With national pride and global bragging rights on the line, the FIFA World Cup is a showcase not only for some of the world’s greatest athletes, but also for the passionate fans that support the game.
The sport's cultural and communal nature has given rise to an increasing number of fans who pack soccer-friendly sports bars around the world – sometimes at odd hours – to cheer on their favorite teams with fellow supporters and savor the dramatic atmosphere of every shot, save and goal.
“Soccer lends itself to a group setting, and there’s a wave you ride when you watch with friends,” says Paul Sotoudeh, who watches international games at Washington D.C.’s Laughing Man Tavern. “It’s one of those sports that’s good to watch because of the ebb and flow of the game. Everyone is paying attention, and you’re sharing in the agony and ecstasy.”
Twenty years ago, especially in the U.S., finding bars willing to show soccer was a near impossibility. Now, with the proliferation of satellite sports packages, organized clubs and establishments willing to go the extra mile, the soccer community is booming.
“Whatever time the game is on, we’re open,” says Tony Moogan of the Cock n' Bull Pub in Santa Monica, Calif., which has been known to open as early as 4 a.m. for matches. “It’s been tremendous. Sometime we have to turn people away.”
Expecting nothing different for the FIFA World Cup, as fans across the globe will hang on every possession… and love every second of it.
“It's a very addictive feeling,” Sotoudeh says. “That's part of what we chase and why we watch together. It’s more fun to share that incredible, mercurial high. We’re more than just fans who show up for two hours and leave. It’s a 365 day-a-year lifestyle.”
Looking to get in on the fun for the FIFA World Cup? Check out these soccer-viewing hotspots around the globe:
1. New York
This melting pot of cultures means that on nearly every corner, you can find a country-specific bar in which to root for your favorite team in the FIFA World Cup, in addition to mega-pubs like Stout and The Football Factory that cater to soccer fans of every stripe. The Football Factory is home to more than 30 supporters clubs, ranging from Arsenal to Sao Paolo, and broadcasts more than 100 matches per week.
2. Rio de Janeiro
It figures to be a festive time in Brazil during the action, with any establishment that owns a TV likely tuned into the play on the pitch. For fans looking to mix and mingle with soccer-mad Brazilians, the Copacabana and Ipanema locations of Blue Agave – owned by sports-loving Americans – provide a fun atmosphere to watch the games. For an authentic soccer experience, the small street bar Popeye airs games nearly 24/7.
3. Los Angeles
When Moogan opened his bar in 1990, he was among the first in the U.S. to broadcast live English soccer. “The first game, I was the only person watching. Then I told one guy, and pretty soon, we were getting calls from all over the country and the place was jam-packed,” he says. Now, Cock n’ Bull is joined by a host of soccer-friendly bars, including Goal and Lucky Baldwin’s, all of which have built a dedicated fan base.
It should be no surprise that one of the world’s most passionate soccer nations is also serious about where to watch the game. England helped create the pub culture, where socializing and friendly banter in groups is a way of life. Pubs will be teeming with soccer fans over the next month, and in a unique twist, The Broadway Bar and Grill in Fulham, is instituting a pop-up bar, Fever Pitch. The venue, created specifically for the FIFA World Cup, can hold 800 fans.
The time difference will make watching the games difficult, but that won’t stop the die-hards from supporting their favorite squads. The Tokyo Sports Café combines a high-tech environment with a sports bar vibe, leading to one of the most popular locations in the city. Another option in the heart of the Roppongi neighborhood, Legends Sports Bar draws a crowd that often spills out into the street during big games.
Home to MLS’ Seattle Sounders, arguably the most ardent fan base in American soccer, fans in the Emerald City have several great soccer pubs, although The George & Dragon Pub and its sister bar, The Market Arms, are among the favorite watering holes for footy fans.
“The beauty of watching soccer in a soccer bar is the energy,” says
Seattle resident Robert Stearns. “In a sports bar, you can tell when
something is about to happen before it happens. A murmur becomes a buzz
becomes people yelling as a shot flies towards the net. At home, until
the announcer yells “Goal!” you might not have any idea that a play was
building until it was too late. In a soccer bar, for 90 minutes, it’s
about the game.”