They did brilliantly well. The last African team had got to the 85th minute of their last game before it happened. Ghana were 2-0 down against Brazil. They’d fought hard against temptation...and then suddenly it was all too much. I felt for them, I really did. To have come so very, very close. But perhaps it was too much to expect. In any case, it was not to be. The irony was that it wasn’t Brazil’s third goal that caused it to happen, but the replay. The Ghana defenders pushed up, the Brazilian midfield advanced towards them, the pass was slipped through to Ze Roberto. As he prepared to slip the ball past the goalie Richard Kingson, the excitement became too much to handle, and the commentator, cracking under the strain, came right out with the n-word. He just said it. With just five lousy minutes to go...It’s so easy to dream of what might have been. But there’s no point. He just had go use the bad word. The Ghanaians were—I can hardly bear to write the word— ‘naive’. Specifically, they were guilty of ‘naive defending’.
I can’t have been the only person listening who let out a low moan of Noooooooooo. When Channel Five (I think it was) broadcast the African Cup of Nations they had, instead of a swear box, a ‘naive’ box, in which everybody who used the n-word had to drop a fiver. Obviously, the adjective never appears without the noun 'defending'. If memory serves Channel Five had a naive-free tournament. The message seemed to have caught on, and Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Ghana had played all their matches thus far without the n-word being flourished once. I caught one use of ‘silky’—another word which, in a football context, means ‘black’—but no ‘naive’, until last night. We came so close.