I admit it: I’m a bit obsessed with the World Cup. It’s my first one, really. Though I’ve been a soccer player since I was a kid, I never have paid too much attention to the once-every-four-years tournament – until this year.
This week I’ve done a little bit of venue shopping. I know there’s probably a way to watch the games on my computer, but really I think half the fun is the community atmosphere.
The first game I watched was last Friday when France tied with Uruguay (speaking of which – what’s up with all the tie games?) Anyway, I made plans with my friend Carl Swanson to meet up, because I didn’t want to be hanging out at a bar by myself. It turns out that fear was misguided- going to a bar by yourself during the World Cup is actually totally acceptable and indeed expected.
We met at the Nomad World Pub (500 Cedar Avenue), which was a fantastic venue. I was impressed that it could be so packed at 1:30 in the afternoon. While there was nowhere to sit, I was perfectly happy to set my beer down on a nearby table and watch amidst a lively crowd of, for the most part, young hipsters. (There was one crabbly person that kept asking us to move out of his view, but I suppose there is always one grouch in every crowd).
The next day I met up with my friend Cristina Córdova Suárez, who had set up camp at the new Kieran’s Irish Pub (6th Street and 1st Avenue North). When I arrived at 10 in the morning for the last half of the Argentina verses Nigeria game, there were not too many people in the vast space, so we were able to sit at a table near the very large screen. I started with coffee and quickly moved to a Bloody Mary. The afternoon game that day was the United States verses England, so I decided the best thing to do was just stay at my place and not lose my primo spot. It didn’t take long for the place to fill to capacity, and it turns out we couldn’t even leave to plug our meters because if we did we wouldn’t have been let back in.
Most of the fans at Kieran’s were rooting for the United States, but there were a few British fans as well, who made up for their low numbers with passionate cheering. Going into the game I didn’t really think that I cared who won or lost but I’ll admit I got swept up in the exuberance of it all and ended up feeling very excited about our ability to at least tie with our rivals.
The day at Kieran’s ended up being pretty expensive. I bought lunch (and alcohol) because I was there for so long, so by the end of the afternoon I was kind of feeling like maybe I needed to be a little bit smarter about how I went about my World Cup experience. I took Sunday off, and was going to take Monday off, but changed my mind when I met local musician Sho Nikaido, who was very excited about watching the Japan/Cameroon game at Britt’s Pub (1100 Nicollet Mall) the next day. Easily persuaded, I decided to go.
Of course, the problem with all the downtown venues is the parking situation. (I unfortunately am injured and can’t bike at the moment.) I’ve found that if I park my car in the two hour spots near Loring Park, I can walk the rest of the way and therefore not have to use up all my quarters.
Britt’s was very pleasant. There weren’t too many people there at 9 in the morning, and the staff outnumbered the patrons, but they were perfectly cheerful. I suspected some of the staff actually were there just to watch the game actually. I purchased a coffee for two dollars and felt very frugal in comparison to the last game I attended. At Britt’s, most of the fans were cheering for Cameroon, but luckily there wasn’t too much animosity between the opposing fans. In fact, the Japanese fans that I was sitting with and the fellow from West Africa who said he cheered for all African countries by default seemed to get along splendidly, though my table was definitely the happier one when Japan ended up winning.
I was excited on Tuesday morning to go to The Local (931 Nicollet Mall), which Carl Swanson had told me served free coffee and pastries in the morning. Indeed, he was not wrong, and I had a lovely time having a chat with my uncle Kieran who owns the place. He said that he’s had a very loyal group of fans that show up every morning, and I don’t blame them- the Local has a pleasant atmosphere perfect for early soccer watching.
On Tuesday afternoon, I went, against advice, to the Midtown Global Market (Lake St. and 10th Avenue). While I see the criticism- it’s kind of crowded, and the seats are pretty scrunched together- it turned out to be my favorite locale so far. The crowd watching Brazil play North Korea was hugely diverse, with people from all different ages, nationalities, and backgrounds. And even though the Brazil fans outnumbered the North Korea fans, there was a sense, as the very eloquent Risley Prakasim, who sat near me, put it, that we are all one. “It’s a global community,” Prakasim said. “It can draw us together.”
If you haven’t been able to check out any of the games yet, I highly recommend you at least try to see one game in order to partake in the community of nations.