Fans cheer only African nation in knockout round

There were no waiters, no menus and no food being offered at Bissap Baobab on Tuesday morning.

The only noticeable staff member was a cook preparing for the dinner crowd in the kitchen, the lone refreshment a blue pitcher of water on the bar.

But this Senegalese bar and restaurant opened before 8 a.m. anyway for the Brazil-Ghana World Cup game, not to pad its pockets but simply to give supporters of the Black Stars a friendly place to watch their team.

“I got up early and took a bus and then a train to get here,” said Jesse, a Park Merced resident. “But I’ve been counting down the days to this game, and I wanted to be here, in an African restaurant and with a group.”

It was a mellow, diverse and amicable gathering of more than 30 people, most of whom were supporting the lone African nation to reach the knockout round of the tournament. There was constant chatter throughout the match and a toast to the World Cup over a box of doughnuts provided by one of the fans.

In a seat close to the television, Jeremy Epstein sat wearing a Ghana jersey and cheering for the Black Stars. He recently returned to The City after working in Liberia, Uganda and Sudan and grew fond of the Ghana team while vacationing in the West African nation.

“I can pretty much guarantee that half the country is watching this match,” he said. “But there aren’t that many TVs. I’m having visions of, like, 50 people gathering around one small set.”

Going in to the game as heavy underdogs, Ghana did not appear intimidated by a Brazilian team favored to win the title. And after Brazil took a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute, the Black Stars probably had more chances then La Selecao but just couldn’t convert. Groans echoed throughout the room as shot after shot screamed over the crossbar.

“One goal,” shouted Ghana supporter Alex with a smile on his face. “Come on, just one.”

But even though it wasn’t meant to be, the supporters recognized good soccer when they saw it. There was polite applause for the Brazilians as they added two goals to win 3-0.

“Even though it was 3-0, that was the most exciting game I’ve seen so far,” Jesse said.

“Ghana has a lot of speed, and they took it to Brazil at times. They just couldn’t finish.”

melliser@examiner.com

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