Days don’t get much bigger than last Saturday for Salou Ibrahim.
The Red Bulls’ forward and Ghana native watched on Saturday afternoon as Ghana scored in extra time to lift themselves into the quarterfinals of the World Cup with a 2-1 victory over the United States. Then, a few hours later, Salou scored the first goal in what became a 3-0 rout of the Kansas City Wizards on the road.
Ibrahim watched Saturday’s World Cup match with teammates and fellow Africa natives Bouna Coundoul and Danleigh Borman, both of whom adopted Ghana as their team in the tournament since no other African nations advanced to the second round.
Watching in their hotel room, Ibrahim said he felt a sense of pride seeing his countrymen play the way they did. Several years ago, Ibrahim said that the head coach of Ghana had wanted him to play for the national team, but he was forced to decline the invite.
“But I had to decline at that moment – there were some personal issues and I didn’t want to play for the national team right then,” Ibrahim said.
He said he was willing to accept a call-up at a later point, but Ghana’s staff took his inability to join the national team at that moment as an unwillingness to compete for the selection. Salou denied that was the case or that he was waiting for a call from Belgium, where he holds dual-citizenship.
Belgium did eventually call and invited him to a national team camp, but Ghana never called again.
“Ghana never released the paperwork saying that I hadn’t represented them in international play,” Ibrahim said. “And I could never play for them.”
He admits that he was hoping for the United States to do well in the World Cup and that had they played any other nation other than Ghana, he would have wanted them to advance to the quarterfinals.
“The game here is growing. It would have been good for the game – good for the league – if the Americans had advanced. It would have been good for all of us,” Ibrahim said.
“When players from other countries come here, they don’t think Americans can play the game,” Ibrahim added. “They think about basketball and American football and that they can’t play soccer. That isn’t the case at all.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012