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Monday, June 26, 2006

Sometime just ahead of the 80th minute, a rumor quickly began to swirl around Felix on West Broadway and Grand St. in New York's Soho district. The urban legend that spread had it that during the 1990 World Cup, a near riot had started on this very corner as fans of Mexico and Argentina gathered en masse to cheer on their respective squads. Normally the thought of rioting soccer hooligans in trendy Soho would be laughed off as absurd, but as the tension of the current match, knotted at 1-1, grew thick and the crowds at competing bars across the streets swelled into the street, the idea suddenly seemed completely rational. In fact, a repeat of such shenanigans, a soccer riot in Soho, seemed highly probable.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Weekend #3 of my Cup Crawl through the five boroughs was a limited one, only one match on tap for me, but it was no less crazy than the previous weekends. The Knockout Phase of the tournament started this past weekend, meaning math would no longer a requirement for watching this damn sport. The formula now is simple: Win or Go Home. And so it was as we approached that Soho corner on Saturday, Germany already prevailing over the Swedes that morning and awaiting the winner of this contest. The Argentines had set up at one of their well-known haunts, Novecento, bursting out the door and onto the sidewalk. In response, the Mexican fans had decided to take over Felix, a French bistro, on the other side of West Broadway. Their collective cheers and chants could be heard for at least two blocks in every direction.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting In Germany. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting In Soho.

Of course, we arrived far too late to secure a seat inside at either of these establishments. One couple said they'd been there since 1 pm for the 3 o'clock kickoff and we're still relegated to watching from the sidewalk. No worries, we were still able to squeeze into the throng to get a good view of the massive screen inside Felix, which we chose because the crowd seemed more lively. So, we had carved out a nice spot to watch the match but our throats, sadly, were very dry, parched even, and they just weren't offering sidewalk service. So we did what we could only be expected to do, one of us bolted for the nearest bodega and picked up a couple of sixers. Improvisation is the spice of life, and the lifeblood of Cup Crawlin' through New York.

As the minutes ticked down, the aforementioned tension hung thick in the air. The crowds on the sidewalks finally turned there attention away from one another and became fixated on the screens. The action on the pitch was fantastic, with Mexico seemingly out-hustling Argentina most of the way. That hustle however proved to be the downfall for Mexico when the match went into overtime -- their legs finally gave out about eight minutes into the extra period when Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez dropped the deciding goal into the net...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Winner!

... which resulted in this wild scene outside Novecento. Argentina had won, 2-1.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Pampas party in Soho.

The crowd at Felix slumped, watching in disbelief as the Argentines danced in the streets. But there was no rioting. And as palpable as the depression was there on that Soho corner, it was probably nothing compared to how Mexico City felt at that moment.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey, oy vey...

And so, another Cup Crawlin' weekend in New York is in the books. The next day, I took it easy and watched England and Portugal advance from the confines of a quiet cottage in Connecticut -- my mind, and my gut, needed the break. Portugal survived a card-marred match with the Dutch, while England won ugly again, this time over Ecuador, with a bender from Beckham. The two squads meet Saturday. Speaking of ugly, the English hooligans have finally made their presence felt in Germany, brawling with the locals and lobbing bottles from the balconies.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Is there any beer left?

Lovely, but it just wouldn't be a World Cup without them, would it?

Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention the disappointment felt last week when the US team completely tanked against Ghana. A friend of mine really sums it up best in his Open Letter to US Manager Bruce Arena. Seriously, disgraceful.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Dammit.

That said, I can't think of a better team to lose to than Ghana. First ever Cup, smallest entrant in the field, and native country to the table-dancing guy from last weekend. You can't beat that. Speaking of, the Ghana Guy wrote me last week to say thanks for including him in my blog, and then I found a photo of him here:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Go Ghana Guy Go!

So consider me firmly affixed aboard the Ghana bandwagon. Oh, and Brazil? You're next you overrated collection of show-offs. Ghana gonna get ya!

Wojo: Best and Worst of WC'06 (so far)
FOX: World Cup Gets Global Audience in
FOX: Babes of the World Cup (leave it to the 'conservative' network)
What's your Brazilian futbol name? (aren't they all Ronaldo??)

* Soho pics courtesy bertabetti on flickr

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