By Josh Brustein
There were two kinds of people on the N train in Astoria at 7 am.one
Wednesday morning. Those trudging to work and those rushing out
to watch Brazil play Turkey in the World Cup semifinal match.
The train stopped at 36th avenue and several people
in blue, yellow and green dashed across the platform and down the
stairs. There was already a group of fifteen or twenty people standing
outside of Made in Brazil, cheering as each new arrival passed them
to go in. Some had just woken up. Others, like Felipe Costa, had
been awake all night. Costa, a young Brazilian immigrant who plays
for a Manhattan club soccer team, has watched every game that Brazil
has played, and many in which they had not. He shrugged off the
brutal schedule start times have been between 2:30 and 7:30
am and he works in the afternoons saying simply "Of course
Ive been up all night. Its soccer."
Mehmet Cebeci, who works at the 24-hour Turkish restaurant Bereket
on East Houston and Broadway, had also been up late for the month
of June. But he watched the semifinal match at home with his family,
sheer exhaustion keeping him away from Berekets special screening
of the game. Cebecis said that his decision was not representative,
though, and that "many Turkish taxi and limo drivers [took] the
Brazil went on to win the World Cup on the last day of June, their
fifth win in 72 years.
But while establishments like Made in Brazil and Bereket became
home fields for people from different countries to watch
their national teams play, other places reflected how diverse New
York's soccer fans have become. Nevada Smiths, a popular soccer
bar on 3rd Avenue and 12th street in Manhattan,
often played host to large groups cheering for both sides. Fans
simultaneously celebrated and mourned a goal, or cheered and jeered
a referee's call.
Miku Happonen, who was born in Finland and lived in Germany for
14 years before moving to New York, had been watching the games
at Nevada Smiths. With friends spread all over the world, Happonen
had been coming to the bar alone, but hadnt been watching
by himself. He kept in contact with German friends in Seattle, whom
he called "at halftime, or when anything happens." In the 71st
minute of Tuesdays match between Korea and Germany, a German
foul gave Korea a dangerous free kick from just outside the penalty
box. Happonen could barely stand to watch the television. Once the
ball was safely headed out by Germany, however, he took a deep breath
of relief and put his phone to his ear, eager to discuss the play.
Across the bar, Cheolyu Kim was rooting for his home team, Korea.
Kim moved from South Korea to the United States four years ago.
He was quick to point out that this is not the first time that Korea
has done well, and reeled off the names of all the players who scored
for Korea in the 1986 tournament in Mexico. But he admitted that
he has been pleasantly surprised with Koreas cinderella run
in this World Cup as well, calling it "very weird," and saying that
"no one expected it like this." Like Happonen, he used the game
to keep in touch with friends, and called home to Korea at the matchs
close. Kims call wasnt as happy, however. Korea lost
1-0, ending their chance at a championship.
Watching the worlds most important soccer tournament in a
country whose loyalties lay more with American football than with
the Beautiful Game might seem unfulfilling. But those who cheered
for their home countries from New York enjoyed it nonetheless. Many
also share an optimism that the US sides strong showing this
year may be bringing reluctant Americans around. "I wish that it
would have been the US versus Brazil in the final," lamented Costa,
"That way soccer here could grow."
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