In My Opinion

David J. Neal: Soundtrack of downtown Miami beats to the rhythm of World Cup

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Crazy for Colombia:</span> Colombian soccer fans at Kukaramakara restaurant in Brickell cheer following a goal by their team in a victory against Greece.
Crazy for Colombia: Colombian soccer fans at Kukaramakara restaurant in Brickell cheer following a goal by their team in a victory against Greece.
Photos by Natalie Fertig / Miami Herald Staff


Back when less of the country got into the World Cup, I told this story of how omnipresent it already was in Miami: While driving around downtown one day in 1998 with my windows down, I realized I could still follow the current game via play-by-play blaring from so many open stores.

A late house exit, a stuck drawbridge and a Brickell-Miami Avenue area transformed into Little Bogota injected a retro moment into Saturday as I tried to park. That task gained a degree of difficulty with Colombia fans running across streets, looking to light somewhere now that the clock had struck noon. Seemingly every corner, every place with a patio teemed with canary-colored jerseys. Cries of hope, groans of disappointment and exclamations of glee acted as play-by-play for the ubiquitous TV screens.

I saw Colombia’s Pablo Armero score against Greece as I rolled past Baru Urbano on Miami Avenue, eyes drawn through the fence opening by the neighborhood wide gasps of anticipation.

Two blocks south, Kukaramakara management raised the velvet rope. The inside standing room crowd pressed backs against the windows and glass doors. Outside, only suspension of gravity could fit another chair on the porch.

Still, some who arrived at the Colombian restaurant on Miami time found it inexplicable the rope guardian kept saying, “No more!”, which was about all the conversation for which he had time. He said it to the angry 6-5 guy who shouted a rant in Spanish before leaving. He said it to the women who didn’t understand he meant what he said no matter their cuteness or lack of attire.

Others on the outside leaned against a rail to watch the game behind those at tables and in shade. Patron Nestor Castillo, in town from Colombia with an elongated table of family, poured cups of water to pass to the sweating women on the rail behind him.

Meanwhile, on the TV, Greece actually possessed the ball more. But their infamously anemic attack — the mind bends in the manner of a David Beckham free kick at their 2004 European Championship — smashes along like thrown dishes in a Greek celebration. They create a mess, then hope to get a Greece-y goal while the defense tries to sweep the area.

In the second half, down 2-0, they almost get the kind of goal that would make their ancient ancestor artists smile. A diving header from Theofanis Gekas rockets for under the crossbar. But the soccer gods, who granted the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie an all-time header Friday, deem this too pretty for Greece. Crossbar. A young woman pauses her lunch at La Boca, down Miami Avenue from the still-bursting Kukaramakara, to rub broadly around the logo of her Colombian jersey.

In another show of carryover from Friday’s Netherlands upset of Spain, tense hums greet each play back to the goalkeeper. All present saw Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ flub of such a ball that turned into a Netherlands’ goal, and even late in the match, there’s a consciousness of goal differential.

The restaurant bursts into applause when the telenovela-worthy visage of injured star Radamel Falcao appears on screen. Colombia would not need Falcao on this day. Another goal, in extra time, ignited Miami Avenue again and propelled Colombia forward with a 3-0 victory.

Car horns honked with celebratory frequency past the restaurants. Fans danced on the side streets and corners or hung out of SUVs flapping the Colombian flag. Kukaramakara prepared for happy Colombians to be joined by Uruguayans of almost equal number for Uruguay vs. Costa Rica, the day’s second game. Uruguayans who paced themselves through the first game, stretched and got ready to enjoy the joy the early afternoon brought Colombia (alas, no).

Once again, the world’s game provided the soundtrack to downtown Miami.

Read more David J. Neal stories from the Miami Herald

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