COLUMBIA — During past World Cups, Juanita Kwarteng said she and her family typically gathered for a meal of rice, fried plantains, beans and tomatoes while they cheered on the closest African team still in the tournament. She was in Africa for the last World Cup and said the it's equivalent to the Super Bowl for Americans.
"The world stops and all people do is breathe, eat and pray for this game," she said. "You won't find people on the streets."
For this World Cup, Kwarteng has had to watch from afar. Kwarteng, an MU graduate student who was born in Canada and has family roots in Ghana, was at the Ragtag Cinema on Saturday to cheer on Ghana in its second-round World Cup game against the United States.
American fans at the theater sported headbands, face paint and American flags as they watched the U.S. soccer team get eliminated in a 2-1 loss to Ghana in extra time.
For the Ghanaian fans, the game was about more than their country alone.
"This game is for all of Africa," Kwarteng said after the national anthem.
She said this World Cup is "huge" because it's the first time Africa has hosted the tournament and it's a chance to change peoples' minds.
"There is a certain stigma associated with Africa," Kwarteng said. "It's our chance to show it's more than just disease and war."
Chebem Chukwu, a senior at MU, was born in Nigeria and said he would have cheered for the U.S. against any team but an African team. He said African soccer needed the victory more than the U.S. in order to prove the continent could host a solid tournament and have a successful team.
"There is a lot of shared pride," he said. "If it were Kenya that had won today, all of Africa would have been happy."
After the U.S. goal, the anxious American crowd burst into cheers. One fan blew on a Vuvuzela and another sprinted across the front of the theater in jean shorts and a tank top painted with stars and stripes.
Kwarteng said this is the most interest in the World Cup she has seen from Americans. During the match, the Ragtag posted a sign on its door notifying customers that it had sold out of tickets to the free showing at its two theaters.
"The rest of the world cares, why shouldn't the U.S.," she said.
Natalie Suntrup said Ragtag employees like her volunteered their time because they felt it was important to give Americans an opportunity to watch the game. She said there was a diverse group of ages gathered to watch the games and she's optimistic the support will continue.
"I absolutely think it will carry over to the next World Cup," Suntrup said.
In the final few minutes of extra time, the U.S. pulled its goalkeeper and made a gutsy but unsuccessful final push. As the ball rolled to a stop, Kwarteng flapped her arms as she jumped from her seat and began a native dance with her friends.
"You have no idea how big this is," she said, "I need to call my sister."