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Global Soccer, Global NYC

Soccer in NYC Reimagined Through the Rivalries, Identity, Migration, and Politics of the World's Game in the Preeminent Global City

Africa Cup of Nations Final. Nigeria 1 – Burkina Faso 0

10 February 2013, 1:30 pm. The Shrine, Harlem

The Burkinabe and Nigerian expatriate communities were out in force for the Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday afternoon in Harlem at the Burkinabe-owned music venue, The Shrine.

The Shrine was having a viewing party for the match, which couldn’t have been more appropriate for the West African dominated CAF final. The walls are festooned with Burkinabe traditional masks along with 1970s American Afro-centric LPs, which seemed to celebrate and exchange of not only music styles, but also American-African culture.

Despite preliminary worries about the viability of their Ghanaian satellite feed, The Shrine ended up drawing over a hundred fans that crowded around the packed, standing room-only bar to get a glimpse of the continent’s showpiece game on a large screen.

Nigeria came out very strong in the first half, going close on three occasions. Later, Burkina Faso found their rhythm through the omnipresent trickery and velcro-like first touch of player-of-the-tournament Jonathan Pitroipa.

In the 39th minute, a bit of magic from local boy Sunday Mba, who drilled home a golaso after flicking it up to himself on the run, broke the deadlock at Soccer City Stadium and ignited a chorus of cheers from the Super Eagles’ fans in Harlem. Two green-clad supporters even began taunting a dejected Burkina Faso fan by waving their scarves in his sad direction.

At halftime, a small stand near the front of the bar was doing brisk business hawking Burkina Faso football t-shirts as fans stocked up on beers for the final 45.

A Nigerian music promoter also took the opportunity to hop on stage and inform the crowd of an upcoming live performance by Naija artist 9ice at Buka Restaurant in Fort Greene.

After the break, Nigeria’s conservative lead-protectionist tactics gave Burkina Faso an opening as they pressed forward through some neat interplay between Pitroipa and Djakaridja Kone but Les Étalons’ final ball lacked the necessary quality.

Victor Moses’ strong hold-up play and runs for the Super Eagles were a constant threat on the counter, but Burkina Faso maintained their pressure— forcing a few fine saves from Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama.

Burkina Faso’s late forays into the Nigerian box continued to prove fruitless in the dying minutes as frustrated Burkinabe waiters and bartenders in Les Étalons kits cursed the screen under their breath in French while taking last-minute beer orders.

As the final whistle blew, the Nigerian fans began jumping up and down and waving green scarves, joyously yelling at the player celebrations on TV, and even hoisting small children up into the air. 

Though, a win by the underdog Burkina Faso would have been appropriate for their Cinderella-like ascension in the Cup, they have created a lasting name for themselves as strong competitors on the continent.

Instead, it was the Nigerians moment to bask in the glory. The Shrine even put on some carefully curated bass-heavy Naija hip-pop music over the very capable speakers and the crowd broke out into spontaneous dance to celebrate the Super Eagles’ third Afcon title and the long-awaited return of the trophy to West Africa for the first time in eleven years.

New York City certainly knows how to do the Africa Cup of Nations.

Cross-posted to Africa is a Country

(Source: globalsoccerglobalnyc)

Nigeria fans in Harlem celebrate the Super Eagles’ 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title after beating Burkina Faso in the final.  

"There is reason to party. Almost two decades of waiting for Nigeria is over. One of Africa’s most complex countries was united, even if only for a few moments. A reporter on the ground at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos said, “nothing political, nothing religious matters, only the Super Eagles.”"
- Firdose Moonda, Sunday, brilliant Sunday
A Burkina Faso fan walks down Adam Clayton Powell blvd in Harlem with a stuffed parrot after the African Cup of Nations final. 

A Burkina Faso fan walks down Adam Clayton Powell blvd in Harlem with a stuffed parrot after the African Cup of Nations final. 

"But Ghana is more specific with regard to a somewhat broader mission. Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo, in a press briefing, said that the Black Stars are “not just representing the nation but Africa.” Ghana’s officials, the players themselves and in fact also those reporting about events around the World Cup attribute a
role of ambassador of Africa in the world to the team and the whole country. This expresses a sense of pan-africanism deeply felt in Ghana founded back in the years of Nkrumah’s reign. In fact, Nkrumah himself is quoted on a West African NGO’s website “Sport’s role in nation-building is multi-faceted: a victory in a major international sporting event is of national importance.”"
- Andreas Mehler, Political discourse in football coverage: The cases of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana

Ghanaian fans in Flatbush erupt into song after Ghana’s victory over Cape Verde in the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal.  

