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