By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Not long after noon on June 11 at the Playwright Irish Pub in South Beach, the predominantly pro-American crowd was silent. It had nothing to root for in this opening round of World Cup action. A flat-footed Team USA was unraveling against the Czech Republic, down two-zip entering the second half.
At the end of the wooden bar, a slender blond chap shook his head in disgust as the Americans squandered another scoring opportunity. Jason Kelly, a God-save-the-Queen soccer fan from Yorkshire, England, said he has been in Miami for the past seventeen years. The limo driver added he would like to see Great Britain versus Deutschland in the finals, but he hoped Team USA would advance anyway. "America doesn't take the game as seriously as it should," he complained. "You should come here when Brazil plays you won't even be able to stand in here."
As for the game: "The United States got no finish!"
When Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky outran several Team USA defenders to score his second goal of the game, shouts of "No! No! No!" filled the moody room.
The Czechs went up three to zero and closed out the game. "Give me a fuckin' break!" Kelly groused. "Ya monkeys!"
On Thursday, June 15, the Soca Warriors were in Germany, representing the smallest nation in history to qualify for the World Cup Trinidad and Tobago and this was their biggest game. Colonizer versus former colony: England versus T&T.
As fortune would have it, the date was also Corpus Christi, one of many public holidays on the islands. The crowd of migrants at the office of the consulate general on Brickell Avenue was mostly made up of workplace runaways, all clad in their native red and black.
"Excuse me. Don't you work?" one gray-haired gentleman asked another.
"I called and said I was in a meeting," his chum replied with finger quotes and an uproarious laugh.
The glass walls were covered in Soca Warriors news clippings and posters, and at half-time, the conference room turned into party central, complete with a well-stocked bar manned by two bartenders and a table laden with delicious roti.
Then one large gentleman in the corner led the crowd in the familiar chant, "T and T, we want a goal!" Unfortunately the Soca Warriors were denied. England's loutish striker, Peter Crouch, scored a goal in the 83rd minute after yanking the dreadlocks of Trinidad and Tobago's defender Brent Sancho a move that brought a chorus of tooth-sucking from the disgruntled audience.
When England scored again, the Trinis fell silent. Some fans got up and left. Others headed straight to the bar. One middle-age gent ordered a straight rum. "They beat us two-nil, but them boys still did we country proud," he said, grimacing.
Across town at the British-owned Churchill's Pub, a wiry man perched on a bar stool, pint in hand, fag in mouth, draped from head to toe in an English flag, sporting a David Beckham shirt underneath. At the top of his lungs, Javier Cruz shouted, "Vamos, vamos, Inglaterra! Vamos, vamos,David Beckham!" Indeed Britain's most jovial fan at this bar was Cuban.
The twenty or so vocal Brits in a crowd of about 50 continually muttered "You stupid wanker" and "You great plonker" for 83 minutes. They routinely berated the ref with cries of "That's a load of bloody bollocks" and "Dodgy call, mate."
As Cruz, who was perched on a wooden stool at the pub's dimly lit oval bar, put it: The blokes from Britain were perhaps too busy hoping U2's Bono might show up as he did during a Rugby World Cup match in 2003.
But El Cubano said he was here for only one reason: "Because," he said in heavily accented English, "nobody knows how to bend it like Beeeeeckham!" And sí, Beckham delivered one of his notorious crosses, which led to the first of the Brits' two goals.
Celebration does not diminish even when a win is obvious. To wit: When Argentina scored its first goal against Serbia and Montenegro early on June 16, three baby-blue-and-white-bedecked Argentine men sitting in front of a large-screen TV at Novecento in South Beach hopped up. Then they linked arms and jumped around in a circle. Though the Angolan team couldn't score at all, the trio repeated the dance with as much fervor on the sixth goal.
Where was Miami-Dade's Mexican community for the June 16 Mexico versus Angola match? Would you believe Señor Frog's in Coconut Grove? Yes, the same establishment advertised across the buxom chests of Midwestern coeds disembarking from Cancún. You thought it was good only for wet T-shirt contests?
On game day the green jerseys in the restaurant's indoor patio were as thick and verdant as a suburban lawn. There were, however, snakes lingering in the grass. Take Joel Becerra, a laid-back 21-year-old who was sitting at a table with a friend's family. Wasn't he worried los Mexicanos couldn't score? "Oh, I'm Chilean," he shrugged. "They invited me, so I put on a Mexican jersey. I'd be happy if any Latin American team wins."