Please allow me to change the meaning of girls and cups: The sound of a Univision commentator yelling “Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!” while basking on my couch alone when USA “scored” against England during the group round, tickled me immensely. I knew immediately this method of viewing the games during Copa Mundial 2010, although charming, would not suffice. For me, the World Cup wouldn’t be about the delicious, finely-sculpted players (for the most part…but if it were about those men, I choose David Villa from Spain, not Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal) it would be about embracing the sport the way other countries do! I grew up playing soccer - most of us did, didn’t we? But some inexplicable disconnect has me and everyone else in this country hoarding around the tube only during World Cup like some partially-devoted Catholics on Easter.
For example, I heard an interview with Quinton Jackson from “A-Team” the day before the first game, South Africa vs Mexico. He concentrated more on World Cup discussion than the movie and mentioned that the studios refused to release the film abroad until after the tournament because in every other country, no one will watch anything aside from fútbol. In America, would that conflict even be questioned? Nil!
All of my friends have steady day jobs and no one could commit to 7am games. And although I wanted to dive in and experience passionate crowds at their finest, I knew it meant diving in –gasp!- alone....One girl....
Mexico vs. France Destination: Ye Olde Kind’s Head, Santa Monica
I scurried there solo like a giddy schoolgirl, not knowing what really to expect (except for a jolly laugh with my dear friend and bartender, Vanessa and perhaps an adrenaline rush from the packed pub).
I settled in at the bar, ordered a cider and fish & chips and shook the hand of Cesar, a fully-devoted fan from Mazatlan. Cesar knew each Mexico player by name; he knew their every move; he knew how they prefer their coffee. The game started and no one ordered drinks for the duration of the 45-minute half; the patrons’ eyes were glued to the TVs. They chanted in Spanish things I didn’t understand, but heck, I chanted along anyway…everyone completely engaged, fixated, obsessed. “Culero! Culero! Culero!,” they yelled in unison. I kept asking Cesar questions:
“Cesar, that was fun! What does Culero mean?”
“Cesar, does Cuauhtémoc Blanco run strangely or is that just me? Why?”
“Cesar, what should I drink next?”
Bless his heart, he kept answering. He shared my French fries and had a picture of himself in front of the Eiffel Tower as his default on his phone. At this discovery, he blushed and demanded I not tell a soul that he secretly loves France (the country, not the team). Fortunately for him and his hush-hush Francophile alter-ego, Mexico won. Someone painted my face with Mexican flags that day; heck, why not?! We celebrated until the Lakers vs. Celtics game ended (count: 10 hours later) and agreed to meet again, same place the next morning.
Queen Fish and Chips: $10.95 …and later, Happy Hour Nachos: $5.95 Pints of Cider: $24.00
7am: USA vs. Slovania 11:30am: England vs. Algeria Destination: Ye Olde King’s Head, wooden bar stool, far right corner. This time, I dragged my friend Meredith along.
USA fans differ greatly…no one sang the national anthem; they only chanted a simple “USA! USA! USA!;” people ordered drinks during the game and discussed the Lakers, who won the “World Championship” (why “world??”) the night before. We clearly lack FIFA focus. But when USA tied, only after a botched call by the referee regarding an offside play, even Cesar, who clearly did NOT want to see team USA win, simply bowed his head with disagreement. But damn it all to hell, we gained some respect after that call and people felt for our straggly little team who has only minimal support from its own country.
Egg and Sausage Sandwich: $5.95 Coffee: $2.50
England vs. Algeria-The fervent, eager, wholehearted crowd flooded in as I gazed with wonder. An English game, at an English pub, surrounded by English accents and cider- dreams do come true, ladies (not the ones with you and Ronaldo though, please). The scene made my jaw drop. Brits like Kate Beckinsale and Nigel Lithgoe also joined in for the event at separate tables in the restaurant area - this game, I knew, would surely be a spectacle! I sat next to Dave, an older gentleman who welcomed me with cheers while, yes, I sat alone in the corner stool (Meredith, the friend with a day job, had to leave…pity). The national anthem chimed on and everyone, EVERYONE, jubilantly belted “God, Save Our Queen.” The words are not difficult to remember, so, yet again, I followed suit. The game itself did not tickle our fancy, in fact it was a bore and England tied…but as I left, I knew this had become an addiction.
7am: USA vs Algeria and England vs Slovania Destination: Corner Stool, again
I am troubled to say that words to describe this day are intangible, but I shall try. Basically, both teams had to tie or win to advance. I arrived at 6:15am to grab hold of my corner stool, while the line outside wrapped around the block with a mix and mash of USA and England fans. Both groups sang their national anthem (I stuck to “God, Save Our Queen” only because it is easier to yell---and secretly I fell in love with England) simultaneously, and then the games commenced. I suffered from whip lash near the end of the first half due to the speedy bi-locating of my head from one screen to the next. The sound of “ooos” and “ahhhs” (that’s what he said) and “yes!” and “no!” (that’s what she said) blistered from every direction.
