Friends Trey Farrow, Josh Johnson and Ronnie Johnson donned US scarves and gathered around a table with food and drinks at Brit’s Pub on Monday as the United States and Wales prepared for the World Cup.
Farrow is a big fan of the US national team, having followed the team closely throughout qualifying. On the second day of the World Championships, he joined a packed crowd at the downtown Minneapolis bar.
“It feels good,” Farrow said, admitting he was a little nervous.
The three said they believe the United States will advance to the knockout stages. (The United States drew 1-1 with Wales on Monday.) No relative of Josh Johnson, Ronnie Johnson doesn’t follow football as much as his friends but loves the spirit of the World Cup and its ability to unite people.
“It really feels like it’s bringing us together,” said Ronnie Johnson.
A controversial trophy
Every four years the world comes to a standstill as millions watch the World Cup. The international football tournament began in 1930 and was only interrupted twice in the 1940s during World War II.
The tournament, hosted by the global football governing body FIFA, features 32 teams that have qualified through regional matches over the past three years. The tournament lasts a month and begins with eight groups of four teams competing in a round-robin format.
The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout stage, which is reduced from 16 to one champion. The final will be on December 18th.
The tournament is usually hosted by one nation. This year it’s Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula. It is the first time a World Cup has been hosted by an Arab nation. Qatar’s selection is controversial. There were widespread reports that the wealthy Persian Gulf nation grossly abused migrant workers employed to build the stadiums. The Guardian reported that more than 6,000 workers, mostly from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan, died building the stadiums.
The location also changed the tournament’s typical scheduling format to accommodate the country’s notoriously warm climate. The World Cup will start in November for the first time ever, and many games will be played later at night to avoid the midday sun.
While controversy looms, the sheer size and scope of the World Cup is overwhelming. It is the most popular sporting event in the world, attracting 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 the United States, is the game of the world, and for many immigrants, watching the sport is a way to connect with their childhood memories. The tournament offers people the opportunity to support their home nations, support their new country or connect with a part of their heritage.
Ariz Ibrahim and Adrian Garcia have followed the World Cup since childhood. Ariz remembers attending the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and cheering for Spain to victory. Garcia had a US team flag draped over his shoulders and said he likes that the World Cup is both competitive and a cooperative international tournament.
The two support United States but have other sides they would like to see succeed. Garcia is Mexican on his mother’s side and will be cheering for the Mexico national team El Tri. Garcia and his father have always cheered for Argentina and he would love to see that country’s star Lionel Messi win his last World Cup.
Ariz said he cheers on Senegal, who lost to the Netherlands on Monday morning, and also Portugal, the side of his favorite player Cristiano Ronaldo.
The timing of the World Cup brings scheduling conflicts for fans in Minnesota. Games are played throughout the week and start early in the United States. Ariz took his laptop to Brits Pub to try and sneak some work in before realizing he was unlikely to leave his backpack.
Over at The Black Hart of St. Paul, an LGBTQ-friendly soccer joint on University Avenue,
A group of fans appeared to be juggling work commitments with a desperate need to take as much as possible from the World Cup, firing off emails and working on spreadsheets while sipping beers 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’s win over Brazil at the 1998 World Cup and beer flying in a bar. This year he supports Denmark and Wales, he said.
The first phase of group games will continue over the next week, with three to four games starting as early as 4:00 a.m. Minnesota time each day.
Some places to watch the World Cup:
- La Dona Cerveceria, 241 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis. The Latin-inspired brewery will be open for World Cup viewing this week, including opening hours at 9:30am.
- The Black Stag of St. Paul, 1415 University Ave., St. Paul. The longtime football and LGBTQ bar is open for all games (even those starting at 4am) and offers a drink discount pass program.
- Los Andes Restaurant, 607 W Lake St, Minneapolis. The Ecuadorian restaurant was the lucky host of the first World Cup match as Ecuador beat hosts Qatar 2-0 on Sunday. The restaurant opens at 09:00 on all match days.
- Makwa Coffee, 2805 Hamline Avenue N., Roseville. The Indigenous Cafe is a non-alcoholic destination for soccer fans.
- East Lake Craft Brewery, 920 E Lake St., Minneapolis. The Midtown Market Brewery opens at 10:00 am during the World Cup. TVs on the market are tuned to the game action.
- Brit’s Pub, 1110 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. A traditional Minneapolis soccer destination, Brits opens during games at 7 a.m. or 10 a.m. depending on the schedule. The bar sells tables for US games and said it is already sold out for Friday’s USA-England game.