I love watching international soccer tournaments. It took hold when I was in Amsterdam in 2000. Holland played (and lost to) Italy in the Euro Cup semifinals. I was very out of place in a dark locals bar, watching on a tiny, almost-color television. The city went orange with excitement and then red with rage. A few days later, I was in Paris when France were crowned champions. I was accidentally swept up in a motorcade of triumphant footballers and ecstatic Parisians. I was mere feet from the hero of the day, Zinedine Zidan. The adrenaline of the crowd was contagious, an entire nation exuberant. I was hooked.
But Spain is my team. In 2008, I was in Spain when the Furia Roja won the Euro Cup for the first time. The whole country shared one heart that night. It’s pretty clear that I am a Spanofile, have been my whole life. I wish there was a prettier word for for it, Spanteresante, Spanpressionante, Spantastic? Spain has had the best team in the world for the past 4 years. They are epic passers, they are fierce defenders, they are beautiful.
Those matches in Europe left an impression. I prefer to watch soccer with a crowd. I like that in Los Angeles, both teams are represented with fans. I enjoy the camaraderie, and the ribbing. The best place I have found to watch games is the Village Idiot on Melrose. They broadcast games all year, on two excellent flat-screens. It is not a sports bar, and not ideal for viewing, but the crowd makes it so. People care. They get there early, show their colors, share tables, and make friends with the fans standing next to them. Arrive early, really early, if you want a seat. If I’m not throwing a party at my house, I’ll see you there next Sunday, for the final.
Two semi-final games remain. Spain, still missing their star player David Villa, plays a dangerous Portugal team Wednesday. Thursday, a well-rested German team meets the Italians, who just survived double-overtime to win their match in penalty kicks.
*Please share your favorite Los Angeles soccer-viewing spots in the comments.
One of my favorite things about the Village Idiot, when the game is over, the T.V.s disappear behind ingenious mirrored cabinets.