World Cup, Twin Cities: ‘Where I’m from, it’s soccer season all year’

“You can imagine the scene in bars all over the United States when that one went in,” said a TV commentator from Brazil Monday evening, moments after Clint Dempsey’s goal put the United States up 1-0 over Ghana in both countries’ opening World Cup game. At Morrissey’s Irish Pub in Minneapolis, the scene was one of relief and jubilation, as a tensely packed house erupted at Dempsey’s historically fast shot, then gutted out the rest of the highs and lows with all eyes riveted on TV sets above the bar and booths.

Similar scenes took place all over the Twin Cities Monday and Tuesday, as World Cup fans gathered at their favorite futbol-friendly bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and community centers to eat, drink, and be crazy for soccer. Places like the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, where I ran into this father-son team from Mexico City, taking in the Brazil-Mexico game Tuesday.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

I didn’t get their names, but their love of Mexico, their team, family and soccer was a beautiful thing to hear softly spoken about, and the father was obviously thrilled to be introducing his son to the World Cup.

“I like watching the World Cup for the spirit, the passion,” one British fan told me Monday as we stood on the rooftop of busy-but-not-bad Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis, a light rain falling on the couple hundred multi-colored Minnesotans watching the big game on the big outdoor screen. He’s not alone:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Atusa Fathali, Burnsville, and Joseph Sewell, Minneapolis, at Brit’s Pub. “My parents are immigrants from Tehran, and I go there for three months every year,” said Fathali. “In Iran, soccer is on a different level and everyone plays since they were kids, and it brings everyone together. It’s not like worshipping [American] football here. We have a deeper meaning for it.”

“I’m from Costa Rica, and we just beat Uruguay on Sunday and that was really exciting,” said Sewell. “I don’t even know if there’s a word meaning, or a translation, for how good it feels when your team scores a goal in the World Cup.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Sunday Bassey, Minneapolis, at the Nomad World Pub. “I’m from Nigeria, and I’m going for Nigeria. The U.S. folks have the luxury of having baseball season, football season, basketball season. Where I’m from, it’s soccer season all year and I always say to these folks that you can be a Vikings fan or a Giants fan, but you don’t grasp the concept of your whole country being silent and getting hopeful when your national team plays. That in itself is mind-blowing. Sometimes at home you watch games at 4 a.m., and when we win, we bust out into the streets like it’s 9 a.m. Right in the middle of the night and everybody’s partying and jumping around. It’s crazy. I miss it, I do.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Saeed Ghasemi, St. Paul, at the Sweetwater Grille & Bar. “I’m from Tehran, Iran, and I’ve been here for 32 years. I’ve owned the bar and restaurant since 2005. I don’t support Iran because of the government; I go for Germany since 1971 because my father traveled a lot to Germany and a couple times I went with him and just liked Germany. If Iran loses, I don’t care. If Germany loses, I get depressed.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Halgan Bedem, Minneapolis, at Bashaal Café“We have different guys from Africa and different guys from other countries come and watch with us. It’s a really good mood when you’re watching the team that you like play, so it really has a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions. People are hyped up, just by watching the games. Right now we’ve got a lot of supporters for both Ghana and the United States, including me. I didn’t want to see them come face to face because I like them both. I’m from Somalia, and growing up Nigeria was my favorite team, but since then I changed because Nigeria is not that strong. I was watching them play, and they have no offense and no defense.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Sadinber Nijjar, Prab Nijjar, Kavi Nijjar, Annette Blösch. Minneapolis, at Brit’s Pub. “We’re from Punjab, India. We’re rooting for Germany. My wife and his mom is from Germany, and India is not in the World Cup, so, easy choice. Actually, my cousin texted me today and said that India [soccer] is ranked 156th in the world. But cricket, we are the world champions, and we’re very good in lawn tennis and hockey. Growing up in India, where soccer is not really a big game, we always watched the World Cup, and I think it is the most international sport and we always found a team to root for, even though we weren’t in it. And the same thing you can see here: people from everywhere, and there’s no other sport like that.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Armando Callagran and Carlos Guzman, Minneapolis, at Taqueria Los Ocampo. “We work at Home Depot, we took our lunch to watch,” said Callagran. “Brazil is the best. Brazil won in ’94 and 2002 and [will] win 2014! Viva Brazil!”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Ashley Radcliff, Colin McGee, Ambrose Atu-Tetuh, Dan Foss, Minneapolis, at Brit’s Pub. “I’m from Cameroon, but Cameroon sucks,” said Atu-Tetuh. “I’m just excited for the World Cup – that’s why I’ve got a Brazilian jersey on. One thing I like about the World Cup is it brings people together, like these are my friends from high school. We all played soccer together at [Minneapolis] North, and I was the goalie.”   

