The biggest sporting event the world puts on starts today in South Africa. An event that makes Super Bowl ratings look like Saved By the Bell re-runs has fans around the world in a frenzy. Everyone has waited four long years for the return of the world’s most popular game, futbol, or soccer as we call it here in the States, to put on their most popular tournament. I am speaking of course of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which begins today and ends one month later at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, when a champion will be crowned.
While any fan would kill to be in South Africa taking part in the festivities, for most fans around the world, that is not possible. If you’re going to be located in the United States for the next month, there’s no shortage of World Cup viewing parties to attend. If you are lucky enough to be traveling abroad at this time and still want to get in on the party, there are plenty of cities that will be celebrating and watching, and this guide is here to show you some of the best spots in the world to catch World Cup fever.
FIFA Fan Fest
It has been a tradition in past World Cups for FIFA (soccer’s governing body) to sponsor fan fest events in the host country. But for the first time ever, FIFA’s fan fest is going global. In addition to the nine cities in South Africa hosting fan fests, seven other cities across five continents will take part in 2010. Berlin, London, Mexico City, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, and Sydney all will host fan fest parties throughout the entire month of World Cup games. If you happen to be in any of these cities, check out the details and join in the party. The best thing about it? It’s free!!
It’s no secret that Argentines love their futbol, and their largest city, Buenos Aires, would be a great place to be to watch the 2010 World Cup. Argentina is no stranger to success as they are the 1978 and 1986 World Cup champions. Argentine futbol icon and star of the 1986 champs, Diego Maradona, is now coach of the national team. Argentina almost missed out on the tournament when they needed a win in their last match of qualifying to advance to South Africa. Now that they’re in, no one is excited about having to play a team with world class players like Lionel Messi , Carlos Tevez, and Javier Mascherano. Despite their poor play in qualifying, it would be no surprise to see the Argentines make a run deep into the tournament.
If you happen to be in futbol mad Buenos Aires during the World Cup, you would be hard pressed not to find a place to watch the games, especially when the home team plays. The city virtually shuts down when their team is playing, save for bars showing the matches. If you’re a tourist and want to get together with a mix of other tourists and locals, there’s no better place than heading to the Palermo-Soho neighborhood and hitting up Bar Malasartes. They will charge 30 pesos (a little over US$7) for entrance and will broadcast a match of the day along with two other games. Fans can expect a festive atmosphere as bar owners and workers will encourage fans to take part in their team’s favorite songs and anthems. Entrance to the bar also includes one drink.
The four-time and defending champion Azzurri limp into South Africa with several key injuries and question marks. Despite the problems the Italians have recently had, they are still a legitimate threat to come out on top in Johannesburg on July 11. Many fans are upset about the final roster decisions, but drama always seems to follow Italian soccer around, and they never seem to have a problem with success. Even though some of their supporters are grumbling, Italy still has one of the top goaltenders in Gianluigi Buffon and arguably the top defense in the world, so don’t count the defending champs out. They also benefit from having a relatively easy first round draw that should see them advance to the second round without much of a problem.
One thing that is no surprise to any futbol fan is the passion and sometimes sheer craziness of the Italian fans. The violence at games got so bad recently that their top domestic league, Serie A, had to ban all fans from all games for a short period. I wouldn’t worry too much if you are in Italy during this year’s World Cup, but I also wouldn’t don the opposing team’s jersey. The general consensus seems to be that if you are in Italy, just look in a window and you’ll find the game on. If peering through a stranger’s window doesn’t appeal to you, just stroll in the nearest pub, restaurant, or hostel. Despite it being the epicenter of the Roman Catholic Church, futbol is the true religion in Italy, and the atmosphere anywhere in the country is sure to be amazing.
Countries like Italy, Brazil, and Germany have been consistent threats to win the World Cup for the better part of the last forty years. Year in and year out, you can count on those three countries to be in the running. But this year a new team is being hyped to win it all. Defending European Cup Champion Spain is a heavy favorite and could very easily hoist the country’s first World Cup trophy ever. Despite fielding some of the strongest and most successful club teams in the world, Spain hasn’t advanced further than the quarterfinals since placing fourth in 1950. Supporters hope this year is different as they finally made it over the hump in the 2008 European Championships by winning it all. The Spanish team is loaded with talent and has the experience to win the whole thing.
Just like most of the rest of Europe, you’re not going to have much of a problem finding a place to watch the World Cup if you’re in Spain. If you are living or traveling in Barcelona for the next month, there are a few places that are great spots to enjoy some footy. Flaherty’s is an Irish Pub that is notorious for having a great atmosphere during sporting events. The six giant televisions and eclectic mix of both tourists and locals will make this a lively and raucous place to watch some games. Flaherty’s can be found in a square just off the famous Ramblas (it also has locations in Sevilla, Sotogrande, and Zaragoza). Word is that if you want an atmosphere that may not be quite as intense, you can visit the Bristol Blue English Pub on Torrent del l’Olla, which is said to draw a not quite as rowdy crowd as other Irish and English pubs in Barcelona.
