Ghana fans turn corner of south London red, gold and green
As Ghanaian football fans celebrated their side's nervy Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final win over Tunisia in Franceville, Gabon late on Sunday, four thousand miles away a small corner of south London was also glowing red, gold and green.
The Gold Coast Bar and Restaurant in the suburb of South Norwood was jam-packed with Ghana fans from across the UK who had flocked to see if their side could take another step towards a first Nations Cup triumph since 1982.
Thanks to Tunisia's goalkeeper dropping an unthreatening cross at the feet of Marseille striker Andre Ayew, the Black Stars gained a 2-1 extra-time victory that saw them secure a semi-final against Zambia on Wednesday.
Decked out in their distinctive flags and armed with shrill whistles, the throng had erupted with joy at defender John Mensah's 10th-minute opener, a sound system firing out an accompanying blast of upbeat bass as a drummer rattled out a rhythm in the background.
Tunisia equalised just before half-time through a header from France-based striker Sabeur Khalifa but it was the west Africans who went on to get their lucky break before holding on for victory.
Moses, a Ghana fan from the nearby district of Streatham, is a regular at the bar, which is about a lot more than just football for Ghanaians.
"I always come here for the games as there's always a buzzing atmosphere," he told AFP.
"It's all about Ghana at the Gold Coast -- come on you Black Stars!"
Alongside the football, the venue has spent the last eight years since it opened in 2004 building a reputation as a cultural hub for the large Ghanaian diaspora living in Britain, which the Office for National Statistics estimated at 93,000 in 2009.
Traditional tribal masks adorn the walls, bottles of imported Star and Club beer are stocked at the bar and the clientele tuck into plates of 'original chef's special', a fiery char-grilled chicken offering, alongside yam balls, fried plantain and spicy jollof rice.
The venue hosts a live African band most Sunday evenings but it is undeniably the football that currently claims centre stage.
"As a Ghanaian, and as somebody who's part of this place, the Africa Cup of Nations is a really big deal for us here," says Yaw Akuffo, the venue's marketing manager.
"We take our football seriously, we are passionate about it. And there are always more people here when the games are on which is great for us.
"We had more than 200 people in to watch the game tonight -- people have come all the way from places like Watford (30 miles to the north) to be here and soak up the atmosphere."
Ghana reached the final of the last Nations Cup in 2010, eventually losing 1-0 to Egypt in the Angolan capital Luanda, but their fans are backing them to go one better this time, preferably with victory over their west African neighbours and tournament favourites Ivory Coast in a possible final on Sunday.
"Last time we met them in the Cup of Nations final was back in 1992 -- and we lost to them on penalties," Akuffo told AFP.
"They are our neighbours and we have a soft spot for them -- not like our rivalry with Nigeria -- so we'd love to play them again.
"That would be a dream final."
Who did Akuffo think were the key players in Ghana's push for what would be a fifth Cup of Nations title?
"Andre Ayew, his brother Jordan and Prince Tagoe for me -- Asamoah Gyan has not been up to it in this tournament," Akuffo added, referring to the Sunderland striker, currently on loan at United Arab Emirates club Al Ain, who has long been the team's talisman.
And what about the Copper Bullets of Zambia in Equatorial Guinea's second city Bata on Wednesday?
"They're not a bad team - we'll have to up our game to get past them!"
First things first...
By Nick Morrison (AFP)