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Richard Rodriguez, Minneapolis, at the Nomad World Pub. “I’m originally from Los Angeles, and I’m pulling for the USA. I played soccer growing up in Los Angeles, and it might not be the most popular sport here, but it’s an active sport, it’s an endurance sport, and I just fell in love with it. I fell in love with it even more once I got into the World Cup in ’98 and especially in ’02 when the USA made it to the semifinals.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Will Nimely, Minneapolis, at Brit’s Pub. “I’m from Liberia, I’ve been here since 2000. We have a team in Liberia, but we haven’t been very good since the ‘80s. It’s very tough, but if you really love the game of soccer, it doesn’t matter if your country’s in the World Cup. The platform that the World Cup presents is in the line of peace. It’s an opportunity to deal with so many discriminations that people endure playing sports. You can come to a place like this and see Iranians and Iraqis united to watch a common game of soccer, and you don’t see that so often in other ways and times.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Muna Abshir, St. Paul, Alicia Abshir, St. Paul, Shukri Omar, St. Paul, at Midtown Global Market. “We’re from Somalia. I like the World Cup because it shows the competition between countries in a friendly environment,” said Muna. “I’m rooting for Argentina and the USA. Go USA! [Alicia]’s favorite team is Spain, because [Colombian superstar singer] Shakira is married to [Spain superstar defender] Gerard Pique.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Arazue Soroozan, St. Paul, at Brit’s Pub. “I’m rooting for Iran. My father’s from Iran, and he got me this shirt for Christmas. I played soccer in elementary school and high school, and I find the World Cup exciting because it’s a chance for countries to represent themselves and also get together. Like this whole game you can see the Nigerian team and the Iranian team kind of laughing and smiling at each other, so it’s a cool way to bring a lot of countries and communities together.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Nachiked Kale (far left), Minneapolis, and friends, Morrissey’s. “I’m from Mumbai, India. I’m rooting for Germany. I lived with a host family in Germany in 2005-2006 when the 2006 World Cup was going on, and ever since then it’s been Germany for me. The World Cup is amazing because it only happens every four years and all these guys play for different club teams and for the World Cup they don all the same jersey for the first time for their country, and I guess there is something to that, when all these 11 people who all play on different teams come and fight for their countries, or play for their countries, and that is what makes it really special. You really see that spirit come out; it’s for the ultimate trophy, so it’s fierce. It’s exciting.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Francisco Benavides (far right), Minneapolis, and friends, Midtown Global Market. “I’m for Mexico, and this [Brazil-Mexico match] is too intense to talk [over]. I always love the World Cup. It’s like everybody can exercise a healthy form of nationalism and take pride in their country and team, and not have it be about anything else but that, and the sport of it.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Jenny Newgard and Matt Wells, Minneapolis, Morrissey’s. “I’ve been watching World Cup since I was a teenager. I root for Liverpool in the Premiere League, and it’s the only sport that’s ever really excited me,” said Newgard.

“I grew up in a little town outside of Milwaukee, and my brothers and I all grew up playing soccer from the time we could walk,” said Wells. “We were one of those rare small-town American [families] who grew up in the ‘80s playing soccer. I played competitively until I was about 20, and I went to art school in Minneapolis and I’m an artist here now. I’m really excited about watching the Cup, and I’m gonna use this as a pulpit.

“It’s an interesting paradox, because I have no problem supporting the U.S. and other teams in the World Cup, even as I recognize a third of these stadiums are built by really poor communities, people who are probably protesting in the streets about the games but also probably poking their head around the corner to see who’s in the lead. That’s the sort of weird paradox I’m faced with as a comfortable American in Minneapolis, but those people are now faced with no running water in the middle of nowhere.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Sam Singh, Minneapolis, at Brit’s Pub. “I’m from India, but I’ve lived here almost 30 years. I’ve always rooted for England, and sometimes Italy. India never makes it to the World Cup, so you just sort of pick a team that you like. Most of all I like watching the World Cup for the spirit, the passion. If you grew up watching soccer, you just develop a passion for it. It’s interesting to see people from all over the world get together and I’m surprised because when I came here, Americans were not very much about soccer but now they are, and most people don’t realize that America was in the [inaugural] World Cup semifinals back in 1930.”

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David Khaukah, Minneapolis, at Brit’s Pub. “I’m from Uganda. I am going for Ghana, because it’s my homeland and I like the African countries, but overall I’m supporting Portugal because Cristiano Ronaldo is one of my favorite players. He’s the best – at everything. But this year I think Brazil will win, because they have the home advantage.”

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