In Sunset Park, brothers Edgar and Miguel Aguirre, who work at a general-contracting company in Downtown Brooklyn, took a break from work to watch Mexico take on South Korea on the TV at Tacos Matamoros. “We took the car down here as soon as we finished our morning job,” Edgar said. “We’ll have to go back to work after the game and hope our boss is not mad.”
In Greenpoint, a Polish-American who wanted to be identified only as “a finance guy from midtown,” had hopped over to Christina’s Polish restaurant in Greenpoint because he was excited to watch the national team play in the World Cup for the first time in 12 years. “The last time Poland played in the World Cup, I was a kid, and now I finally get to see them again,” he said.
During the World Cup, Brooklyn turned into a festive league of nations. Soccer fans made pilgrimages to the bars and restaurants reflecting their own ancestry, or just allegiance to teams they liked. Because most of the games were screened in the late mornings and afternoons, the tournament inspired a lot of people to skip out of work, do some day drinking, and act a little unruly for awhile.
In visiting a dozen bars and restaurants to make The Bridge’s World Cup video, Goal! A Love Story, I saw Brooklyn’s celebrated diversity emerge in living color. The other lesson was that, in the hospitality industry, the World Cup was good for business.
Rustam Zoripov, manager of Russian Bath on Neck Road in Sheepshead Bay, said that the number of supporters steadily increased as the Russian team progressed through the rounds of competition, exceeding all expectations. “At first we had our usual patrons staying back longer in the morning to watch the morning games,” he said, “But as the team kept winning, more and more people were coming to watch them.”
Tabaré, a Uruguayan restaurant in Williamsburg, opened early on game days and drew fans from all over the city. “If you know anything about South Americans, you know that they are crazy about soccer, so it’s not a surprise to see so many at a screening,” said Nash Petrovic, a friend of the manager and frequent patron.
Buka, a Nigerian Bar and restaurant in Clinton Hill, attracted throngs of Nigerian-Americans for their games, providing several days of good business. Miss Favela, a Brazilian bistro in Williamsburg, drew so many of the national team’s supporters that they spilled out into the street. “For the Brazil games, [the crowd] was very good. After Brazil lost, it was very slow,” said Logan Gonzalez, an employee at the bar.
Lisa Gow, a doctor from Denmark, was amazed to find an authentic Danish bar in the Danish Athletic Club, which is situated in a predominantly Chinese area between Bay Ridge and Sunset Park. She was fascinated to learn about the Scandinavian history of the neighborhood and the club, which was founded in 1892, though she found some of the variations on traditional Danish cooking to be a bit odd. “They must have developed their own traditions in the last 100 years,” she said.
In some cases, supporters who were at the screenings had improbable connections with the countries they were supporting. A Yemeni family at the Woodwork bar in Prospect Heights was supporting Portugal against Spain because they lived in Portugal for a few months in the mid 2000s, before they settled in Brooklyn. Yong Lu, a Chinese delivery driver, kept popping in and out of the bar every 20 minutes or so between deliveries to keep an eye on the game. He was supporting Spain because his son is a fan and wanted to speak to him about the game later that day.
The crowds included plenty of tourists who sought out bars with their preferred national flavor. Jarek Stawirej, a Polish man visiting friends in the city, was advised to watch a game at a bar in Greenpoint, so he found Christina’s. “I think it says a lot about New York that I can go to Brooklyn and feel at home while watching the game,” he said.
The festivity often erupted into full-on parties if the right team won. The bars were prepared for this. Fans at Bar Tabac, a French bistro in Boerum Hill, tasted the ultimate victory. Champagne was poured in abundance.