Each game concurrently had their moments and when it became clear that USA would lose, mostly everyone counted down the final seconds to the England win and began jumping, screaming, embracing, high-fiving, and kissing. Then, instantly, Landon Donovan miraculously scored a goal that would secure team USA a spot in the next round- a moment I will never forget. Every single person in that building screamed with a ballistic enthusiasm I had yet to witness in my life. I actually became so overwhelmed with emotion that two celebratory tears happily danced down my face. England and USA would advance. Imagine that!
After the game, I could not catch my breath or a mere moment to reflect on what had just occurred when a news reporter approached me and another new friend, Stacy. He asked how I felt about “World Cup Fever” and only a portion of my response made the morning news. For some inconceivable reason, they chopped “There’s a sleeping bag underneath the bar for me…I can’t get enough of this place. Hi Mom!” Hmmm…wonder why.
Chicken Sandwich: $10.95
USA vs. Ghana, Destination: Snake Pit, Hollywood I’ll admit, I needed a break and wanted to be in a more subdued atmosphere. Plus, the food specials at this place are awesome: $5 for anything from 12pm - close. I tried bringing the “pub culture” to this dive bar by attempting to sing the national anthem and perhaps throw in a fun cheer here and there. A sprinkling of folks played along, but not many. USA lost and we all returned home with “Welp, we won’t be hearing the word ‘soccer’ for the next four years” attitudes.
England vs. Germany, Destination: Ye Olde King’s Head, wooden bar stool, far right corner (duh) This game fell on a Sunday so the working class attended. I arrived at 5:45am and took my seat among a group of belligerent Brits- aww, home sweet home. You know, I probably could’ve been on the field that game and produced better plays than the English players, but when I stopped and looked around at all the pissed off fans, ordering beer frantically and screaming English obscenities at the screens and each other, I cracked a smile and thought, “This is brilliant…This is what World Cup is all about.” Cheers!
Brazil vs. Netherlands, Destination: My apartment Can you believe Brazil lost? My jaw sat on the floor for the duration of the second half plus ten minutes after the game had concluded. I compose this portion with disbelief…still.
Ghana vs. Uruguay, Destination: Client’s House I had to involuntarily take a break from the pub because, sigh, I had to work. I’m a private chef and cook at the homes of my clients, therefore I politely requested that the TV be on while I chop, slice and stir. During this particular game, the cleaning lady, Patty, also had established her interest and we both took a break to watch the second half…I learned “Mucho presión” (meaning, “very stressful”) as I screamed at Uruguay for hand-balling Ghana’s winning goal OUT of the box. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a game so stressful… I deeply wished I had viewed it at the pub.
Sidebar: Up to this point, when mentioning World Cup, people from every street corner wanted to discuss. I made friends with the produce men at the Whole Foods in Beverly Hills; the man at Radioshack who kept me for a half hour chit-chattin’; a random guy named John, wearing a Brazil shirt getting into his car after their loss to the Netherlands (poor chap); the ticket guy at the parking lot at traffic court who, ouch, rooted for Mexico. World Cup unites. It's incredible and it's a shame it is once every four years.
Espana vs. Germany, Destination: Same Place, Same Stool, Santa Monica I thoroughly anticipated this game because I liked both teams (all my other teams had been eliminated, and I hated Uruguay for that hand-ball moveagainst Ghana, and the Netherlands roll around like big ol’ babies more than anyone I had seen- well except for the Italians, but I’m Italian so I only yellow-carded their actions—once). I brought my eldest sister to the pub and she became deeply enthralled in the “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” chanting and wished she had participated earlier in the cup. I pity the fool.
Parking: $3.00 Two Mimosas: $16
Final Game: Espana vs. Netherlands, Destination: Same Place, Same Stool, Santa Monica A rush of bittersweet emotion ran through me the morning of the final game as I threw on Spain colors. Thrill, joy, sorrow, loss, confusion, nervousness, glee, love, fear…
I arrived three hours early with my two sisters and my friends Kejal and Meredith in tow and I introduced them, once again to my corner seat. We ordered mimosas and Guinness and watched the game squished between fans from both Netherlands and Spain...Although, most of these people did not derive from these countries- I notice the Brits wearing both colors, the Mexicans wearing Red, the bartenders mixed, my party David Villa...But we all gathered, and screamed and heckled and cheered and boo’d, while all along laughing and rejoicing through joint camaraderie for the sport.
Paul, the psychic octopus, picked correctly and Spain took victory of Copa Mundial 2010...one cup...
The experience as a whole brought me to a dimension of sports culture that I had never participated in, and I became accustomed to my early morning viewings and surrounding myself with such an addictive energy. I honestly wondered what would become of me when the whole thing concluded. It became a ritual, a drug, a way of life…It became a friend…Thank you everyone at Ye Olde King’s Head for making this experience so special.
World Cup 2010: Priceless