Soccer is the world's game. New York is the world's city. The World Cup is when both culminate in one big, awesome, melting pot.
Err, make that a beer stein.
Thirty-two nations will stand on edge over the next month in the granddaddy of sporting events. Thirty-one of these nations aren't the U.S. And New York has people from pretty much every one.
Nothing gets nationalistic fervor going more than the World Cup, except maybe for international warfare, and that's no fun for anybody. To witness this in all its glory, I had two options: First, go to South Africa. A bunch of my friends are going, and although sports blogging brings home the big bucks, well, "several thousand-dollar plane tickets" aren't the best thing in the world. Secondly, well, chill here in New York.
It's no secret that people from other countries pay more attention to soccer than us Americans. I like to think I pay a pretty good amount of attention, but at the end of the day, that's like five or six Champions League matches, some USA international friendlies, and a lot of FIFA.
So I'm going on a month-long trip around this city of mine to find these people, and I'll be telling you how to find them, too: My goal is to get myself to a bar/watching spot for each of the 32 nations in the World Cup by the time the final comes around on July 11th. This will require some investigating and strategizing, nifty subway transferring skills, and an ability to jostle into a crowd of hundreds of foreigners without getting them to beat the crap out of me for not wearing their country's jersey.
I'll go ahead and pre-anticipate some questions:
Are you actually going to go to a bar for all 32 countries?
Probably not. As hard as I look, I highly, highly, doubt that I'm going to find a bar for everyone. (Here's looking at you, North Korea.) I'm going to have to scrap to find those last few countries, and if I do, awesome, but if I don't, well, I tried.
Oh, but you're going to try, right?
Yeah, I'll try at least until I get tired of criss-crossing the city for multiple hours a day, trying to find random nationalities hanging out and watching sports, and get frustrated when I can't find anybody from Cameroon. I'm going to give it a shot
So... you're going to attempt to try?
Hell and yes.
So, see you tomorrow at Nevada Smiths'?
First off, I'm in Chicago right now, finishing up my finals week. I'm going to start the tour on Monday when I'm back in the city. (I'm pumped.)
Secondly, this tour isn't about places like Nevada Smiths. If you're not familiar, Nevada Smith's, which is on 10th and 3rd if I remember correctly, is pretty much the hands-down best soccer bar in the city. You can walk past anytime, and they'll be showing footy from somewhere in the world, like the Uzbek Second Division. It was raucous for the 2008 Euros, banging for the 2009 Confederations Cup that the U.S. almost won and gets packed for pretty much every U.S. friendly, and I can guarantee you that even for the most boring, obscure matches of the World Cup, it'll be hopping. You should seriously try to go if you can to check out at least one game, but as a word of warning, you probably won't be able to fit inside for games like Saturday's USA-England showdown. But this tour won't be about places like that, a place you can go any day: it'll be about finding the off-the-beaten-track places where you wouldn't think to look, then you find it, and there's 500 screaming Chileans or Australians there. This is about embracing New York City for what it is: the most likely place in the world to find fans of any given country, besides maybe South Africa.
I know a place for this country, and it's way better than the one you picked.
Tell me, fool!
So, come along for the ride. Some people have already done some of the heavy lifting for me: the Daily News put out not one, but two guides to where to watch the World Cup among ex-pats, and you can find a group-by-group bar breakdown here. (Not to mention there's dozens of places highlighting non-country specific joints to watch the World Cup at -- Zagat's has a particularly detailed one highlighting drink and food specials you can find over the next month -- even early in the morning, which is when most of the games are.)
Anyway, onto today's action:
Friday, June 11
9:30 A.M..: Mexico vs. South Africa:
Madiba (South Africa), 195 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn
Let's be real here, good feelings about home nations aside: kickoff is tomorrow, and the clock is already ticking on South Africa's stay in the World Cup. You're going to want to get your South African fix out of the way before the automatically qualified host nation gets the boot. As far as I can tell, the place to go in New York is Madiba, a South African restaurant out on Fort Greene that will be showing all the tournament's games. Not that many South African-themed joints out there, so, it's clear that the ones that are are going all-out on this one.
2:30 P.M.: France vs. Uruguay
Bar Tabac (France) , 128 Smith St., Brooklyn
I'm going with France right off the bat. I bet most of the places advertising themselves as French-themed World Cup spots are just ritzy-ish French restaurants putting Les Bleus on their TV because they can. But this place seems somewhat legit: they apparently close down some of the street outside the Cobble Hill bistro for Bastille Day every year, and is probably your best bet for some legit French fanaticism, although you're probably more likely to find some pretentious beret/Zidane jersey-wearing Americans than legit ex-pats, but you never know.
But here's the most important thing to take away from this post: Friday is the start of the World Cup. Enjoy it. Soccer may not be America's game, but New York is still one of the best cities in the world to enjoy these next few weeks.