In My Opinion | David J. Neal

David J. Neal: World Cup watch parties offer good-natured fun for local fans

 
WEB VOTE It appears the entire world is following the World Cup soccer matches in Brazil closely. Are you?

dneal@MiamiHerald.com

The last Spain-Netherlands World Cup game, the 2010 World Cup final, prompted a daylong block party outside Miami Beach’s Tapas y Tintos at Drexel and Espanola Way. And, after Spain’s victory, more than a little celebrating along South Beach’s block of Old World architecture and restaurants.

At the whistle of Friday’s 5-1 thrashing by the Netherlands, Tapas y Tintos co-owner Fernando Jimenez made the sign of buttoning his lip, leaned back toward wife Carol Alvarez with weary eyes and a small smile: “No words.”

Perhaps you can have that aura of perspective when you have a spouse you kiss tenderly in public, a 10-month-old son and a full South Beach restaurant with the whole weekend still ahead. Others outside indulged grumpier emotions.

“It [stinks],” one fan outfitted in a Spain jersey said.

“They needed it,” said the restaurant’s other co-owner, Nicolas De Justo. “It’s too early to know.”

The memory of Spain rebounding from a shocking first-game loss to Switzerland in 2010 assuaged some of the pain Friday. But getting hammered 5-1 (and it easily could’ve been 7-1), even by the always-talented Netherlands? What power country gives up that many goals in World Cup group play these days? What world No. 1, world No. 1 for almost six years, gets beat up 5-1? You know who gets blasted 5-1? Newbies like the United States in 1990 when Czechoslovakia put up that score on us in our return to the World Cup after 40 years of failing to qualify.

It’s the most shocking, thorough defeat of a defending champion since, what? Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers 30 years ago closing out the four-time defending champion Islanders with 7-2, 7-2 and 5-2 Stanley Cup Finals routs? Ingemar Johansson knocking Floyd Patterson down seven times for the heavyweight crown in 1959? FDR over Herbert Hoover?

Tuesday and Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena?

“The Heat thing. That’s more shocking,” Miami Beach’s Andres Romero said. “They lost at home. And [San Antonio’s] old. But they’re hungry. Half the team’s going to retire after this season, so they’re more hungry than the Heat.”

Before the match, yacht manager Ricardo J. Rodriguez said a Netherlands victory “would be like removing a thorn” that’s been in his arm since the 2010 championship game.

Afterward, he laughed, “It’s like removing five thorns!”

As I entered a half hour before the game, a senior citizen in a Spain shirt cautioned me sternly, “If you’re not for Spain, you’ve got to get out!”

I looked down to make sure I hadn’t worn my retro 1970s Netherlands jersey (short sleeves, darn it) or warmup jacket that salutes the 1974 World Cup runners-up and Total Football. Secure of my sartorial neutrality, I indicated Rodriguez’s table, the one splash of Netherlands signature orange in the L-shaped dining room.

“What about them?”

“They’re getting kicked out soon!” laughed the woman.

The group of six took up a table just inside the west door, their uniform attire hiding typical South Florida diversity in lineage — Colombia, Venezuela, the United States, Guatamala, Nicaragua and the Netherlands. Rodriguez gave their names as “Van Alfredo,” “Van Alejandro,” “Van Odra,” “Van Ricardo,” etc.

One bearded patron looking fresh from the sand two blocks east told the bartender he was rooting for the Dutch at Tapas y Tintas only because he bet someone he’d do it.

Apparently, he expected something more rough and tumble than a place where the patrons spent halftime booting the ball back and forth as evenly as their teams had the first half. An occasional horn blast and cowbell accompanied each Spain attack until the barely believable stream of second-half goals.

Afterward, Rodriguez’s group began what seemed like good-natured trash talk with a Spain fan. The back-and-forth escalated in Spanish until the Spain fan uttered a few X-rated words that most longtime Miami residents, even those who don’t speak Spanish, know could bring R-rated violence. He was hustled off and appeared to be getting scolded like a child by some of his comrades.

Meanwhile, actual, knee-high children buzzed around the dribbling feet of adult fans from both teams in games of keepaway. At least two contests remained for both teams. And it was Friday afternoon.

Time for perspective.

Read more David J. Neal stories from the Miami Herald

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