Hint: Use 'j' and 'k' keys
to move up and down

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.  

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. 

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

Moroccan fans on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens go wild just as Abdelilah Hafid scores in the 82nd minute against South Africa during the Africa Cup of Nations. 

Moroccan fans on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens go wild just as Abdelilah Hafid scores in the 82nd minute against South Africa during 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

Ivorian fans watch the Africa Cup of Nations at New Ivoire Restaurant in Harlem. 

Ivorian fans watch the Africa Cup of Nations at New Ivoire Restaurant in Harlem. 

Africa Cup of Nations. South Africa 0 – Cape Verde 0

19 January 2013, 11:00 am. Madiba, Fort Greene Brooklyn

The opening match for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations kicked off on Saturday between tournament hosts South Africa and Cup debutantes Cape Verde in a conspicuously empty Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg and resulted in a largely uninspired and forgettable 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile in Fort Greene, where Madiba, New York City’s most popular South African restaurant is located, we were sadly the only two fans present with hopes of watching the match early Saturday morning. The outing also suffered from technical difficulties from the get go. After giving us assurances over the phone that the game would be shown, when we arrived NBA highlights were on a small TV screen and a waitress claimed to not be aware of any South African soccer being played. Following a bit of back and forth with the friendly staff, they said they would try to get an internet stream of the action up on a projector screen that was pulled down over a wall of various South African imported groceries.

Despite the sustained, yet-not-particularly-troubled, efforts of two waitresses, a manager, and a cook, the audio/video issues ultimately rendered viewing the game on the projector moot. We accepted projector defeat and were then handed a laptop with an unfortunate glare problem and a slow internet connection to catch the last twenty minutes of the first half as we finished our tasty egg and boerewors sausage breakfasts.

On the pitch, South Africa looked flat throughout the game and was unable to keep possession in front of the omnipresent vuvuzela drone of the home fans. Bafana Bafana’s attempt to win their first Africa Cup of Nations match since 2004 was also visibly affected by the “retirement” of their best player,Steven Pienaar, “at home in Liverpool.”

Cape Verde, on the other hand, looked energetic, skillful, and dangerous down the flanks despite only having a population of 500,000 people to draw their national side from. They even posses a diminutive striker named Platini who showed flashes of self-assured brilliance.

After having enough with the ongoing technical difficulties and lack of South African fans at Madiba, we ended up relocating to the private residence of a local South African to catch most of the second half in a livelier environment. We are confident, however, that watching Afcon in NYC alongside interested fans will get more dynamic as the tournament goes on and we explore different neighborhoods around the city.

Cross-posted to Africa is a Country

Derby of Eternal Enemies. Olympiacos FC 2 - Panathinaikos FC 2

9 December 2012, 12:30 pm. Olympiacos FC Supporters Club NY, Astoria Queens

The incredibly heated Greek match pitting Olympiacos FC against Panathinaikos FC is also known as both the “Derby of the Eternal Enemies” or “The Mother of All Battles.” These descriptions are rather apt, especially considering some recent matches, and capture the enduring rivalry and the emotions wrapped up in it. The derby between the Red-Whites and the Greens is a social, cultural, and regional rivalry. Both of these teams are the two major clubs in Greece. Panathinaikos FC (PAO) was founded in 1908 and is located in the center of Athens. PAO is one of only two supporter-owned football clubs in Greece. They are considered the classic representative of the old upper class society of Athens.

Olympiacos FC, founded in 1925 and located in the port city of Piraeus, just outside central Athens, represents the working class citizens of the city. Olympiacos is the most successful club in Greek football history winning 39 league titles. Both fan bases hate each other whenever they meet regardless of if it is in Athens or in Astoria.

The Olympiacos FC Supporters club has been in New York for 16 years. Located on 30th Avenue in Astoria, Queens conveniently above the Acropolis Meat Market, the members only fan club has been central to the large community of Greek immigrants living in Astoria. It was filled on a recent Sunday afternoon for the Derby with Greek men drinking coffee and cheering on their team. The atmosphere was amazing and became even better after Olympiacos scored two first half goals after being one down to take a 2-1 lead before the break. Panathinaikos leveled in the 67th, but the draw didn’t dampen the mood too much among the Olympiacos fans as they sit comfortably at the top of the league and a massive 16 points ahead of their arch rival.   

At the Olympiacos supports club, after we assured them we were not undercover FBI agents, we even had the opportunity to sit in the VIP section that included a small office and one flat screen TV after being invited by George (the club’s main caretaker/one of the head honchos) and Alex (an avid supporter). A special thanks goes out to both of them for their gracious hospitality during the Derby of Eternal Enemies. 

"Panathinaikos (PAO to its friends, vasles— from Vaseline— to its foes) is not simply taken as the team of the city (a point of identification) but also as a point of distinction between bourgeois Athens and proletarian Piraeus and its team Olympiakos (Thrylos— legend— to its friends, gavroi— smelts— to its foes). This, of course, does not mean that there is a monolithic devotion of the citizens of the two cities to their respective teams. The devotion of an individual to a team many times is superseded by an alliance of a different order, always ad hoc and largely unclassifiable ."
- Neni Panourgia, Fragments of Death, Fables of Identity: An Athenian Anthropography