Brazil, one of the two favorites to win it all, along with Spain, is the most storied futbol country in the world. The Brazilians have won the title a record five times and have arguably the greatest player to ever play the game in Pele. Their artful form of this beautiful game makes Brazil not only the most entertaining team to watch but also a favorite every time the World Cup rolls around. This year should be no different as South America’s largest country is primed and ready to hoist their sixth World Cup trophy before hosting the next World Cup in 2014. Led by one of the strongest goalkeepers in the world in Inter Milan’s Julio Cesar, and with some of the world’s top playmakers throughout the lineup like Kaka and Robinho, don’t be surprised to see Brazil playing on the final day of the tournament.
The same passion and flair the Brazilian team plays with has rubbed off on their fans throughout their history. The country comes to a standstill during important matches, and dancing and partying will fill the streets from Rio to Sao Paulo with flag waving, gyrating Brazilians. Rio is one of the FIFA fan fest hosts, but that won’t be the only place to watch the games if you are visiting or living there. Nearly every bar and restaurant is sure to have a television and a large crowd, but here’s a small sampling of places you can go to get your futbol fix. The Cobal in Humaitá is always a great place to enjoy any sporting event, so you know it will be hopping during the World Cup. The parking lot even transforms into a seating area during games so you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful weather of Rio while also watching the game. If you want an atmosphere that will be even more festive, check out Circo Voador, which will be showing all Brazil’s games on the big screen. Following all games you can really be part of Brazil’s festive culture by sticking around for music and dancing.
The Germans always field a strong side for World Cup competition, as evidenced by the three trophies in their case. Germany also has four second place finishes and has placed third three times. The hosts of the 2006 World Cup were dealt a crushing blow just a few weeks ago when captain Michael Ballack was injured and ruled out of this year’s World Cup. The Germans should at least go through to second round, though, and despite losing their leader, Germany always seems to find a way to advance deep into this tournament. They are considerably strong up top with Miroslav Klosa and Lukas Podolski leading the way, but after a string of World Cup teams that have employed some of the best goaltenders in the world, Germany will enter this tournament with an unproven youngster in 24-year-old Manuel Neuer.
A funny thing happened during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. With the country front and center for the world’s biggest sporting event, the Germans rediscovered a pride in their country that has been missing for quite some time. They were once again proud to wave that German flag, and with FIFA’s Fan Fest being put on throughout the country, they embraced the party atmosphere and really took to watching important matches together in public. The public hasn’t forgotten their 2006 fun and Berlin will be one of the most electric cities outside of South Africa to catch the World Cup.
Berlin’s list of bars and restaurants to watch games is so extensive that it would be impossible to list them all here. If you find yourself in Berlin during June and July though, there will be no shortage of options for your viewing pleasure, from Irish pubs and beer gardens to beach bars and a variety of public viewing areas throughout the city. Check out the EXBERLINER for more detailed information about all your options.
It would be a shame to have any kind of futbol list without including the British, known for the most popular domestic league in the EPL, their fans’ passion, hooliganism, and, sorry to say fellow English friends, but also their notorious choke jobs in big tournaments. England once again fields a strong and talented team on paper, and they should move on through to at least the second round, with a deep run possible.
With a roster littered with a who’s who list of stars from their own English Premier League (EPL), the British will be crossing their fingers that world class striker Wayne Rooney remains healthy throughout the month-long tournament. The loss of star defender Rio Ferdinand within the last week is a blow to this squad, but one that can be overcome with their depth and talent. Fans and critics are finally happy with a head coach in Fabio Capello, so could this be the year that England puts it all together and make a legitimate run at a championship?
You’ll have a tougher time finding a Guinness in Ireland than you will a pub in England to watch any of the World Cup matches over the next month. Simply walk down any street in London and you’re sure to find a place to enjoy the game. But if you’re looking for a bit of a different viewing experience than watching in the pubs, you have several options. A few cinemas will be showing matches in their theatres. The Curzon in Wimbledon will be showing the film Football Fables this weekend. After the film on Saturday, June 12, Argentina vs. Nigeria will be shown, and on Sunday, June 13, the film will be preceded by Ghana vs. Serbia. You can also head to the Everyman Cinema near the Hamstead tube stop. This is place to go for the more casual fans as you can relax on sofas with beer and burgers while catching the game. If you’re in London but want to feel like you’re in Brazil, go on over to Guanabara, a Brazilian themed bar that will have live samba bands, dj’s, and vendors walking around with cold beer and Brazilian street food to keep the party going before, during, and after the games.
No matter where you are in the world, you’re sure to find a great place to watch the world’s biggest and most exciting sporting event spread out over an entire month. It’s a time when the whole world comes to a halt, and it only happens every four years. Obviously this list could literally have millions of places on it, so please comment below and let us know where you plan on watching the games.