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world cup

Italian Restaurant Packed With Algeria Rooters (Except for Pro-U.S. Ecuadorian)

Fourth in an irregular series of encounters with expat World Cup fans. (See also: Brazil, South Korea, Ghana.)

Match: USA 1, Algeria 0.

Location: Caffé Borbone, 25–07 Steinway Street, Astoria.

The Draw: A huge portion of the Algerians in the U.S. reside in Queens, many around Steinway Street.

Isn't Caffé Borbone an Italian Name? Yes. It's an Italian joint for sure — Sicilian and Catholic paintings on the wall, and a photo collage of fans watching the Italians capture the 2006 World Cup. But owner Lorenzo Palazzolo says he goes where the neighborhood takes him. There aren't any Algerian delicacies on the menu, but "they love the espresso," he says.

Scene: Three flags stood outside Caffé Borbone: Algeria's, the USA's, and Italy's. But despite the stars and bars flying beside the crescent moon, inside there was only one color — green. Area Algerians long ago designated this as the place for soccer gatherings, and they packed the restaurant's two rooms with about 60 fans. As the game began, there was little talking save for the occasional angry outburst and the now-and-again smacking of a table, wall, or door. Spoons rattled in empty saucers. At halftime, the crowd sang in Arabic. A man named Halim translated the general message as "we're not good," calling it "a little reverse psychology."

When the U.S. thought it had scored (Clint Dempsey's goal was whistled off for offsides), one person — the only female fan on hand — applauded and cheered in the slightly less-raucous back room. Anna Arbondeda, a 50-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant and U.S. citizen, adopted the United States and Brazil as her teams; she said she was watching surrounded by the enemy because a friend of hers worked at the restaurant. She didn't display her fandom outwardly at any time except during Dempsey's non-goal. "I just sit here and sit back," she said. "But if the USA scores a goal, I'm going to go down the street and buy a hat!" The Americans did score to win their group for the first time since 1930, but Anna missed it, having just walked out to keep an appointment. Halim and a few other Algerians respectfully applauded the injury-time goal. "It was fair play and a deserved goal," said Halim, in his green jersey. He's rooting for the Americans the rest of the way. "Of course," he said. "Not only because I live here, but because the U.S., compared to the rest of the world's teams, is an unknown. They've never won. It's exciting." Everybody loves an underdog.

If you know of a good spot to catch a game with crazed nationals, let us know in the comments.

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Photo: Mike Ogle