Monday, June 14, 2010
It takes some searching to find the best place to watch the World Cup. When the last World Cup took place I was still living in San Francisco and still working at Goldman Sachs. One day my boss, who was South African and one of the few non-Americans in the office, somewhat un-mysteriously disappeared to find the perfect place to watch the tournament in San Francisco. The rest of us stayed chained to our desks hoping to catch a few glimpses when the TV screens above the trading floor flipped to the games.
Four years later I’m living in London and surrounded by die-hard soccer—er, football—fans. No longer chained to a desk from before sunrise to after sunset, I have a lot more freedom to get out and watch the games—or matches. Whatever they’re called here.
For the World Cup opener of South Africa vs. Mexico, my boyfriend and I headed into Hampstead Village to check the pulse of our neighborhood pubs. The Flask was busy with fans, but we decided to go down the street to the King William IV. Drinking Pimm’s and Guinness, we joined the crowd in celebrating goals and feeling both relieved and a bit let down when the game ended in a tie.
Two days later I was up in Harrogate for the USA vs. England game. It had taken forever to find a hotel for the night, as half of Yorkshire was in town to watch their boys take on the “yanks”. The pubs were packed, particularly The Alexandra, which sported the largest England flag I’ve ever seen. (To be honest, it was almost the only English flag I’ve ever seen, the others being the ones flying on everyone’s cars this week. Amazing the things that inspire patriotism.)
Back in London, there are hundreds of venues showing the World Cup, and the choices sometimes seem a bit daunting. First there is the decision of whether to watch in a neutral location or go to a venue (like Bodean’s) associated with the country you’re cheering for (like the USA).
Then there is the decision of whether to go to a casual viewing at a small venue or to a buy-a-ticket-in-advance viewing at a large arena. While the former can be more relaxed, the latter can be much more fun if you get in the spirit (and if there’s no rioting afterwards). This is particularly true at huge venues in London like the Great Hall at Stamford Bridge, where up to a thousand punters can watch every England match on giant screens.
Whatever the venue, wherever the location, and however the atmosphere during the World Cup, I just hope the USA wins.