National Press Club

World Cup viewing draws international crowd to Club

June 17, 2014 | By Mark Schoeff Jr. | markschoeff@gmail.com

National Press Club President Myron Belkind interviews King Peggy of Otuam, Ghana, during halftime of the USA-Ghana World Cup match viewing at the Club on June 16. Miss Ghana USA, Alice Gyamfi (l), sang each country's national anthem. Club member Jan Du Plain enjoys the conversation.

National Press Club President Myron Belkind interviews King Peggy of Otuam, Ghana, during halftime of the USA-Ghana World Cup match viewing at the Club on June 16. Miss Ghana USA, Alice Gyamfi (l), sang each country's national anthem. Club member Jan Du Plain enjoys the conversation.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

When the United States jumped out to an early lead and then overcame a late comeback by Ghana in the opening World Cup contest for both countries on June 16, the guests of honor at the National Press Club viewing were equally happy at each match development.

“I’m between two worlds. I have to be neutral,” said King Peggy Bartels of Otuam, Ghana, a naturalized U.S. citizen who also serves as the leader of village in Ghana, as she watched the game in the First Amendment Lounge.

King Peggy was among more than 100 spectators who packed the Club to enjoy the game and a buffet of Brazilian street fare – chicken wings, hot dogs and spring rolls – in honor of the World Cup host country.

“It is a good atmosphere,” King Peggy said. “The people are warm and friendly. We feel at home. It is a very good environment for us.”

King Peggy, whose regal name is Nana Amuah-Afemyi VI, is a staff member at the Ghana Embassy in Washington and was chosen in 2008 by elders in the town of 7,000 in Ghana as the new king after her uncle died. King Peggy, who spends one month annually in the village and is in contact by phone daily, was the subject of a recent book by Club member Eleanor Herman.

Another celebrity who has a foot in both the United States and Ghana also came to the Club for the game. Alice Gyamfi, Miss Ghana USA, sung the national anthems of both countries at halftime. A naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Ghana, Gyamfi cheered for both teams.

“Whoever wins, I’ll be totally fine with,” Gyamfi said during the second half.

The Club was a unique place to watch a World Cup match because it brought together fans for both countries, said Del. Mark Sickles, D-Va., one of the spectators.

“I’m a huge soccer fan, and I follow the U.S. team fairly closely,” said Sickles, who saw the U.S.-Ghana match in the 2006 World Cup in Germany in person. “It’s fun to be with supporters. This [venue] is interesting because there are people from both sides here. Some bars have become home for some countries.”

Club President Myron Belkind was evenhanded during remarks to the crowd at halftime. After introducing the special guests in attendance, including the head of information at the Ghana Embassy, Jojo Bruce-Quansah, he did not indicate a preference for the match outcome.

“How do I say this diplomatically? May the Press Club win,” Belkind said.

In the view of Tyler Crowe, a Club member and former intern at the Brazilian Embassy, the Club did prevail. Crowe was instrumental in planning the event – from the food and drink menu to embassy gift bags that were distributed to attendees.

“I’m happy with it,” Crowe said. “We got a lot of people. It’s cool.”

The atmosphere was more subtle but also richer than at a typical bar viewing of the World Cup, according to Jonathan Sherman.

“There is a lot more international influence and different types of food,” he said.

His friend, Manuel Rivera, had a similar review.

“The food was really good,” Rivera said. “It was a good environment because you could watch the game and talk to your friends at the same time.”

Many attendees also spoke to King Peggy. It gave her a chance to explain how she is trying to raise the standard of living in her village by improving water quality, sanitation, housing and education.

“My goal is to make it a modern little town,” King Peggy said. “I’m getting there.”