“Señor Schneider!” repeated the Germans and Germanophiles, amusing themselves at the expense of the Univision commentator whose voice could occasionally be heard in the East Village bar Zum Schneider during the Poland-Germany match. Frequently, however, the TV’s audio was drowned out by gasps, clapping, and, most often, loud, drunken chanting from a Pole born in Germany who had come in a bright red Polska jersey.
“That guy sucks. . . . I want to hang him from a tree,” said half-German, half-Brazilian 28-year-old Brynda Gruber. Gruber had dealt with her own World Cup identity conflict in 2002 when the teams of her two nationalities met in the finals; her solution was to flee to England.
No namby-pamby “World Baseball Classic,” the truly global World Cup of futbol has brought out the best of New York. Across the city, people from various nationalities united to skip work, drink at noon, and otherwise offer important hints to the labor movement about the possible usefuless of futbol as an organizing tool.
“You have to set your priorities,” said work-shirker “Thomas,” who declined to give his last name for fear his bosses in advertising might find out his “meeting” involved a lot of German beer and Gruber getting up on the bar.
Gruber said she was acting in somewhat more restrained fashion than in the past. “Last time, we threw drinks at the reporters,” she said.
Drunken fun was not restricted to the Deutsch. In Sugercane, a Trinidadian restaurant in Prospect Heights, the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk of Flatbush Avenue. Inside, Soca Warriors fans had their booties shaking to the drumming of “Kurt,” as Trinidad and Tobago’s national colors were waving all over the place.
2Face—a self described hip-hop, soca, and reggae artist—had half his dreads dyed red to get T&T’s red and black onto his head. “Come back here next game. . . . I’m going to paint my face,” he said.
Meanwhile, the smug Brazilians—the Yankees fans of the soccer world—were surprisingly sedate in Pontal Churrascaria, a cavernous eatery in the no-man’s land between Astoria and Long Island City. However, once the match had ended—don’t even bother asking who won—the Brazilians we know, love, and stereotype were back, with the samba going full blast.
Down on 36th Avenue, the sounds of horns honking echoed through air, as cars covered with the Brazilian colors passed each other.
For some, the World Cup celebrations went beyond revelry. Decked out in the Red Devil gear of Korea’s rabid soccer fans, Tae Kim, 48, came equipped with the walker she has used since a kidney transplant and a car accident. She was facing more surgery in a few days. For now, though, she thought only of soccer. Kim said, “I have been waiting four years for this.”
Kim and thousands of others did it up, transforming the Western half of Koreatown into a sea of red, as they watched the France-South Korea match on an outdoor screen at 32nd Street near Broadway.
Not every nationality in New York stood up to represent, though. Perhaps 20 people showed up in Good World on the Lower East Side to watch a crucial match between Sweden and Paraguay. Among them were only a few in Swedish yellow and blue. Who would have thought that so many could resist the temptation of eating four kinds of herring in front of the giant stuffed head of a caribou? (“It’s not a moose,” one of the bartenders said.)
The consensus winner of the least publicly responsive World Cup fans in New York goes to the Saudis. Asked where Saudis might be watching, a woman at their consulate helpfully offered, “on TV.”
Employees in the Muslim stores on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn—who are of a variety of nationalities, including Bangladeshi, Puerto Rican, and Yemeni—were no help either. A white worker stopping in at Hank’s Saloon down the street for a quick midday drink offered his own version of wisdom: “Arab vs. Arab—who wants to watch that?”
The Swedes, the Saudis, and racist Americans, however, were rare exceptions, as hundreds of thousands—possibly millions—of New Yorkers came down with a case of World Cup fever: symptoms may include hangovers, awkward explanations to the boss, and lingering alcoholism.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 20, 2006