World Cup NYC: International soccer fans show their pride
The world's most diverse city has a special reason to celebrate beginning Thursday, as communities across New York will show their colors and cheer on their homeland soccer teams in the World Cup. Soccer is a unifying force in this busy melting pot, according to fans, businesses and other groups that represent some of the 32 countries competing in the tournament in Brazil.
"I think when the World Cup comes in New York, everyone . . . just goes crazy for their team," said Juliana Lang, 29, a Brazilian expat who lives on the Upper East Side.
amNewYork went around this global city to gauge the excitement in various immigrant communities:
The host country's team is a favorite to take the trophy, and Brazilian locals and business owners alike say they have been anticipating today's opening match against Croatia for months. Lang, who moved to the U.S. four years ago, said the city helps to fuel Brazilians' passion for the tournament,because the community has been growing areas such as Astoria while soccer's popularity grows in the city as a whole.
"It's great to celebrate here because I can easily go to a bar where they are playing the Brazilian music, eating Brazilian food and people are speaking and cheering in Portuguese," the sales representative said.
Outside of Astoria, Little Brazil in midtown is also a hot spot for Brazilian fans. The one-block niche on West 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues has a handful of Brazilian restaurants where fans can get their native cuisine while watching the games.
Emporium Brasil Restaurant at 15 W. 46th St. plans to show every game beginning Thursday.
"Everyone's excited. It's gonna be a big, big party over here," said manager Bruno Cardoso.
Where to watch: Emporium Brasil Restaurant on 15 W. 46th St.; Pao de Queijo on 31-90 30th St., Astoria; Esperanto NYC on 145 Avenue C
For the first time since 2002, the Russian national team has qualified to compete in the World Cup. Russians, riding high off the success of the Sochi Winter Olympics, are excited to watch their countrymen compete for the championship.
"Finally we made it!" said Anna Feldchun, 27, of Long Island City, a Moscow native, who has been in the U.S. for the past 8 years. "We are very excited."
The traditionally Russian neighborhood of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn is sure to be in high spirits on June 17 when their team takes to the field against South Korea for their first round of group play. If the European Cup was any indication, fans will likely be found crowded into Kebeer Draft Bar and Grill on 1003 Brighton Beach Ave., located in the middle of Little Odessa, to catch the game.
Liza Riterman, 25, a Russian transplant now living in Jersey City, is realistic about her expectations for the team.
"We are hoping that they are not going to let us down," she said. "I am thinking we have a good chance versus South Korea, after that probably not. I love my team but I don't have high hopes," she laughed. "I wish them luck."
Where to watch: Kebeer Draft Bar and Grill on 1003 Brighton Beach Ave., Brighton Beach
Ghanaians who now call the Bronx home and spoke to amNewYork, said they are excited to watch their fellow countrymen take on the "Group of Death" in the World Cup. Many expats said four years of building excitement will be fully felt June 16 when their team takes on the U.S. in their first match.
Ghana knocked the Americans out of the last two World Cups, and its supporters said they won't let U.S. fans forget about those milestones. Some members of the Bronx's Ghanaian community said they expect large crowds and cheers at their popular meet-up spots as they watch the games together.
"The last time they were in . . . it was very exciting and a lot of fun," said Kwame Bonsou, manager of Papaye Restaurant in the Bronx, one of the borough's hot spots for watching Ghanaian World Cup matches.
"They're very proud that they're in the World Cup. If they win, they'll be jubilated."
NYC's Ghanaians said they're equally proud to get to see their team take the spotlight at one of the world's most-watched athletic showcases. "Sports isn't fun when there aren't a lot of people," said Fareed, an employee at Dred's Barbershop & Hair Braiding Salon in the Bronx, which will also be showing the games. "So people want to see the crowd and watch the game together."
Where to watch: Papaye Restaurant, 2300 Grand Concourse, Bronx
New York's Germans said they're pumped to see what their team has in store for 2014, especially after they came close to winning the cup in 2010.
The owner of Zum Schneider in the East Village, Sylvester Schneider, said his New York compatriots are so dedicated to the cup that they will be "calling in sick" during the weekday games.
"Germany games are going to be insane with people lining up for hours before the game. Other games are well attended, some crazier than others," he said.
Manhattan establishments such as Loreley in the Lower East Side and Heidelberg in Yorkville, also said they expect to see major crowds. "It's something to come together to, especially since Germans have an issue being patriotic after what happened in World War II, so it is very important for them," said Lily Ftrege, a German native and manager of Lorely in the Lower East Side.
Where to watch: Loreley, 7 Rivington St.; Zum Schneider, 229 E. 7th St.
Flushing's South Korean community has had a fever pitch for soccer since their nation surprised the world in 2002 and made it to the semifinals, according to Scarlette Cho, a director of external affairs for City Councilman Peter Koo's office.
Cho, who moved from Korea to Queens more than 16 years ago, said the victories during that tournament, when South Korea co-hosted the event, gave Koreans a sense of national pride that they hadn't felt in years.
"They've been all about soccer since then and in Flushing you'll see a lot of people with the [team] shirts and flags," she said.
The community is home to some of the most popular Korean eateries, especially along Northern Boulevard, and several are expecting big crowds for the games, according to Koo's office.
Kenny Park, the manager and owner of Han Joo BBQ at 41-06 149th Pl., expects enthusiasm to hit a fever pitch, especially when South Korea plays Russia. "It's really big. It's bigger than the Olympics," he said.
Where to watch: Han Joo BBQ, 41-06 149th Pl., Flushing
The city's English football fans are a passionate bunch when it comes to the sport.
Club rivalries for England teams can get notoriously nasty, according to Nathan Smith, the Vice President of the Liverpool Supporters Club in NYC, but that doesn't stop them from coming together as nationals during the cup.
"I'm looking forward to a good tournament," the 38-year-old Englishman said. "And unless you're going to actually be in Brazil, I think New York is the best place to watch."
England is in one of the toughest groups and will have to face off against opponents like Italy and Uruguay in the first round, but the fans are hopeful they can pull through.
"I'd like to see a young team attacking, going out there and giving it their best," said Scott Robertson, the English owner of The Churchill at 45 E. 28th St, which has attracted a huge English following.
"As long as they go for it, and are young and daring, I'll be happy. Let's see where that gets us."
The Blind Pig at 233 E. 14th Street, the official bar for Arsenal Supporters, is also expecting large crowds for the World Cup, especially when England is playing. Owner Cameron Cass, an American, will be rooting for England alongside the U.S.
"You gotta love England," she said, "especially because we always have the fans here."
Where to go: The Churchill at 45 E. 28th Street; The Blind Pig at 233 E. 14th Street
with Ethan Leavitt and Noelani Montero