In fact, the salons Colombian owner Libia Urrego said
stylists and customers alike watch the Soccer World Cup on five TV sets mounted above the
wall to wall mirrors.
What better place to watch the worlds most international sporting event, than in
the worlds most international borough. People even travel from around the area to
Queens, just to experience the international flavor that is essential to the World Cup.
Grocery store clerks hide TVs under the counters and sports bars and restaurant owners
vow to tune their sets to each and every one of the 64 soccer matches. Since the beginning
of the month World Cup fever, or Mundial madness as it is known to fans, has taken hold on
the streets of Queens.
Resistance is futile.
In Astoria, Jimmy Iliopoulos watches the games with the members of his social club,
Soccer Fever. In the dimly lit basement on 32nd Street in Astoria, three TV sets and a
projection screen are tuned to Channel 41, a Spanish-language TV station.
"Its more exciting when they talk in Spanish," Iliopoulos, a native of
The club claims some 400 members from Germany, the Czech Republic, Brazil and Bulgaria.
Last Saturday thirty of them, all male, were engaged in vivid discussions in their native
tongues over the blaring sound of the TV. After school, Iliopouloss eight-year-old
son Billy came by and since Greece didnt qualify this year they both cheer for
Brazil, a four-time World Champion and a favorite to all teamless fans.
Mr. Iliopoulos, a stocky man with striking blue eyes, said he used to play soccer
himself when he was younger. "We discussed the possibility of playing soccer at the
club," he said, and pointing at the middle aged men smoking and drinking, he laughed,
"but were too old."
On Roosevelt Avenue in Elmhurst, stores have stocked up on World Cup merchandise
featuring the rooster mascot Footix and Ronaldo, the Brazilian soccer star. Every TV set
at Rising Star Electronics is tuned to ESPN, and customers come in to ask for the score.
Cars with Colombian or Mexican flags flying out of the windows race by the disapproving
glare of police officers posted virtually at every street corner.
|Above: Soccer fans across the
borough have made sure not to stray far from their television set.
Below: While the United States team did not fare well in its first match,
Queens fans have high hopes for their future.
Photo: U.S. Soccer
"I advised the police to beef up their forces," Councilman John Sabini from
the 25th district in Jackson Heights said. Security hasnt been a problem so far, but
Sabini said depending on the outcome of the games, peoples behavior can change.
"When people lose they tend to go home quietly but when they win they tend to get
excited," he predicted.
As in the past, police officials have assigned a full contingent of cops onlong the
corridor with orders to enforce the NYPDs "Zero Tolerance" policy.
Because of the six-hour time difference, the matches all taking place in France
are broadcast during the day, some as early as 8:30 or 10:00 a.m. and most at 11:30
a.m. or 3 p.m. A lot of fans are at work then and will be missing the matches altogether.
Gabino the cook at Petes Pizza/BBQ on Roosevelt Avenue is among the lucky ones.
He can watch the World Cup at work. A tiny screen that flickers black and white images,
and color on good days sits on top of an industrial-sized, stainless-steel fridge. Gabino
is Mexican but he is rooting for Romania, partly because his boss Mr. Pete is Romanian and
also because Gabino is pragmatic: "they have a better team."
Fans are separated geographically, Colombians in Elmhurst, Mexicans and Argentineans in
Jackson Heights, Italians in Corona, but more often than not, the audience, like the
community, is mixed. In Plaza Garibaldi, a Mexican bar and restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue,
hand-painted banners read Brazil, Mexico and USA indiscriminately.
Armando Carlos the co-owner said he welcomes everybody to watch the matches on his two
"pantallas gigantes," huge projection screen TVs. Plaza Garibaldi also organizes
daily raffles, among the prizes: soccer balls and free tattoos.
The month-old Garden diner at the corner of 75th and Roosevelt is also a friendly
international place to watch. The place features a large screen TV for the customers and a
smaller one turned towards the kitchen for the cooks. Sonia the waitress said the staff
likes any team from Latin America and since her country, Paraguay, didnt qualify,
she is cheering for, you guessed, Brazil.
Most clubs have a no-cover policy for the duration of the World Cup but it isnt
good business for everyone. Chibcha, an upscale Colombian restaurant that usually opens
after five, decided to open for lunch as well. So far it hasnt been a success, but
the restaurants managers are still hoping that as the stakes get higher, people will
ask for two hour lunches to watch the matches.
Pedro Navareti, the manager of the sports bar on Roosevelt Avenue, is also showing
every match to a sparse audience, "people stay home and watch it on cable," he
said, "or they watch it at work."
The group of old men gathered on the sidewalk outside of Degado Travel on Roosevelt
Avenue last Saturday wasnt planning on going to a bar either. Answering
someones query, one man shouted "Zero-Zero."