- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2018

When Philippe Coutinho’s shot curled through the air and ricocheted off the right upright for Brazil’s opening goal at the 2018 World Cup against Switzerland, everyone at The Grill From Ipanema, even a waitress holding a tray of food, stopped to cheer.

The Brazilian bar and restaurant in Adams Morgan was packed with soccer fans wearing green and yellow and sipping caipirinhas.

“Brazilians love this,” manager Ester DiGiovanni said. “The more people the better. They just feel a sense of pride for the soccer.”

At the same moment, the air was let out of the room at Stable, a Swiss-American restaurant on H Street Northeast. But Switzerland fans watching the match there got their turn to celebrate in the 50th minute when Steven Zuber headed in the equalizer off a corner kick.

Stable had a room reserved for about 40 people — a contingent of Swiss Embassy employees and their family members, which included Martin Dahinden, the Swiss Ambassador to the United States. Fans of all ages waved Swiss flags and sporadic chants of “Hop Suisse!” filled the room the rest of the match as Switzerland drew with their powerhouse opponent.

The United States failed to qualify for this World Cup. But in a multicultural city like Washington D.C., soccer fans are still soaking in the tournament en masse. Some new pop-up bars will screen every match, while other long-standing establishments already have their allegiances to countries like England, Germany and Mexico.

‘Headquarters’ for fans

Not long after a U Street sports bar called Prospect closed down at the end of April, some local restaurateurs had an idea.

“It’s such a great location, a phenomenal spot, that it was a shame to see it close during such a big sporting event,” said Steve Ryan, one of the organizers of the “DC World Cup HQ” pop-up bar.

DC World Cup HQ will be open for every World Cup match thanks to a partnership between Social Restaurant Group, which operated Prospect, and Blackfinn Ameripub, where Ryan is an operating partner. Just steps away from one of the U Street Metro stop exits, the bar is decked out with small flags of all 32 competing nations. It’s serving everything from German beer in boot-shaped bierstiefels to carafes of frozen South American cocktails.

“Our goal was potentially what would happen is this would become a beacon for people who love soccer but might not necessarily have a big group of people following the same team,” Ryan said. “So go to ‘the headquarters’ if you’re a Uruguay fan, and wow, there’s another dozen Uruguay fans in here. Now you’ve buddied up with people that you’ll watch the rest of the tournament with.”

Its website calls itself Washington D.C.’s first-ever World Cup pop-up bar, but DC World Cup HQ does have competition in town. World Cup Bar DC has opened for business in the shadow of Audi Field, the soccer-specific stadium for DC United that will open next month.

World Cup Bar DC is an outdoor venue with a 20-foot LED video screen that will show every match. Country-themed drink offerings are also planned there.

Standing-room only

At The Grill From Ipanema, a line of fans in green and yellow flowed out of the door and onto the sidewalk about 20 minutes before kickoff.

“Do you have a reservation?” a server yelled out.

For those without one, it was standing-room only in the bar area of the restaurant.

For the group inside The Grill From Ipanema, a Brazilian restaurant in Northwest, every key pass, cross, shot and save warranted noise. But it was nothing compared to the reaction when Coutinho opened scoring. Ricardo Todling stood, waving a Brazilian flag up and down. The masses in front of the bar rose their arms and jumped. The cheers continued through every replay.

“It’s a great place,” Todling said. “A very friendly environment. They are very receptive of all people, really, not just Brazilians.”

The same enthusiasm is expected at The Queen Vic in Northeast whenever England plays.

Ryan Gordon, co-owner of The Queen Vic, has seen soccer’s popularity increase as more fans enter his British pub. As an official Liverpool bar, throngs of Merseyside faithful gather early on weekend mornings for games.

With the Premier League season concluded, Gordon anticipates strong showings to watch this summer’s World Cup, particularly for England matches. Even without America in the tournament, the ever-growing interest in soccer stateside has maintained excitement for the World Cup.

“I think people are more excited as football catches on here in the States,” Gordon said. “We’ll get a lot of people coming in just because it’s an experience.”

Elephant & Castle’s two locations on 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, an FC Barcelona bar and a Real Madrid bar respectively, attracted fans of both Spain and Portugal when they faced off Saturday.

Elsewhere in D.C., Cafe Citron plays host for Colombia fans, El Centro D.F. is partial to Mexico and Sauf Haus Bier Hall attracts a large German contingent.

When England and Belgium meet on June 28, Gordon, who also owns Granville Moore’s, a Belgian restaurant down the street from The Queen Vic, presumes he’ll balance two sets of fanbases. He has added TVs into Granville Moore’s so patrons can watch the match.

“We’re going to have a big rivalry that day,” Gordon said.

Todling said he normally wears an American flag along with his Brazilian flag during the World Cup, but opted against it this year because the U.S. didn’t qualify.

Still, the atmosphere at The Grill From Ipanema, and in the District at large, hasn’t slackened.

“It’s always packed, and it’s always busy,” DiGiovanni said. “I think people appreciate the soccer, the sport, and they embrace it, all cultures.”

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