How will expats celebrate the World Cup?

21st July 2003, Comments 0 comments

You're not in your home country and you're not in Japan or South Korea, so how exactly will you mark the football extravaganza that is World Cup 2002? Bruce Mutsvairo reports.

France is widely predicted to be this year's victor

It’s 11pm in Mick O’Connell’s Irish bar in Utrecht.

Tim, a middle-aged Dutchman, and two of his friends are trying to figure out which beer could be the world’s best, when a World Cup news report comes on the television.

Tim cannot hide his disappointment over Holland’s failure to qualify for the event.

“I tell you what, it's hardly imaginable to talk of the World Cup without Holland,” he says.

“I think it is disappointing for football fans world-over that the Dutch were booted out of the running because…”

But before he can finish, James, a cheerful and die-hard Republic of Ireland supporter, interrupts.

To everyone’s amusement, he teasingly adds: “Let’s not talk about Holland. Let's avoid history and talk about teams that qualified”.

The banter goes on with Tim concluding that if he can’t watch the matches wearing his orange jersey, he'll be cheering for England.

He attracts opposition from James and Brad, two Californians, who insist the US will walk away the victors of this summer’s World Cup tournament.

“Miracles do happen,” Brad says grabbing a glass of Heineken.

Wanna make a bet?

Its been hard to avoid World Cup conversation this week, as the expatriate community prepares to revel in the football extravaganza that begins on Friday.

Several expats, including Italian Francesco Maiolo, a political scientist at the University College of Utrecht, will not only be watching their country's progress, but will put money on their team's victory.

“I will certainly be watching the World Cup. I intend to watch all matches involving Italy,” he says, adding that he prefers viewing the matches while hanging out with friends in his “home city” of Leiden.

Maiolo's passion for gambling dates back to 1994, when buoyed by Italy’s impressive performance, he predicted an Italian triumph.

His gamble didn’t pay off — with the Italians losing to Brazil following a penalty shoot-out — but should Italy make it to the finals, the soft-spoken Maiolo said he would not hesitate to bet again.

“Sometimes it can be disheartening when the team of your choice fails to makes it. But I took the gamble once and I'm ready to do it again, but only if Italy makes it to the finals," he says.

England and Germany in harmony?

Briton Jim Smith knows that England's road to success will not be an easy one.

Stuck in what has been dubbed “the group of death”, including Sweden, Nigeria and Argentina, Smith admits a swift return flight home might await the Sven Goran Ericksson-coached side.

Unfortunately for England supporters, their team is in "the group of death"

“I am always an optimist but you have to wait until you can beat Argentina, Nigeria and Sweden, before you can talk of any sweets for England,” he laments.

Jim and his wife, who is German, will be watching the World Cup finals with their family via satellite from their Hilversum home.

Germany, which last won the cup in 1990, is in the same group with the Republic of Ireland, Saudi Arabia and reigning Olympic and African champions, Cameroon.

Where to watch it

While the Smiths watch the football action from their couch, hundreds of expats will be heading to pubs to cheer along with their compatriots.

Among them will be Stephen Power, who will follow the Republic of Ireland against Cameroon in Niigata on Saturday, from the Amsterdam Irish bar, Mulligans.

"My venue will be the Mulligans, the most genuine Irish pub in Amsterdam. The Tara on Rokin is another good choice because of its size," he says.

"However, there will be a tear in my eye, as I'll definitely miss the excitement of being in Ireland among my family and friends."

He says this year's World Cup will be celebrated in "true Irish tradition, with a beer in hand and dressed from head to toe in green".

Although many agree it would be great to be in your home country for the matches, perhaps nothing can top how American Bill Webber will be taking part in the excitement.

On 10 June, while on what he calls a “well-deserved two months holiday”, Bill will be cheering in Daegu, as the US face South Korea.

He is delighted he will be there to see one of the host countries playing the US, but is unsure of his team’s chances of winning.

“When the US hosted the World cup in 1994, I watched most of the matches on TV from home, so I am excited I will be going to South Korea. What I'm not sure of though is whether there is any chance of the US winning the Cup after all,” he says.

And Bill's right. Miracles may happen, but the tournament favourites are comprised of the usual suspects.

Come 30 June, it's more than likely that American, English, Irish, Italian and German expats will watch with the rest of the world, as a euphoric Brazilian, Argentinean or Frenchman clutches the golden prize.

May 2002

Subject: World Cup

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