Postcards from the World Cup #7: Losing, swearing and jerk chicken with the Ghanaians
The Gold Coast Bar
224 Portland Road, London, SE25 4QB
Football has obtained its own unique, messed-up vocabulary in recent years. The word 'ironic' is used to describe anything from bad luck to simple coincidence, an incorrect trend that started with Alanis Morissette's hit single of the same name and has since been continued with unrelenting consistency by verbose commentary teams.
Or worse, where a young player's emergence on the global stage can be compared to a "meteoric rise" without so much of a murmur. Everybody knows that meteors fall out of the sky like a Boubacar Barry goal-kick, rather than rocket heavenwards (again, like a Boubacar Barry goal-kick).
Some phrases will never become altered within the discombobulating football lexicon, however. For example, the words of frustration a Ghanaian fan expresses when his goalkeeper flaps a cross into the path of a waiting Cristiano Ronaldo go something like this: "Why are you even in here, man? If you can't even catch the ball? Go home… find your passport… seriously!"
Then, a flurry of rage as said flap is banged into the back of the net to knock Ghana out of the World Cup. "F***! F***! F***!"
No irony. No talk of meteoric rises. Just sheer bloody misery encapsulated in three simple words. Well one really, it's just shouted three times over.
And the day had started so well, too. The Gold Coast Bar in south London doesn't look much on the exterior: a standard pub with a shabby front on a standard thoroughfare. But step inside during a World Cup fixture featuring Ghana and the vibe becomes part-carnival, part-Jamie Oliver grub-fest where spicy jerk chicken pieces smoke in a BBQ shack.
Meanwhile, the locals drink Star Lager, a Ghanaian brew that arrives with the enticing slogan: "You're brighter by far on a Star." On the face of it, this sounds like the perfect accompaniment to the succulent chargrilled meat on offer. In reality, Star packs a head-spinning wallop and delivers a hangover with more oomph that a James Rodriguez volley.
Still, this only serves to get the party started in an outdoor space that acts as both pub garden and cinematic football experience where a large TV screen – flanked by two Ghanaian flags – shows the match in all its excruciating drama. Portugal's opening goal! Ghana's equaliser! Talk of unlikely qualification! And then the inevitable moment of heartbreak when Ronaldo sends the African nation home with a swipe of his boot.
But as the Ghanians exit from Brazil 2014, a funny thing happens: everyone starts to party. A DJ inside The Gold Coast Bar drops a soundtrack of pounding African beats and lilting guitars, and the garden starts to shimmy. It could be the sunny weather – Postcards... suspects it's the Star – but nobody here seems to give a hoot about departing the World Cup at the group stage.
Like South Korea, Iran and the other sides we've shouldered as they've supped at the poisoned chalice of defeat, there's an acceptance at play: some teams are simply better than others. The attitude? Have another Star, get on with it. Get dancing, stagger home. Lose your wallet. Once you're indoors, play records by Nigerian electro funk whizz, William Onyeabor, until silly o'clock in the morning.
That's what we did following the Ghana defeat. And that'll be our attitude when Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri tears England apart during their first European Championship qualifier next season. Once the hangover kicks in the next morning, we'll allow ourselves a little moan. Until then, it's party time.
Only two more weeks left...
WHAT WE HAD: Too many bottles of Star. Not enough jerk chicken, rice. £Don'taskus. But not a lot.
Matt Allen will be criss-crossing the captial in the line of duty for the next month. His aim? To find the best World Cup-themed parties in London. If you know of any, please tweet him, especially if you're having a BBQ.