We Are The World

If soccer is war conducted by other means, New York is its latest battlefield. Many baseball and basketball fans were taken by surprise last week when quiet streets suddenly exploded with cheers, groups of men in Viking helmets sang martial songs (“We are red! We are white! We are Danish dynamite!”), Germans marched around with beer in their bellies and “Bierhoff” – Oliver Bierhoff, their team’s lethal weapon – on their lips, and 46th Street was overrun by thousands of yellow-shirted Brazilians. Then again, perhaps war is soccer conducted by other means. Ask a Nigerian cabbie what the recent death of longtime dictator Sani Abacha is likely to mean, and he’ll tell you it’s a real shot in the arm for the country’s team.

The Coupe du Monde stands everything on its head, to intoxicating effect. Brazil rules the world. Africa for once unites, rooting equally for the Indomitable Lions (Cameroon), the heroic North Africans (Tunisia, Morocco), the Super Eagles (Nigeria), and Bafana Bafana (South Africa). European fans embrace strange tongues, as “Olé, olé, olé!” becomes a Scottish chant and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” becomes a Dutch anthem. And everybody, even Iran, gets to meet the U.S.A. on a level playing field – and kick its butt.

In New York, then, France ‘98 is an opportunity for the less celebrated to celebrate. Conversely, it falls to Anglophone New Yorkers to undergo a realignment – what is a wingback, exactly? – and to wrap their tongues around the twisting names of Zinedine Zidane (France’s playmaker), Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan’s Dennis Rodman), or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Norway’s key striker). And for the hard-core U.S. soccer fan, a muzzled minority concentrated in the blameless environs of Kearney, New Jersey, it is a moment to be loud and proud, and to cheer the three members of the American team who hail from that town.

In the face of these cultural upheavals, there is only one sensible strategy: Apply the face paint, don the stupid wig, dust off the flag (any old flag), and get into the thick of things. The games are all being shown on TV, but many bars and cafés cater to fans of a specific team. Follow the guide above to locate your most-favored nation. If you have trouble finding like-minded fans (Japanese soccer enthusiasts, for example, have all gone to France), head for the Irish bars, whose famed neutrality, hospitality, and round-the-clock coverage will be just the ticket. It isn’t necessary to be partisan or to understand the intricacies of the beautiful game; the point of the World Cup is precisely this: that all are welcome.

Boomer’s Sports Club
349 Amsterdam Ave.

Saudi Arabia
Little village
25-60 Steinway St.
Long Island City

The Scots-American Club
40 Patterson St., Kearney, N.J.

220-06 Horace Harding, Bayside

The Netherland Club
3 West 51st St.

7905 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights

311 West 51st St.

246 West 14th St.

Zum Stammtisch
69-46 Myrtle Ave., Glendale

316 West 49th St.

Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse
157 Chrystie St.

956 Atlantic Ave., Cobble Hill

Marco Polo
345 Court St., Carroll Gardens

We Are The World