RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazil World Cup has drawn fewer football fans from Africa than the last World Cup, in South Africa. But they are still passionate in their support for their teams.
African fans have gathered for the late night match between Ivory Coast and Japan at Copacabana beach.
Things are not going well. Japan scores early and leads throughout much of the game.
But in the second half, two goals, two minutes apart, turn the gloomy mood joyous. The Elephants of Ivory Coast hold on to win, 2-1. They have boosted their chances to advance to the second round, says Marie Engogna from Cameroon.
“Well, tonight I am really proud of the Elephants. They have made Africa proud," she said. "I hope they will go much further and I’m rooting for them. Thank you, Cote d’Ivoire. I am with you with all my heart.”
The team still has a lot of work to do, says Ivorian Jean-Jules Porquet from Abidjan.
“At the beginning we weren’t very hopeful," he said. "But as we say in Cote d’Ivoire, to be discouraged is not Ivorian. Then, suddenly we scored and made it to the end and now we enjoy the fruits of victory.”
Despite the late hour, fans from other countries are here to cheer for Ivory Coast. African football has come a long way, says Daniel Ngozi, originally from Nigeria, here with his Canadian friend Max Ouellet.
“I think it [African football] has improved a lot in terms of the technical ability of the individual players," Ngozi said. "That being said, I feel there is a longer way to go in terms of getting a team to gel quicker like we see in other national teams, namely from Europe. There’s something that has to change there.”
Abou Sanghotte, from Senegal, thinks Africa’s best chance to win the World Cup was four years ago in South Africa, but he thinks they still have a shot.
“I hope so and think so because the African players are getting stronger and stronger," he said. "They’ve always had talent but presently a lot of it is in Europe. For me, Africa should be at the top. I don’t think it will take long.”
The high cost of plane fares from Africa has limited the number of fans traveling to Brazil from the continent. But the African teams are well supported by fans from around the world.