When Brazil’s World Cup matchup with Croatia kicked off at 10 p.m. on Friday morning, the inside of Beco Bar was packed to capacity, and the overflow crowd wanting to watch the game at the Brazilian restaurant looked on from the outside in the crisp December air.
The scene has become a familiar sight at the Williamsburg restaurant since the start of the World Cup last month regardless of the time of day, especially when Brazil was on the schedule. On Friday, before the Brazilian national team lost in penalty kicks to Croatia, patrons lined up an hour prior the start of the match, before the doors even opened to Beco Bar.
“I think this is a little community that we’ve built here in Williamsburg,” said Henrique Stangorlini, the owner of the 13-year-old Brazilian restaurant. “The relationships that we have here, it’s really real. It’s like back in the day old school and the draw on this, it’s this. I know every single person that’s been inside his restaurant and it’s in a way really cool to see that we’re a real staple and we just bring people together.”
The patrons inside and out watched with bated breath as the minutes in regulation ticked away. The restaurant erupted when Neymar scored to give Brazil a 1-0 lead in extra time and fell silent as the Croatians knocked off Brazil a little after 1 p.m.
But more than that the day was a chance for people to come together and get a taste of their home country.
Raquel Furtado was born in Brazil and came to the United States 22 years ago. Taking in Friday’s game at Beco Bar was a way for her to connect with her fellow Brazilians and enjoy one of her favorite times in New York City.
“World Cup is a time where you put all your differences on the side. All your political differences and I’m sure there’s a lot of people here with a lot of different political views,” Furtado said. “And you come together and it reminds you of why we do what we do. Why we’re here. Soccer is so strong in (Brazil). Such a part of our culture and the World Cup is one of my favorite times in New York.”
Furtado and her Brazilian compatriots aren’t alone in their feelings about the World Cup being a special time for ex-pats in the five boroughs.
Andres Zavrosa, a 23-year-old who was born in France and has lived in the US since he was 2 years old, noted how the World Cup allows him to reconnect with his heritage and bring a little slice of the soccer culture in France to New York City. The diverse background within the five boroughs means that there is a place for everyone to go and feel they’re watching the game back home, Zavrosa explained.
“Every tradition we do back at home to prepare for a game or even while watching one gets replicated here,” Zavrosa said. “From l’appéro, meals, singing the national anthem, sharing a beer with friends, to wearing and repping the colors of your country, we make sure we bring the spirit from home anywhere we go.”
For Zavrosa and his friends, that can come at any number of places. “Felix in SoHo, Lena in the West Village, Bistro So in Williamsburg, Cafe Soleil on the Upper West Side. The French community in New York City is bigger than I ever anticipated when it comes to supporting their national team”
“Even people who don’t like football join in,” echoed Khalifa Sow, a 41-year-old French citizen of Senegalese descent, who has lived in New York for nine years. “It’s just a question of belonging to the same country. When the team goes far or wins a competition, we feel a contagious positive emotion.”
That contagious energy could be seen on Friday amongst more than just the Brazilian nationals. For instance, one woman had stopped to watch the game as she walked by from her nearby apartment.
Another patron, Todd Baker, whose wife is Brazilian, explained that part of the draw was watching his wife getting worked up over the game as well as the ability to immerse himself in the culture.
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For Stangorlini, seeing such a diverse group of people in his restaurant brought a sense of joy.
“What is beautiful is you bring cultures together,” Stangorlini said. “Not everyone here is Brazilian. A lot of people support Brazil because they like a player or they like the culture or they went to Brazil or they fell in love with the culture, the food or the people. We say in Brazil it’s a lot more than a sport. It’s way beyond a sport, it’s an event that brings people together and you can smile and you can gather. You can marry and just enjoy over a cheerful sport event.”