Bath, Somerset, World Cup
One of us is a soul thumpin' soccer playin'/world football fan. The other can take it or leave it but doesn't really mind having to watch fast men in shorts, kick a ball.
It's Sunday, June 30, 2002, and we're in the UK which is experiencing an intense bout of World Cup Fever. We're in Bath at Flan O'Brien's a sort of sort of Irish pub It has the best tv in town. The place is packed and the Guinness is flowing a lot faster than the local brews. We have the last two seats (0n the radiator) and Tom is not shy about heading back through the throng for a pint. It's Brazil versus Germany and we are rooting, as is everyone else for "Brasil" our fellow enthusiasts wearing yellow tee-shirts in support. There are some unkind but searingly funny comments about the German team. Both teams are playing brilliantly and the score is nought/nought. It's an all UK/Irish (and our puny American duo) crowd, until the tall, thin blonde woman in the long raincoat wanders in. She too winds her way to the bar and asks in a strong German accent for a bottle of... Heinekin? The tv is loud, but not loud enough. The ribaldry stops for a moment and we are all a bit more self conscious about what we say about the "other" team. There are some thrilling plays but the score stays zip-zip. The German woman does not shed her raincoat, even though it is quite warm and clearly not raining in the pub. She stands quietly watching, making her beer last. I wonder if she is an enthusiast, a patriot or perhaps has a brother playing midfield.
A huge cry erupts, glasses aloft as the first half ends and the winners are anybody's guess. The German woman buttons her coat and slips out the door. We follow, I buy the kids yellow commemorative T shirts colorfully emblazoned Brasil at one of the stalls and watch the second half back at the flat. Brazil wins 2-0. Tom sees this as a good reason to go play a round of golf and then head down to the Hobgoblin to celebrate.
Three years ago, in Cape Town, a twelve year old from nearby Khayelitsha Township earnestly told me that he hoped to play in the World Cup. Or watch it. Or have South Africa win it. We bought little stickers, the silly acronym oval ones people use to show some kind of insider's track to Nantucket (ACK) or their planet (Earth) that said South Africa 2010, and put them on the car's bumper when we got home. People looked at us oddly when we parked at the Stop and Shop. South Africa? What about it?
Now it's here and we're part of the world which is set to watch the first match between USA and England in Rustenberg at 8:30 p.m. their time , 2:30 p.m. our time and 7:30 GMT. There will be much shouting down the phone between here and Wales I suspect. According to the BBC, The British Beer and Pub Association predicts that nearly four million fans will flock to pubs, downing an extra nine million pints of beer. You do the math.
It's likely both nations will stay in competition. Or their play will lead to huge disappointment. "Rounds" end later this month as the winners emerge, and the Real Games will happen when we're in the UK in July, starting back at Flan O'Brien's in early July and following the games as we head west. It's not easy being Yanks. If the U.S. is still in play we may have to wear raincoats and ask for a bottle of (arrgggh) Bud.