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World Cup fever burning up T&T

Sports bars expecting influx of patrons
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Brazil’s Neymar, left, and Argentina’s Lionel Messi are two of the world’s best footballers. For many fans, a final between hosts Brazil and neighbours Argentina will be the ideal match. AP PHOTO

Major sporting tournaments have a way of generating excitement unlike anything else. It's seldom the world has events that unite people and when it does it's usually some kind of disaster like a tsunami or earthquake. Thank heavens for World Cups.


But, like the Olympics, World Cups are never short of political controversy. Think of the terror of the Munich Olympics '76 or the boycott of Moscow '80.


Brazil 2014 is no exception. Protests have taken place across the country, with many Brazilians opposed to the money it is costing the economy while social problems rage through the slums and ghettoes of the enormous country and the chasm between rich and poor widens.


As in South Africa four years ago, newspapers are focusing on the availability and exploitation of street prostitution by visiting male hordes from across the globe.


Worries over the newly constructed stadia, last-minute finishing touches and the quality of the pitches were still being discussed 48 hours before the big kick-off, Brazil v Croatia in Sao Paolo.


In the background the FIFA corruption saga rumbles on as pressure builds for an investigation into the award of the 2022 competition to Qatar. Nepalese construction workers are dying in the Gulf state's 50C summer temperatures while former CONCACAF president Jack Warner deflects claims that he took bribes despite reports from the British media of documents showing a £1.2 million payment into Warner's account by former FIFA executive Bin Hammam.


Despite all this, football fans around the world are fit to burst, literally salivating over what promises to be one of the best World Cups of all time.


It’s the first time since Mexico ’86 that South America is hosting the tournament and Trini fans are pulling on the green and yellow jerseys of Brazil to show their support. Expect cries of “Ole, ole!” to ring out from bars from Chaguaramas to Point Fortin as the ball is stroked around the field by Neymar, Marcelo and Ramires. 


The five-time winners of football’s greatest prize are bound to feel the weight of expectation as they start off the tournament as favourites to win it, ahead of Argentina, Germany and Spain. One would like to feel that the minnows of Central America, Honduras and Costa Rica, might get some sympathetic support in T&T, but Trinis like to back a winner.


In England, where association football was invented, houses and cars are normally adorned with the red and white St George’s flag by now. But with England’s odds as low as 28/1 with most bookmakers (the same odds as Colombia), expectations are similarly low.


One Trini fan, asked by the T&T Guardian if he would be supporting the former colonisers who brought the game to the world, replied, “Why would I support England? I will support anyone who is playing against England!”


The injustices of history, not to mention those late goals by Crouch and Gerrard in Nuremburg in 2006, clearly weigh heavily on his mind.


At All Out bar at the Queen’s Park Oval on Tragarete Road, Port-of-Spain, general manager Vernal Crooms is expecting an influx of patrons come 2 pm today. 


The Brazilian ambassador will officially “open” the World Cup at the bar from 2 pm when the opening ceremony begins. A sizable contingent of Brazilians are expected to attend as the ambassador declares All Out “the home of Brazilian football in T&T”and the largest Brazilian flag in T&T is unfurled.


Asked where they are going to fly the flag, there was a pause on the line before Crooms replied, “It’s much bigger than anticipated…it’s huge.” 


Clearly they are still thinking through the physical logistics.


In Huttshutts Sports Bar in Crown Street, Tacarigua, Arouca the atmosphere is about to hit fever pitch. For the Champions League final the cavernous venue was rammed with football fans liming, steelbands playing and promo girls wining. From the balcony the dance floor resembled a writhing mass.


Shahid, the bar manager, told the T&T Guardian the Carib promo girls will be at the venue from 2-6pm on opening day, giving away T-shirts and baseball caps. The following day Powerade will be promoting for the mouthwatering Netherlands v Spain game, a re-run of the 2010 final.


Near the T&T Guardian’s offices, a new sports bar will be opened tomorrow on Edward Street by the affable Pancho, whose Queen Street snackette is known far and wide for tasty lunch and breakfast fare. 


At the new bar, four big screens have been installed and stocks of beer, rum, chicken wings, burgers and Chinese food will be on offer.


Meanwhile, fans looking for some off-the-pitch action can look no further than sports merchandise shop The Fan Club in Trincity Mall and MovieTowne Port-of-Spain, where a line of Victoria’s Secrets World Cup-themed lingerie will be available. 


Let’s hope things don’t get Messi.


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