he was a hero, but in my country he was an enemy. If I were Suarez I would have done the same thing, to save my country, because he was there to die for his country and he succeeded."
What perhaps makes Suarez's decision on the day that he crushed the dreams of a continent all the more unforgivable is the lack of remorse shown:
"The Ghana player missing the penalty is not my fault. I didn’t kick anyone or anything like that, that’s why I think that I celebrated like that, for having taken a risk for something that was worth it. And I remember that I celebrated it more than a goal. A teammate on the bench passed out on that play, hahaha.”
Suarez is a pantomime villain in every sense of the phrase. Yes, he causes chaos, but he is needed to create a story, a narrative, something to contrast the good in football. He is someone that we all love to hate, but also hate to love when he lets his football do the talking, for that is balletic. He may have crushed many a dream that summer in Johannesburg, but you'd be lying if you said you wouldn't have wanted him to do it for your country.