Wow. The World Cup, guys, THE WORLD CUP! It's still not over, just cuz the US was eliminated. Of course, I was upset with that news as well, but we must be realistic--while we've improved dramatically in the last year, we're still not finalist material. But Hooray for Tim Howard the 'Real American Hero' of the whole tourney as far as I'm concerned! I understand that it may come as a bit of a surprise to you to learn that I'm a fan of the futbol. Cuz, I don't really talk about it, but it's true. I've never been in a family where sports was a real big deal. Acting, singing, laughing--yes, but sports...not so much. My Dad was always more into car races...in the British way more than the Southern US way. And while he would sometimes pay attention to or endure other sports, it was never a thing in our home. Cuz my mom couldn't ever really be bothered. Growing up I tried a bunch of different sports...my height would mean the basketball coach consistently asking if I was sure I wasn't interested in playing for the team in middle school. And I had plenty of friends who were into baseball and American football, etc. But none of it ever seemed very interesting to me except for soccer. Perhaps, cuz it seemed so simple to me? And I was able to actually dribble the ball a little? Regardless, ours was still not the home where you'd follow a team around and go to various games to support them, so I never even knew that was a thing I was even lacking.
And then I started to travel more. It slowly became clear to me that I was not alone in my interest in this sport. Everyone else around the globe was super into it. I remembered hearing stories, growing up about Brazilians and Argentinians who were killed or injured because of the mad obsession in those countries over this thing we call a game. That's still an insane thing to me. But then when I was in Madrid for a study abroad program in 2001. I was watching the TV with my host family and they had the game on. Real Madrid defeated a German team and the news coverage was crazy. People were partying in the streets. Soon after I started to pay more attention to these futbol clubs. The more I traveled the more I got into it. In 2005 I spent 7 months in Argentina, in Buenos Aires to be more precise. I had found a city very similar to NYC in so many ways and they even had their own rival teams like our Yankees & Mets, but for them, of course it was two soccer teams. River Plate and Boca Juniors. People would always ask who I rooted for, but I didn't have a preference, I just loved the game, the culture, and I finally started to appreciate the players (I even bagged my own hot footballer one night). The area I was living in was much more filled with Boca supporters, but a couple of my good friends were die-hard River fans. I kept wanting to go to games, but was urged not to for my safety as a single white woman. So we just listened in on the radio (the preferred method of capturing the game if not live at the stadium).
My interest in the sport in general continued to grow and finally blew up 8 years ago at the famous world cup that made many an American fan. It was the cup that would give me much material to use against my future French boyfriend; when Zinedine Zidane would head butt his Italian competitor for talking trash about his mother...or something like that. Soon after that tournament, the talk of the New York Red Bulls began. It was to be our super-star soccer team, which we hadn't had since the 80's with the New York Cosmos (that has since been rebooted as well).
In 2010, the New York Red Bulls (who were just actually a rebranding of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars) began playing in their fancy new stadium built in Harrison, NJ. They had even acquired a French captain, who's not so bad on the eyes...Thierry Henry. 2010, was the next popular world cup games and I happened to be working an office gig in New Jersey at the time, which allowed for me to start checking out the local games at the nearby-ish stadium AND to keep track of the international matches while also getting my work done-ish. I was starting to get the footie fever. My father would start joining in on a fandome that he could appreciate--being a Brit and all.
Of course, after continuing not to make it into the finals and then leaving my job in NJ, the commute out to the Red Bull Arena and more importantly the long journey back (the stadium was brand new, but the train station was never re-fitted for the crowds), just seemed less and less worth it. So, instead I'd pay minimal attention to the international games, and wait for the years to pass until it would be time for the Brazilian world cup, which was sure to be very exciting...even if I hadn't met my savings goals to take that trip to South America for the live games myself.
Now, we're half-way through the tournament with just 8 games left in the cup. And that group stage sucked in a lot of newbie fans with the amazing number of goals scored! USA has shifted gears in the last year by hiring a German coach who's made a point in hiring German-American players to complete a team that was able to make it to the round of 16 even! And although we didn't make it past Belgium, we put up one hell of a fight, and I think we probably did a better job of it than the Argentinians will be able to (which I hate to say, as I was really hoping for a win for them this year). And with the amount of Americans and especially NYers getting into the games this year, this city will surely be capitalizing on it all by introducing a new NYC team next year, headed by Spain's famous player David Villa, NY Football Club.
Of course with those last few games left you may still be in search of some spots to watch it, and I wouldn't be a very good tour guide, if I didn't give you some suggestions as to where you might do that.
Well, if you're in midtown in the search for a place to watch a big screen and drink cheap beer then look no further than the Heineken pop-up at The Refinery Hotel. Don't be fooled by the $5 admission charge as it'll get you your first beer--also there are a couple other good ones on offer aside from just Heineken.
If you're a little north in midtown and you'd like a place that has plenty of room, ok food and a pretty good beer selection, you could give Hooter's a shot! I watched England get destroyed there, and I must admit it was not a bad time. The bathrooms are not so great though--just keep that in mind.
There's at least one more Brazilian match left against Columbia tomorrow--and while there are a few great Brazilian spots around, I suggest the large and spacious and VERY festive Sushisamba for any of the games! Just get there early if you are going to watch the host team play as the spot will be a hot bed of world cuppy activity.
On the Upper West Side you can pop in to the always popular sports bar, Blondies, for some of their classic wings to accompany your beer and ball watching--hard to know who the supported team will be, but last time I was there it was filled with French fans.
At some point this weekend I'll be at the newly opened Spiegel in the East Village, with food that as a little hint of the Middle East and a very chill vibe to go with, I think it'll be the perfect atmosphere to watch a game before reporting in for work.
If you find yourself uptown at all--on the West side--you should definitely check out Bettolona, which is playing every game and serving up their great service with some traditional and delicious Italian fare. If you're into fresh simple flavors, you might inquire about the mozzarella with tomato, and prosciutto (off-menu). Tell Sandro that Adrienne sent you!
I know there are many more wonderful spots to catch the games, but these are some of my favorites this year--so far. For the finals? Oh, I may find myself on Governor's Island with a raucous Aussie and some other local hooligans. But where ever you find yourself--remember to drink up and tip your tender!