Separated by 5th Avenue and soccer allegiances, Harlem has become a Petri dish of culture and personality, a melting pot blending extreme diversity, creating something different from its origins. A difference mapped out by the soccer fans, which frequent the area.

Fan’s are adoring. Fan’s are passionate. Fan’s can memorize statistics, transfer history and the names of the lowliest player on the squad as if their team were their first born child. When channeled harmoniously, the results can be electrifying.

The New Ivoire restaurant is painted the colors of the Ivory Coast flag. The orange, white, and green decorating the outside of the building is a mere taste of the authenticity found inside.

Here a cramped grotto on 119th street and Park avenue, Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) fans observed a noon first round World Cup match against Colombia. The tight space and crowded enclave was initially a bit hot, no one else seemed to mind though. The restless clamor and West African french dialect added to the growing tension, a mere half hour before kick off.

While the smell of food from the kitchen diffuses through the air, I was reminded more of an adolescent mess hall amongst friends than a bar. The room was fueled by a love for soccer and a playful hatred of France (which is now out of the Cup.)

“[Cote D’Ivoire] is good individually,” illustrated Mussa, a self described long time Ivory Coast fan. “But when they play as a team it’s tough for them to have chemistry.”

Mussa referenced, during lulls in laughter, how each member of the National team brings great Euro league experience to the cup but that experience hasn’t materialized into national play.

A quarter past noon the room morphs from a disjointed locker room atmosphere, when there were 20 different conversations happening about 40 different topics to an organized row of bleachers. It was as if all in the room knew the best way to watch a game in maximum comfort.

Most of the 50 people in the room wore comfortable business attire, slacks, shoes. They took the game seriously. They weren’t playing around.

Alex, wore dress pants, shoes, and a striped shirt, augmented his fertile accent with head gestures and powerful gesticulation while describing his favorite team’s best shot at beating the better Colombian club. “We’ve got to [fight] inside. That’s the only way we can beat Colombia.”

Everyone was anxious and gripping their seats. It was widely acknowledged amongst those present that Colombia was better so any advantage Cote D’Ivoire showed elicited tremendous applause, and cheers, and excitement.

On the same token, any sign of disadvantage squeezed oxygen from the room. The mood ebbed and flowed with the rise and fall of Cote D’Ivoire.

“If we win, we qualify. If they win, they qualify. It’s a very big game, you see,” said Alex during the few moments I was able to distract him long enough to sustain a conversation.

No one had scored yet but the Crowd inside continued growing, as the space inside shrunk, as halftime neared.

Everyone outside was drawn to this game, at this time, between these countries, with so much hanging in the balance. The rope binnig Upper East Harlem was taut and it’s grip on the surrounding neighborhood was strong.

“We’re the only hope for Africa,” predicted Cisse Babou, a resident of Harlem since he emigrated there in 1989. It will be Cote D’Ivoire and Germany in the final. That’s what I’m thinking.”

The intention was to leave New Ivoire after the half, travel downtown and watch the second half of the Cote D’Ivoire verses Colombia match at Cantina 1838 in El Barrio. But when I got there the lights were off, brooms and buckets were scattered about, chairs were turned up atop the bar then it started to rain.The place was closed.

It took a resourceful scramble through a drizzle from Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard all the way back down to 3rd avenue, to reach the restaurant Amore Cuba in time to hear the ESPN Deportes announcer reach back, as if preparing to belt out the finishing number of an obscure opera, and echo the now notorious, “Go go go go go Goooal!”

For a moment, the room was swept up in the electricity. If you’ve ever been in the middle of a crowd of adoring fans, you’d know how easy it is to get swept up in the fervor.

The crowd watching the game at Amore Cuba was a third the size of New Ivoire, which the owner insisted was because of the early pitch time.

At this point in the match the score was 2–0.

“Usually it’s busiest after 8 [at night] especially Saturday,” the owner of Amore Cuba Laura Munera said, explaining that between Tuesday and Sunday guests will enjoy the meringue and the cha cha. “Yeah that’s when you should come if you want to truly experience the Latin culture.”

The crowd might also be due in part to the split allegiances of Spanish Harlem.

The bar’s name read Cuba, a manager working the noon shift was Argentinean, and the Owner, Laura, emigrated from Colombia. And this is but a small sample size of the Latin countries that qualified in 2014. Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Honduras, México, Chile, and Uruguay all play in the cup this year.

The Ivory Coast cut the lead in half during the 73 minute, leaving the losing team with enough time to imagine a creative comeback.

CIV never let the game get boring, even though they lost. They maintained great fight with several kicks on goal toward the end.

At the Amore Cuba, the ending was all very tasteful. Everyone hugged, shook hands, and congratulated one another on a job well done – as if they were in the game as well.

The final score… 2-1 in favor of Colombia.