By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
But for the real Mexico fans, what began as a confident and chatty Friday afternoon devolved into knuckle-biting angst quite quickly. No one, it seemed, could put the ball in the net. With eleven minutes to go, an Angolan was red-carded and expelled. Advantage: Mexico. But there was still no goal. A displaced pigeon swooped down over the screen. Was it a sign? No.
The goal-less tie meant Angola's first ever World Cup point. The dejected spectators pushed away their gallo pinto and signaled to their waiters for the check.
The following day, la squadra Azzurra (Italy) faced off against the United States in an exchange that drew blood, a trio of red cards, and ended in a bitter tie. Italians from both sides of the pond packed into Café Silvano on Alton Road. Fifteen minutes before game time, the curtains were drawn and the doors closed; there wasn't an empty seat in the house. As the team's respective flags were carried onto the field, the bar erupted with a tribal chant: "U-S-A, U-S-A!"
Silvano, the tan, silver-maned proprietor, shrieked, "I-tal-ia!" from the register.
The U.S. anthem played. "It's beautiful music, your anthem," said Ricardo, a swarthy Argentine tennis pro. "They always play it a cappella. America would be great if they played their music." He then lauded Cuban womankind and ordered a New Times reporter a tartufo.
As the game commenced, a contingent of beer-swilling Americans pondered the fine points of soccer. After nearly every offside call, Frankie Marinara, a bald, hairy businessman in shorts, cried, "That's a bad rule. That should be changed."
A full 35 seconds of applause followed an Italian goal; it erupted again, briefly, for the replay.
"What's all the goddamn emotion?" wondered Jeff Salidor (Hawaiian shirt, in the wine business). "It's not the goddamn Super Bowl."
When an Italian defender blew it and scored for the United States four minutes later, Marinara slapped the New Times reporter painfully on the back.
Then it got ugly. Midfielder Daniele De Rossi bloodied Brian McBride with a mean elbow to the face and was removed from the game. The United States' Pablo Mastroeni was red-carded for a vicious sliding tackle; the bar booed. Silvano turned and offered his patrons a smile, a slap of his bicep, and a pump of the fist.
"I say an eye for an eye" remarked Jenna Scales, an FIU student with frizzy black hair and an athletic boyfriend. "Yeah, [Mastroeni] got a red card, but we got them back, didn't we?"
Armando, Silvano's maitre d', was a little flabbergasted by the bloodshed. "It looks like the U.S. is playing against Iraq," he said with an exasperated grin. "I mean, at the end of the day, it's a fucking game."
The battle theme continued into the second half, when Eddie Pope was red-carded, leaving the States at a distinct disadvantage.
In the end, the U.S. held its own. Tony Cerasuolo and Paolo Di Carlo, a pair of Neapolitan soccer players wearing blue Italian jerseys, offered complimentito "la squadra Americana." They said the States would be a real contender in the next World Cup.
At 3:00 a.m. June 18, Beatles cover band the Beethose was celebrating Paul McCartney's 64th birthday at Churchill's Pub. Beer was spilled everywhere, and the spillage barely had time to coagulate before the pub reopened the next morning at 10:00 for soccer fans.
At 11:00 a.m., about 50 people were inside the Little Haiti landmark for the Australian-Brazilian showdown. The only Aussies in the house were a small family huddled in a darkened corner. They were all blond, and one of the girls wore an Aussie flag shirt. At half-time, they slinked out, refusing to acknowledge both a panhandler and a reporter's questions in the gravel parking lot.
Maria Meirelles, a twenty-year-old Brazilian visiting her Argentine boyfriend in Miami, said the scene at Churchill's made her proud and confused. "It's good to see all the [Brazilians] supporting the team," she said. "I didn't necessarily expect it in Miami, especially not in an English bar in a Haitian neighborhood."
Boyfriend Juan Deschelles, a native of Buenos Aires, said he expected a good game and that he was willing to support Brazil (though not, apparently, willing to don a jersey like Maria) as long as they weren't playing Argentina.
A few miles north, about 30 Brazilians drank free beer and watched the game on a big screen under a tent perched beside West Dixie Highway at NE 183rd Street. A guy named Betão João de Moraes handed out free beer and shish kebab (piranha)as the team stormed through the second half.
Though two goals from Leite Adriano and Chaves Fred rocketed the tournament favorites to the next round, 50-year-old Joe Menezes wasn't satisfied. The owner of Via Brasil had rented the TV and tent and paid for the beer just because he loves soccer. "They should have made a lot of goals," he commented and then paused, not wanting to seem rude. "But hey, that's who we Brazilians are. We like to be together, scream, and complain."
Later that day, in the darkened environs of Flanigan's Seafood Bar and Grill in Coconut Grove, it was three men versus one woman during the first half of the France versus North Korea game. The three fellows, dark-haired and tan, were dressed in twee iterations of bleu foncé, the French team's color. One of the men, the tallest, sporting a soul patch and a curly Frafro, was apparently coupled with the woman, who more closely resembled a rustic Courtney Love than the Maid of Orleans.