Africa Cup of Nations. Ghana 2 - Cape Verde 0

2 February 2013, 10:00 am. Meytex Cafe, Flatbush Brooklyn

While the Ghanaian migrant community in New York City is centered in the Bronx, there is a smaller, yet equally as Afcon-enthusiastic population of Ghanaians in the Flatbush/Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Meytex Cafe on Flatbush Avenue is part social club, part Ghanaian restaurant, and part bar/party space that provides a social center for the Ghanaian community in Brooklyn and has been one of the premier locations to watch the Black Stars in New York City. 

Early on Saturday morning, fans crowded around the bar at Meytex next to framed photographs of noted Ghanaian and Pan-African luminaries such as Kwame Nkrumah, Haile Selassie, Kofi Annan, Bob Marley, Stephen Appiah, and William Jefferson Clinton to cheer on the Black Stars as they took on Cinderella-story Cape Verde while throwing back bottles of Guinness Foreign Extra.

Ghana’s defense looked shaky from the start but maintained its composure in the face of increasingly dangerous Cape Verdean attacks. After a rather uneventful first half, a controversial penalty kick was awarded when Asamoah Gyan went down in the box in the 51th minute and substitute Mubarak Wakaso coolly slotted it home.

The Ghanaians at Meytex cheered for Wakaso’s goal, but their enthusiasm was somewhat muted by their confidence, with at least forty vocal Brooklyn-based “assistant managers” jokingly offering tactical suggestions to the players and already talking up their chances for success in the final in a seamless blend of English and Twi.

The relaxed and jovial vibe of the crowd, perhaps facilitated by the early morning beers, was a fascinating counterpoint to the life-and-death seriousness of the Moroccans in Astoria and the Ivorians in Harlem from our Afcon-in-the-city travels last week.

After Ghana’s first goal, Cape Verde’s attack further grew in confidence as they threw numbers forward in hopes of an equalizer. Ghana’s defense again could barely keep up with the Blue Shark’s speedy wingers and were time and time again bailed out by man-of-the-match Ghanaian goalkeeper Dauda.

Then, with Cape Verde even sending their keeper forward on a corner in the dying minutes, Mubarak Wakaso found himself on a breakaway with an empty net and calmly put the match away to the victorious chanting of the Black Stars’ fans in Flatbush.

With the match settled, the live Ghanaian satellite feed immediately put on Obaa Yaa & Nana Perbi’s “Official Black Star Fire Song” (sponsored by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation) as the waitress selected Hiplife mix CDs to keep the afternoon celebrations going. We settled our spicy peanut soup and fufu tab, thanked the owners, and told them we might be back for their upcoming Ghana Independence Day party.

Cross-posted to Africa is a Country

Ghana fans celebrate the Black Stars’ second goal in their Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal victory over Cape Verde at Meytex Cafe in Flatbush, Brooklyn. 

Ghana fans celebrate the Black Stars’ second goal in their Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal victory over Cape Verde at Meytex Cafe in Flatbush, Brooklyn. 

"While Moroccans are disappointed by many political decisions and dissatisfied with their being born in the Moroccan homeland, embers of their nationalism instantly become kindled whenever they watch their national team play in an international competition such as the African Cup of Nations. Wherever Moroccans are, in cafes or at home, they applaud their team and clap their hands over a player’s attempt to score a goal. We, for instance, find a depressed Moroccan cheerful and an angry husband momentarily happy when the African Cup is at play."
- Omar Bihmidine

Morocco fans in Astoria, Queens celebrate after Issam El Adoua’s header puts them up 1-0 over South Africa in their Africa Cup of Nations group match.

Africa Cup of Nations. Morocco 2 - South Africa 

27 January 2013, 12:00 pm. Casa Lounge, Astoria Queens

Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens is home to the largest Moroccan population in New York City and Casa Lounge, a Moroccan-owned hookah spot, has been the undisputed destination in the neighborhood to catch Morocco’s Africa Cup of Nations matches this year.

Needing a win to progress out of a surprisingly competitive Group A, the Atlas Lions came out strong against a South African side needing at least a draw. Morocco opened the scoring after Issam El Adoua’s header capitalized on some sloppy South African defending in the 10th minute.

