Asbury Park is a scaled-down big city with the corresponding highlights and problems. But where’s the soccer?

The Match: Brazil 0 – 3 Netherlands

The Date: Saturday, July 12

The Venue: Asbury Park Yacht Club on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ

Outside the Asbury Park Yacht Club on the boardwalk in Asbury Park. Sort of like the Copacabana.
Outside the Asbury Park Yacht Club on the boardwalk in Asbury Park. Sort of like the Copacabana.

I. We can regurgitate platitudes about pride and redemption when we discuss the merits of the World Cup consolation match, but what’s the point of the game? The third-place match is the one meaningless contest in a tournament that otherwise means a lot, probably too much, to a lot of people.

No doubt the players want to win. So do the gamblers. The match provides an extra opportunity for Golden Boot and Golden Ball candidates to bolster their resumes. Remember when Diego Forlan snagged an incredible goal in the 2010 consolation game and won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player the next day? Unused substitutes get one last chance to appear in the tournament. The Netherlands even brought on third-string GK Michael Vorm for the final minutes of the match — that was nice. In addition, third-place finishers probably earn a little more than the fourth-place scrubs.

Nevertheless, the consolation match seems to exist as one more chance for FIFA to squeeze money out of the World Cup. The 2014 third-place playoff will be remembered for the prolonged torture experienced by the Brazilian players in front of their countrymen. Brazil allowed ten goals in two games and Fred, the scapegoat of the uncreative Selecao, is likely seeking asylum.

I still love the third-place match, though. I had to spend as much as time as I could with the World Cup before the World Cup went away for four years. So I went to my favorite Asbury Park bar to watch the Netherlands smear Brazil.

A few chilled out bros take in the meaningless third-place playoff at APYC in Asbury Park
A few chilled out bros take in the meaningless third-place playoff at APYC in Asbury Park

II. Before we strolled over to APYC, my friends and I spent hours on the beach. It was like being at the Copacabana but with fewer women in thongs and bronze men in speedos.

APYC is unique because it is part bar, part surf shop. The shop portion is called Lightly Salted, and it is separated from the bar by a short wooden railing. You can drink beer while you browse boardshorts. I imagine the shop profits from bennies’ alcohol-induced straw fedora purchases.

Illuminated liquor bottles are sunk into the cement bar.  A naked wooden mermaid hovers above the scene near a long ship mast. Meanwhile, a taxidermied hammerhead looms from the wall near the bathrooms. The crowd was mostly made up of tattooed guys in long, ostentatious swim trunks.

APYC is definitely not a sports bar. In fact, it typically shows surf videos or black-and-white films, which people watch from beanbag chairs. Back in June, when the Rangers were playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, the bar broadcast surfing highlights instead of hockey, though Asbury Park is well within the NYC sphere of influence.

I have seen how the World Cup can turn any space into a soccer pub, however, so I wondered how APYC would respond. The bar-shop showed the game, but it’s unclear how many people cared, especially since it was already 2-0 when we arrived.

Whatever. The game didn’t mean anything. Now I’m on a mission to find real soccer culture in AP.

III. With only about 16,000 residents inside 1.42 square miles, Asbury Park is a microcosm of a big city. The town attracts a more alternative crowd than most shore towns and the high hipster population ensures that AP doesn’t fit Snookie and the Situation Jersey Shore stereotypes. Asbury Park prides itself on its musical tradition. Bruce Springsteen named one of his albums Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ and the famous Stone Pony, where Bruce has played more shows than any other venue, is a few blocks away from APYC.

There’s also a prominent gay culture in Asbury Park. Many stores and restaurants display large rainbow Pride flags and the Empress Hotel, a large gay-oriented resort, sits by the beach. AJ, an engineer visiting from Philly for the first time, seemed surprised.

“I was just wondering, but are you gay or straight?” he asked me awkwardly while we chatted during the game. AJ then quickly explained that he appreciates how Asbury embraces gay culture. I guess AJ doesn’t get out much.

There are new luxury condos, historic hotels and a vibrant downtown, but proceed one more block and you encounter check cashers and social service agencies.

Unfortunately, nearly 1/3 of Asbury’s residents live below the federal poverty line and the town experiences the corresponding high crime rate. On a more positive note, the town respects its undocumented immigrants and issues ID cards to all residents. Asbury Park truly is a scaled-down City, home to diverse cultures and exciting entertainment as well as underserved communities and complex social issues.

I’m still trying to figure out Asbury Park’s soccer culture, though. I hope someone from Asbury Park F.C. will enlighten me. I’d like to watch some meaningful games down there soon.

OVERALL ATMOSPHERE: 7/10 at APYC, where few people seemed to care about the meaningless match, but come on, we were at a bar on the boardwalk watching soccer on a beautiful day. That experience boosts the ranking a few notches. 

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