USA 1 GHA 2: Bill Clinton’s Saturday night

BILL Clinton is getting more exposure at this World Cup than Joe Cole. There he was again tonight, in the stand in Rustenburg, sitting next to Mick Jagger, watching Ghana – dressed in a Melchester Rovers-style kit – become only the third African side to reach a World Cup quarter-final.

The USA are out of the tournament, three days after they narrowly avoided elimination, but no other team is going to come up with a more famous celebrity supporter in South Africa. Not even if Brian Blessed turns up in Bloemfontein for England v Germany with a vuvuzela.

Former US president Clinton has travelled to South Africa in his role as honorary chairman of his country’s bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. (You only had it in 1994, Bill. England hasn’t hosted it since 1966. Can’t it wait a few years before you get it again?)

He sat next to FIFA president Sepp Blatter during the USA’s so-late-they-almost-missed-the bus victory over Algeria in Pretoria on Wednesday, and enjoyed his afternoon so much that he decided to extend his stay.

There are differing accounts of what Sepp and Bill talked about – as there exist both genuine and fake Blatter accounts on Twitter. Amusingly, the fake Sepp account predates the real one. While Fake Sepp has been tweeting away in satirical fashion since last year, Real Sepp only got his act together on June 10.

(I appreciate that this may be because Real Sepp doesn’t have as much time to be faffing around on Twitter. His late start doesn’t seem to have done him any harm, though – he already has roughly 50 times as many followers as Fake Sepp.)

As you can imagine, Real Sepp and Fake Sepp plough very different furrows when it comes to tweeting their adventures.

Real Sepp: Very good to see former US president Bill Clinton at USA-ALG; talked a common language on health development and FWC [FIFA World Cup] legacy.

Fake Sepp: Another exciting day at My Tournament. Well done to the Americans on exciting victory! Thanks to President Bill for Monica’s phone number.

After last Wednesday’s match, Clinton went into the US dressing room to congratulate the players, capping what Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu described in his Daily Record column as “the craziest day of my 24 years on this planet”.

Edu, like many of the US squad, is on Twitter – but only one of their number is being followed by Real Sepp. Step forward Landon Donovan, the scorer of their late goal against Algeria, who converted a penalty to take the Ghana match to extra-time.

The US have become used to battling their way back into matches during this World Cup – they were one down to England and two down to Slovenia. A goal down to Kevin-Prince Boateng’s superbly-taken fifth-minute effort, it took the US a lot of effort to get back into this one.

Donovan’s successful penalty, awarded after Jonathan ‘not the guy who played for Sunderland last season’ Mensah brought down Clint Dempsey, sparked Clinton into a high-five with a fellow fan.

The US put plenty of pressure on Ghana after that, but got no reward, and ran out of steam in extra-time. Asamoah Gyan – the only centre-forward in the world who wears the No.3 shirt – scored an emphatic winner.

And with apologies to the US, it was just what the tournament needed. Ghana’s players chanted “Africa, Africa” at the end of the game, aware of the importance of an African team reaching the last eight of Africa’s first World Cup.

No African team has ever reached the semi-finals. If Ghana get past Uruguay on Friday, it really will be Roy Of The Rovers stuff.


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