On the Rhine between Brooklyn and Manhattan

The Match: THE 2014 WORLD CUP FINAL Germany 1 – 0 Argentina

The Date: Sunday, July 13

The Venue: The big German viewing party sponsored by Zum Schneider restaurant along the East River in Manhattan

The German festival along the East River during the 2014 World Cup Final
The German festival along the East River during the 2014 World Cup Final

The World Cup was about to start and I had already been kicked out of two restaurants. This was back in June, when I set off on my Soccer Tour of NYC from West 46th St. near Times Square, a gray strip of Manhattan called “Little Brazil” that contrasts any popular notion of fluorescent Carnaval Brazil. Anyway, I found out that the name is a bit of an anachronism. There are only three Brazilian restaurants and one small shop in “Little Brazil.”

Yet, that day at least, Little Brazil lived up to its name. Yellow-kitted Brazilian fans swarmed the block for that opening match and booked up the first two places I visited. At both, frazzled staff escorted me outside. I peered over the shoulder of the manager who blocked my entry at the second eatery and spotted a tall, slender woman filming a segment for Globo, Brazil’s biggest television station. Luckily, I slid into Ipanema, the third Brazilian restaurant, and sat at the bar for the match.

Thirty-one days and twenty-five unique soccer sites later, my trip came full circle. I was watching the World Cup FInal at the large outdoor viewing event along the East River among thousands of German fans when, at halftime, that tall, slender Globo reporter approached me.

Tell me about your experience watching the World Cup in New York City, she asked. What were the highlights?

Now, she had no idea I was writing a blog based on my World Cup Tour of NYC so she must have superb reporterly instincts. She pushed the mic toward me and I quickly explained the theme of my project, plugged the blog and then rattled off about five of my most memorable experiences (Iran viewing party, Costa Rica party, the USA/Ghana match, Croatian hooligans, Ivorian restaurant). All of that got cut of course, but Globo did leave in this exuberant bit (start at the :48 mark):

“The best part to me has been the excitement and the community among the fans of each nation in New York City,” I said. “The world meets in New York City and I can’t imagine a better place to watch the World Cup.”

So this was it. My last chance to experience the excitement and the community among World Cup fans in New York City. Fortunately, my girlfriend Katie suggested we watch the match among the Germans at Zum Schneider’s East River viewing party.

The event felt like a carnival. Fussball fans from across the area gathered on a thin strip of pavement between the East River and the elevated FDR Drive. But it seemed like we were between the Rhine and Autobahn. A chain-link fence separated the party from the rest of Manhattan.  When my crew and I arrived at 2 pm, an hour before the match, the queue to enter stretched longer than a line for a Six Flags roller coaster.

While we waited on the wrong side of the fence, a middle-aged man named Greg approached us. He wore a Zum Schneider Germany t-shirt and he held eight empty beer cups. He urged us to get inside so we could join the festivities. We chatted for longer than I expected until he reached his index and middle fingers through a link. We shook fingers. See you on the other side, Greg, I said.

I didn’t see Greg again though because the festival was packed with thousands of people. I’ll never know how many $9 beers he bought. The event sold out shortly after Germany shellacked Brazil and clinched a spot in the Final. I imagine people bought tickets after goal #3 that afternoon.

A video board towered over the scene while a band played polka tunes and German folk songs from a stage in the center of the gathering. Bartenders poured German beers into plastic cups behind the stage. At other tents, vendors sold sauerkraut, sausages and Greg’s Germany t-shirts. Each shirt featured a large number 12, which I think stood for the 12th man, a la Texas A&M and the Seattle Seahawks. That’s a great example of multi-culturalism and globalization among NYC’s soccer fanatics.¹

I didn’t see a Bounce Haus at this carnival, but there must have been a face painting booth somewhere:

A confident German fan before the match.
A confident German fan before the match.
That same German fan, content after the match.
That same German fan, content after the match.

The crowd was loose and friendly so we claimed a comfortable spot in front of the stage. The MC, who doubled as the band’s drummer and lead singer, spurred on the brigade of enthusiastic German characters. He wore a Zum Schneider shirt and lederhosen with a Deutschland scarf hanging from a belt loop (?). His hair was bleached in a hexagonal soccer ball pattern. Throughout the match, he led several pro-Germany cheers including the catchy “Super Deutschland” tune. I think he cried when Germany won the match, though the moisture on his face may have been beer pouring from his hair.

The festival emcee at halftime
The festival emcee at halftime
SUPER DEUTSCHLAND. This guy remembers all of Germany's World Cup titles.
SUPER DEUTSCHLAND. This guy remembers all of Germany’s World Cup titles.

At halftime, the ska band played “99 Luftballoons” and other lively songs while people openly smoked weed. A woman next to us wrapped a Germany t-shirt around her breasts like a tube top. Her friends chucked full beers at each other over and over again. Then the clouds burst and poured rain for about fifteen minutes. There was a major celebratory vibe. It was like a concert and Germany wasn’t even winning!

I asked Daniel, the guy with face paint and sandy hair in that top photo, how he felt about Germany’s chances.

“I’m confident,” he shouted. “Maybe I’m too confident and that makes me nervous!”

Daniel is an architect who told me his family gathered in Hamburg to watch the match, have fun and get drunk. He didn’t seem disappointed about missing the family event, however. Germany represented itself well at the East River party.

Men and women waved large German flags. Fans wore thirty-years’ worth of Germany jerseys as well as bucket hats, scarves, flag bandanas and assorted accessories. A guy stood on a platform and blasted an airhorn. Kirsten, a woman next to us, passed out German flag leis. Several people in the crowd performed magic finger wiggles and bellowed oooOOOOOOOOO! before corner kicks. Even the bartenders were invested in the match. They shouted and embraced when Gonzalo Higuain’s goal was called back for offside in the 32′.

When Mario Gotze finally scored out of nowhere, the festival exploded. I fumbled for my phone to film the celebration, but one of the revelers slammed into me. I flung my phone and the screen cracked. I simply wasn’t prepared for that goal. It seemed like most of the crowd around us had also simmered into a tense, quiet state as we neared a penalty kick shootout.

Then Gotze netted The Goal That Launched A Thousand Beers. The festival reignited and it rained again, but this time Hofbrau fell from the sky.

Beer-soaked fans celebrate Germany winning the 2014 World Cup
Beer-soaked fans celebrate Germany winning the 2014 World Cup

OVERALL ATMOSPHERE: 9/10 at the giant German viewing party where elated fans celebrated Germany’s fourth World Cup title. The band was excellent and the crowd was fun. I couldn’t help imagining what the celebration will be like in NYC when the USA one day wins its first World Cup. 

¹Another great example of multiculturalism — I spotted many people wearing Germany jerseys paired with Yankees baseball caps.

One comment

  1. Dave:

    Thanks for great reading throughout the World Cup and a brand new perspective on the tournament .  I always felt that I was right there at all these places with you!  And I know that you inspired Mom and I to watch the championship game from the plaza in Oranjestad in Aruba.



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