The African Cup of Nations is in full swing, taking over Ghana, where it is being hosted. I should know - two of Arsenal's best players are out of action for six weeks while they play for their country, the Ivory Coast.
What is beautiful in this tournament - besides the fact that it's the divinely inspired sport, soccer/football - is how the African nations treat nationalism. As the Christian Science Monitor writes:
...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....
The difference is that Americans actually believe they deserve it. The US was founded by people who imagined that God had assigned them a special destiny; they would be a city on the hill, lighting the way for everybody else.
The African nations, in other words, tend to be patriotic. Here in the US we often veer into nationalism. The chest-thumping arrogance of America will be on display in the "Super"bowl. The crass materialism. Very Vegas.
Meanwhile, Africa continues to demonstrate how to truly compete in sport. With dignity. With insane skill (ever seen Michael Essien or Samuel Eto'o play???). With patriotism, not overbearing national pride.
The beautiful game...played beautifully.