Following my disastrous support for Ghana in their international friendly against England at Wembley (disastrous because I left in the 89th minute – Ghana scored in the 92nd) I went to watch Ghana play again on Monday night at Fulham FC’s small neighbourhood ground in West London.
This was a strange choice of venue for the game, and I actually thought it was Ghana’s game, because Brazil play all their international friendlies at Arsenal’s illustrious Emirates Stadium. But it was indeed Brazil’s game and perhaps they chose Craven Cottage thinking they wouldn’t sell-out a match versus Ghana at Arsenal.
Inside the stadium the atmosphere was electric, a genuine pulse throbbed through the entire arena. I lived in Brazil for almost a year and saw first hand how every Brazilian grows up with an indomitable thirst, understanding and love for the game. There is no such thing as a Brasileira (a female Brazilian) who doesn’t understand the offside rule, that joke doesn’t even make any sense there. If you’ve ever watched Brazilian World Cup games on TV you’ll have seen the amazing turn-out of women at them, and marvelled at their excitement.
As ever, the Ghana fans also turned out with their beautiful vibrant colours and in one corner of the stadium, they even had a full-on band banging out beats. While the Brazilian fans outnumbered the Ghanaian fans, I can honestly say that the Ghanaian fans comprehensively out-partied the Brazilians and I didn’t think that was possible.
For me, however, the most wonderful thing about the match was that there was no need to separate the fans at all. Look at my pictures and tell me if you have ever seen a more diverse attendance at a football match in England. There were so many young women, so many young children, so many elderly, so many different races and all were watching the match sat side-by-harmonious-side. I wore a Brazil shirt and my friend wore his Ghana shirt. All around us, there was a complete mix of Brazil and Ghana fans, and the jovial competitive singing as each set of fans tried to out-sing the other was the most fun I’ve ever had at a football match anywhere in the world.
Between the lines, there was an unofficial alternative match going on. Everybody knows that the finest bottoms in the world belong to Brazilian and Ghanaian women. If yours was to determine the official winner of that battle, you needed to be at Craven Cottage on Monday night – I’m afraid I wasn’t bold enough to go around shooting pictures of women’s arses. I did film the sexy samba dancers that came on to entertain us at half time but unfortunately the footage was so crap I’d be too embarrassed to show you.
The highlight of the night came at the very end of the game when the players were walking off and a big grown-arse Ghanaian fan of a man decided to invade the pitch. Laughter and hilarity ensued as he managed to evade capture while running the entire length of the pitch before getting caught when he slipped and lost his footing. It’s all in my video of action from the night (coming soon on my YouTube channel).
Jungle Drums (the UK’s premiere Brazilian culture magazine) ran an interesting report about the match on their site which brought to my attention the fact that many people couldn’t get into the stadium until half time and blamed Fulham FC for bad organisation. On this, I just have to say that Fulham FC have hosted Monday night football matches for decades without this sort of debacle. In my humble opinion this is more about the fact that it was Brazil and Ghana, nations whose peoples aren’t usually known for their prompt arrival at events. Yes, things are better when Brazil play at their Emirates Stadium London home and also when Ghana played England at Wembley, but those are massive stadiums with tremendous resources. Fulham FC can’t be blamed because people who had prepaid for tickets on credit cards decided to turn up 5 minutes before kick-off to collect them.
By the way, Brazil won the match (Brazil 1 – 0 Ghana) and Ghana had a player sent off in the first half. And with a match report like that, don’t expect to see me reporting on matches on the back pages any time soon…