In my quest to watch as many World Cup matches with fans of the various participating nations, finding a spot where fans of the English national team gather is not very difficult in New York. That being the case, I decided to check out England’s match with Uruguay at one of the city’s original soccer bars, Baker Street on First Avenue at 63rd Street.
England had lost their first match to Italy 2-1 and with high expectations from the British press and public, the pressure on the English team to win and move on to the next round was huge.
Despite the midday kick off, there was a decent crowd inside Baker Street and more people kept coming in. To be honest, in looking around the room, the England supporters didn’t seem to be overly confident.
There was a large group standing in front of a bank of televisions to my right and it was obvious that someone was using their corporate card. Every time a glass was emptied, a new one arrived almost immediately.
As it turned out, I was right. While he wouldn’t tell me his last name or where he worked, Matt wanted to watch his national team play so he took his entire staff out to watch the match. Originally from London, Matt has lived in New York for three years and said he was cautiously optimistic for “The Three Lions.”
Unfortunately for England, they were playing Uruguay PRIOR to the Luis Suarez biting incident. Suarez was on top of his game this day and gave Uruguay the lead in the 39th minute. You could feel the mood in Baker Street drop and the tension pick up.
Hope was restored in the 75th minute when England striker Wayne Rooney tied the match. That faith lasted just ten minutes, however, as Suarez sealed the victory for Uruguay with his second goal of the match in the 85th minute.
Despite the disappointment, Matt and his work crew continued to enjoy their afternoon outing with another round of drinks.
Also part of Group D were one of the favorites going in to the World Cup, Italy. The Italians had beaten England 2-1 in their first match and hoped to do the same in their second game of the group rounds versus Costa Rica.
There are a lot of choices on where to go watch Italian soccer in New York. With the match scheduled for a noon kick off, I decided to go to a local neighborhood Italian restaurant called Felice. Felice has a separate wine bar with photos of Italian soccer players on the walls and the bars’ television was set to the match.
As the Italian national anthem began to play, three young men wearing the blue jersey of the national team stood and sang along.
One of them was Gaetano Deffitto from Florence who said he had been in New York for one month. Deffitto is a wine consultant for Felice and a huge fan of the “Azzurri.” Despite the small lunchtime crowd, he said that Felice had been packed for Italy’s first match versus England.
As the game progressed Deffitto and his friends watched the match while enjoying their lunch with the restaurant’s manager. Serving them was another native of Florence, Giulio Spezza who was watching the game while working.
The mood dropped a bit as Costa Rica scored just before half time. Despite that setback, the confidence level of the Italian fans remained high.
Unfortunately for the Italian fans, the second half remained goalless and Costa Rica ended up 1-0 winners.
Even after the defeat Deffitto and his friends were confident that Italy would come back in their next game. Little did they know of the biting incident that would take place in their third group match versus Uruguay.