The Match: France v. Germany
The Date: Friday, July 4
The Venue: Loreley Restaurant and Biergarten (and dungeon), Lower East Side, Manhattan
The crowd was smushed into the dim dungeon under Loreley, a German biergarten in the Lower East Side. The quarterfinal match between eternal rivals France and Germany was about to begin. France looked strong throughout the tournament while Germany had faltered. The Germans tied Ghana and just eked out a win over Algeria a few days earlier. So naturally, tensions were high among the German fans, right?
“Why do you have to show us your ass, man?” Kim, the guy next to me shouted at another fan blocking our view of the projector screen. “It’s not that good looking!”
The room cracked up. The standee chuckled and sat down. Kim’s early commentary set the tone for our match experience. The fans, who were loose from the start, further relaxed when Mats Hummels scored an early goal for Germany. France rarely challenged and Germany won 1-0. The Germans’ success prompted rounds of the Routers’ stadium anthem “Let’s Go (Pony),” adapted to the setting:
“Clap clap clap-clap-clap clap-clap-clap-clap Deutsch-land!”
Throughout the match, the crowd at Loreley mocked the French fans on TV.
“Awwwwww,” they sighed sarcastically whenever the cameras picked up a pouting Frenchwoman or moping child.
“Sacrebleu!” someone shouted at a surprised fan on TV.
More emboldened fans chimed in with “Au revoir! Auf Weidersehen!” as the final whistle approached. It seemed the European equivalent of Americans sardonically singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” near the end of victories.
Three years ago, I was at resort in Tenerife with my family on the 4th of July. The Canary Islands and the Southern coast of mainland Spain are basically the Florida of Europe. The resort was filled with German vacationers and we were the only American family. My brother and I pissed our neighbors off by singing patriotic songs on our porch at 2 am.
“Are you serious?” A tired mom shouted down to us. She had probably waited for ages before she finally decided enough was enough. “We have been trying to sleep for hours!”
This year, I vowed to be more respectful as I celebrated the Fourth amid a crowd of happy Germans and Teutophiles. The Friday holiday seemed to influence people’s good moods, though it was unclear if everyone grasped the significance of the day.
Kim and his wife Dan were engaged in an ongoing US History competition. Dan asked me A) What does the 4th of July commemorate B) From whom did the USA gain its independence and C) What year did the USA declare its independence.
When I told her, American independence, England and 1776, Dan cringed and Kim grinned. He said he aced the July 4th Civics quiz by studying Wikipedia.
Kim and Dan turned out to be two of the most interesting people I have met on my soccer tour of NYC. They are a power couple. Dan is a real estate lawyer from China who said she closed a multi-million dollar deal with Chinese investors earlier that morning. After the deal, she and Kim changed from business attire to German gear and beelined for Loreley.
Kim is an economist known as The Bike Ambassador because he cycled from Portugal to China to raise money for a Vietnamese children’s charity. Along the way, he got caught up in a crossfire between the military and the Taliban and went four days without food. Check out the website for his Bike Ambassador project. Kim and Dan drove a car to Loreley, by the way.
Before Katie and I arrived at Loreley, we stopped at Zum Schneider, a German hotspot on Avenue C around 10:45 am. There was already a line up the block and you couldn’t get in without a ticket, so we took a quick cab ride downtown to Loreley.
We entered the crowded bar area, bought pints of Bitburger (one of eleven German beers on tap) and headed to the outdoor biergarten, where the Wimbledon men’s semifinal was playing on a projector screen. I chatted with a blonde guy named Florian who wore German flag sandals and a Bastian Schweinsteiger jersey. Florian told me we made the right decision by coming to Loreley.
Unfortunately, a waitress said there was no standing in the biergarten. Katie and I sought shelter in the cellar, a cramped brick room with a few picnic benches facing a projector screen. The tables were packed with people in Klose, Ozil, Ballack, Podolski and Schweinsteiger jerseys. A few others wore German flag cloaks and face paint. One man had a flag kilt wrapped around his waist. I was the only one wearing a hamburger/french fry shirt.
Sadly, no one commented on my neat shirt, which Katie once tried to hide in the woods. My style fit the mood of the crowd, though.
One guy in a green Germany jersey carried a circular tray filled with small glasses of Kölsch. He passed beers around to me and others in our area. The tray, called a kranz, is a Cologne custom, Kim told me.
At halftime, another man named Ryan from San Diego explained how he and his German wife met when she was studying abroad. The story lasted about twenty minutes, but it wasn’t even boring. There was something special and cheerful about this crowd.
OVERALL ATMOSPHERE: 8.5/10 for the biergarten dungeon that fostered great community among the German fans. Loreley hosted the happiest, friendliest fans I’ve been with so far this tournament.