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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.  

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. 

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.

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.