June 11, 2010
The Bar Less Traveled: Mexico vs South Africa in World Cup Opener
A Yanqui walks into a taberna and... GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!
The El Farolito Soccer Club is the place to watch Mexican football in the Mission, but it was already mobbed by the time the second half began. Just on the opposite side of the BART station entrance is Carlo's Club, which had two TVs and about 25 patrons devoted to the match. Day workers, a few tourists, some neighborhood fixtures, but mostly people of all sorts ducking in for a few moments on the way to the train.
Before being able to order an orange juice the ball was in the back of the South African net, an unmarked Rafael Marquez recipient of a cross-field pass which he calmly deposited, generating an impressive early-morning roar from the assembled. 1-1.
One patron noted that Mexico scored upon my arrival so I was made a good-luck charm. This was confirmed as regulation time was running out. South Africa played long ball for most of the rest of the match and almost converted, a shot from a speeding Katlego Mphela hitting the outside of the left post in the 90th minute.
Back to Farolito for the exodus. Most of the patrons were dressed in team colors. Many looked as though they had spent the night with their heads on the bar. This, by the way, is the great challenge of the tournament for social drinkers living on the West Coast. San Francisco, for example, is dry between 2 and 7 but the first match starts at 4:30. Does one get a few hours rest, an early breakfast, disappear into the darkness and drink out of a bag? Maybe a pickup game at the nearest soccer pitch. Match of the Living Dead.
The fans looked pleased with the result, perhaps relieved given the fact Mexico fell behind and almost lost in the final moments. South Africa is not an elite team but the host nation is always a danger lurking in the high grass.
Something has happened between 2006 and 2010 in the United States, or at least on the coasts. The World Cup has gone from under-appreciated to ubiquitous. The U.S. match with England tomorrow is even going to be shown at AT&T Park for free (and there's a ferris wheel for after). Have we finally fallen in love with the world's sport? Is this part of the Obama effect, our global re-entry? Or is it just another event to market and over-expose with product tie-ins? A little of each, maybe.
Here, by the way, is a great resource for finding out where to watch matches in the Bay Area, especially if you're looking for a country's home field advantage, as it were. They're looking for additions if you know where the North Koreans are hanging out.
Uruguay and France in less than 30 minutes. Meantime, chapeaus off for Bafana Bafana, as the South African side is called, extending the streak of host nations never losing the opening match.
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