As it bounced over the line, the early goal seemed to catch the awestruck Moroccan fans in Queens, at least 75 strong, a bit off guard. Their joy was palpable immediately however, with national team kit-bedecked fans unfurling large red Morocco flags, chanting “wal Maghrib, wal Maghrib” and kissing each other while pointing to the heavens in gratitude.

Unfortunately, a bit of the celebratory momentum was lost when Casa Lounge’s Arabic satellite TV feed went down half way through the first half. A frustrating “channel error connection failed” message hovered ominously over the proceedings as concerned Moroccan fans took to their cell phones in hopes of not missing any of the action in between sips of extortionist-priced $5 mint teas.

Thankfully, the satellite feed came back a few minutes into the second half shortly before May Mahlangu’s composed curling finish from the top of the box in the 71st minute leveled the proceedings in Durban and scaled-up the blood pressure of the Moroccan fans in Queens.

Fate’s cruel twists continued for the Moroccans as they first went back ahead 2-1 after substitute Abdelilah Hafid’s late 82nd minute strike sent the fans on Steinway Street into a rapturous celebration just as the feeble Arabic satellite feed went out once again.

Only four minutes later, however, with many fans nervously pushed into the back of Casa Lounge hoping to catch a glimpse of the reserve internet feed, only available on one of the TVs by this point, South Africa tied the match with Siyabonga Sangweni’s clutch 86th minute bending effort.

The goal effectively sent South Africa through and broke Moroccan hearts. One man at Casa Lounge spiked his mint tea in disgust, and profanity-lanced Arabic diatribes filled the air in Queens as teary knocked-out Moroccan players collapsed on the pitch in Durban.

Cross-posted to Africa is a Country

A Moroccan fan nervously watches the action against South Africa during an Africa Cup of Nations match in Astoria, Queens. 

A Moroccan fan nervously watches the action against South Africa during an Africa Cup of Nations match in Astoria, Queens. 

"The national team means a lot to this country. I think that today - and I choose my words carefully here - it is Cote d’Ivoire’s only unifying force. All our ethnic groups are now represented in the team - Baoules, Betes, and so on. They are all there. So there’s a complete cross-section in the Cote d’Ivoire team and I think that it’s the only good example there is today. We’re trying to move forward, we’re trying to get back on our feet, to show people through football that we can live together."
- Didier Drogba

Ivorian fans in Harlem celebrate Gervinho’s opener against Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Africa Cup of Nations. Côte d’Ivoire  3 – Tunisia 0

26 January 2013, 10:00 am. New Ivoire Restaurant, Harlem 

Acting on a tip from an Ivorian diplomat on the best location to watch Les Éléphants play in NYC, we headed up to Harlem to catch the Côte d’Ivoire–Tunisia match early Saturday morning. New Ivoire is a 17-year-old, 24-hour restaurant on 119th street in a growing West African area of Harlem that is both frequented and owned by Ivorian taxi drivers. It has also been the de facto headquarters of Ivorian fans cheering on their team during this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

We sat by the back next to the owner and enjoyed coffees and teas with sweetened condensed milk, kidney and liver beef sandwiches, and toasted baguettes with butter alongside more than 50 very enthusiastic and captivated orange-clad Ivorian fans. Sadly, we were a bit too early to try their foutou banane, Côte d’Ivoire’s national dish, and the name of a popular coupé décalé dance.

Côte d’Ivoire scored first through a Gervinho strike twenty minutes in, sending the standing-room only crowd in Harlem into an absolute frenzy.

Tunisia later found their stride in the second half and threatened to level the score a few times during some crafty attacks that visibly frayed the Ivorians’ nerves.  Then, in the 87th minute, Yaya Toure drilled home a second for Les Éléphants that instantly changed the mood at New Ivoire from cataclysmic nervousness to joyous ecstasy. The patrons jumped out of their seats, sang, danced, cheered, and embraced each other knowing victory was theirs

Didier Ya Konan’s neat finish inside the box three minutes later gave Côte d’Ivoire their icing-on-the-cake third goal and the crowd in Harlem even more reasons to celebrate their assured progression to the next round of the very tournament that their golden generation of players has perpetually come up short at.

As the final whistle blew, the wait staff, cooks, and patrons continued to sing and dance as we thanked them for their hospitality and exited the warm and welcoming uptown Ivorian experience back into the frozen New York City air.

Cross-posted to Africa is a Country