Friends Trey Farrow, Josh Johnson, and Ronnie Johnson donned United States scarves and gathered around a table of food and drinks at Brit’s Pub Monday as the United States and Wales prepared to face off in the World Cup.
Farrow is a big U.S. National Team fan who has closely followed the squad through qualifying. He joined a packed crowd at the downtown Minneapolis bar on the second day of the World Cup.
“It feels good,” Farrow said, admitting that he’s a little nervous.
The three said they believe the United States will advance to the knockout stages. (The United States tied Wales 1-1 Monday.) Ronnie Johnson, no relation to Josh Johnson, doesn’t follow soccer as closely as his friends, but loves the spirit of the World Cup and its ability to unite people.
“It really feels like it brings us together,” Ronnie Johnson said.
A controversial cup
Every four years, the globe grinds to a halt as millions tune in to the World Cup. The international soccer tournament began in 1930 and was only suspended twice in the 1940s during World War II.
The tournament, put on by global soccer governing body FIFA, includes 32 teams that qualify through regional matches in the preceding three years. The tournament lasts for a month, and starts with eight groups of four teams playing each other in a round-robin format.
The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stages, which cuts down from 16 to one champion. The final will be played on December 18.
The tournament is typically hosted by one nation. This year, it’s Qatar, a small country on the Arab Peninsula. It’s the first time the World Cup has been hosted by an Arab nation. The selection of Qatar is controversial. There has been widespread reporting of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation grossly mistreating migrant workers used to build the stadiums. The Guardian reported that more than 6,000 workers, largely from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan, died building the stadiums.
The location also altered the typical scheduling format of the tournament in an attempt to deal with the nation’s notoriously warm climate. The World Cup is starting in November for the first time ever, and many games are being played later at night to avoid the midday sun.
While controversy looms, the sheer size and scale of the World Cup is overwhelming. It is the most popular sporting event in the world, drawing millions of spectators. The United States returns to the tournament this year after failing to qualify in 2018.
Soccer, or football as it’s known in many countries outside of the United States, is the world’s game, and for many immigrants watching the sport is a way to connect to their childhood memories. The tournament presents people an opportunity to support their home nations, root for their new country, or connect with a part of their heritage.
Ariz Ibrahim and Adrian Garcia have watched the World Cup since childhood. Ariz remembers taking in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and cheering Spain on to victory. Garcia had a U.S. team flag draped over his shoulders and said he likes that the World Cup is both competitive and a cooperative international tournament.
The two are supporting the United States, but have other squads they’d like to see succeed. Garcia is Mexican on his mother’s side and will be rooting for Mexico’s national team, El Tri. Garcia and his father always cheered on Argentina, and he’d like to see that country’s star, Lionel Messi, win in his final World Cup.
Ariz said he’s cheering on Senegal, which lost to the Netherlands Monday morning, and also Portugal, the team of his favorite player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The timing of the World Cup presents scheduling conflicts for fans in Minnesota. Games are played during the week, and start early in the United States. Ariz brought his laptop to Brits Pub to try to sneak in some work before realizing it was unlikely to leave his backpack.
Over at The Black Hart of St. Paul, an LGBTQ-friendly soccer bar on University Avenue,
a group of fans appeared to juggle work obligations with the desperate need to take in as much of the World Cup as possible, firing off emails and working on spreadsheets while sipping beer and watching Senegal play the Netherlands.
“It’s religious,” Jens Sclin offered as an explanation.
Sclin grew up in Norway and has lived in the United States for 19 years. He remembers Norway beating Brazil in the 1998 World Cup and watching beer fly through the air at a bar. This year, he’s supporting Denmark and Wales, he said.
The first stage of group games will continue for the next week, with three to four matches each day starting as early as 4:00 a.m. Minnesota time.
Where to watch the World Cup:
- La Doña Cervecería, 241 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis. The Latin-inspired brewery will be open for World Cup viewing this week.
- The Black Hart of St. Paul, 1415 University Ave., St. Paul. The longtime soccer and LGBTQ bar will be open for all matches (even those that start at 4 a.m.) and offers a passport program for drink discounts.
- Los Andes Restuarante, 607 W. Lake St., Minneapolis. The Ecuadorian restaurant was the happy host to the first match of the World Cup, when Ecuador defeated hosts Qatar 2-0 on Sunday. The restaurant will open at 9 a.m on all match days.
- Makwa Coffee, 2805 Hamline Ave. N., Roseville. The Indigenous-owned coffee shop offers an alcohol free destination for soccer fans.
- EastLake Craft Brewery, 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. Midtown Market’s brewery will be opening at 10 a.m. during the World Cup. Televisions in the market are tuned-in to game action.
- Brit’s Pub, 1110 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. A traditional Minneapolis soccer destination, Brits will be opening at 7 a.m. or 10 a.m. during matches, depending on match schedules. The bar is selling tables for U.S. matches, and said it is already sold out for the U.S.-England match on Friday.