The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off June 14 in Moscow. Meet the South Florida fans of every country in the tournament and learn about their best memories, favorite players and predictions.
Name: Hesham Ali.
Lives: Davie, moved here 1998.
Memories of your national team: I was already in the States and Egypt was in the World Cup. They were playing in Europe, so many friends and family in Egypt celebrated in the streets. It really advanced our national pride. It was a huge event.
Favorite players: Mo Salah is a national hero. He is a phenomenon in Egypt. Everyone is taking interest in his life and ways. Last week, him being injured is very big news. We are disappointed. There are a lot of emotions and discussions about that leading into the World Cup.
Where will you watch the World Cup: Group of friends plan to watch together.
Favorite national cheer/chant: None I can think of.
Best local spot to get Egyptian food in South Florida: Al Salam and Al Natour in Fort Lauderdale.
World Cup prediction: Happy if they go to Round of 16. Have not advanced beyond that before. Round of 8 would be exceeding everybody’s expectation.
Name: Mike Lashoff.
Lives: Boca Raton. Moved to USA in 1978, to South Florida in 2005.
Memories of national team: I grew up in the Communist USSR days. Every kid who was in soccer school had one goal, to wear the shirt with CCCP on it. The best result they had was fourth in the 1966 World Cup in England. That is the first one I remember watching.
Favorite players: The goalkeeper Lev Yashin was the best in the world in the 1960s and one of the best of all time.
Where he will watch the World Cup: at home
Favorite national cheer/chant: none
Best local spot to get Russian food: Tatiana Restaurant in Hallandale, great food and a big show.
World Cup prediction: Since Saturday, my prediction changed (because Egyptian star Mo Salah, playing for Liverpool in the Champions League final, hurt his shoulder). With Salah, Russia would not make it out of the group. But if Salah isn’t able to play, Russia has a chance to advance.
Name: Feras Almadhi.
Lives: Coral Gables, since 2015.
Memories of national team: We don’t have many great memories because our team doesn’t always qualify for the World Cup. It is a rivalry among Egypt, Tunisia and Egypt. We qualified for the 2006 Cup, tied Tunisia, but lost to Spain and Ukraine. Even though the scores were harsh, everyone had fun watching at the cafes and hookah lounges back home because just qualifying is big for us.
Favorite players: Sami Al-Jaber is a Saudi legend. He played in four World Cups, is one of the all-time top scorers and has been active in Saudi Arabian soccer for many years since he retired.
Where will you watch World Cup: I wish I could be in Saudi Arabia. I will watch from the sports bar at Brickell City Center, next to the movie theater. They have huge screens. I go almost every week to watch big matches there.
Best Chant: "Go Green Falcons!”
Best local spot to get Saudi Arabian food: The best Arabic food overall is at Al Amir on Bird Road in Miami and Al Natour and Al Salam in Fort Lauderdale.
World Cup prediction: We have a chance to advance from the group, but I’m not optimistic. We open against Russia, and they are at home. If Mo Salah plays for Egypt, we have no chance. If he is injured and can’t play, we have a chance.
Name: Fernando Abella.
Lives: Coral Gables, since 2003.
Memories of national team: The best thing about our team is that our players have more passion for their national team than their clubs. Great memories of the 2010 World Cup. We lost to Holland in the quarters after beating Ghana in PKs.
Favorite players: Edinson Cavani is my favorite player now.
Where will you watch the World Cup: At my house.
Favorite national cheer/chant: "Vamos Uruguay!”
Best local spot to get Uruguayan food: Dona Tota on Bird Road. It has all the Uruguayan cuts of beef, sausage, and very good salads.
World Cup prediction: Uruguay will make the semifinal. Our team is good enough. We have two forwards who could start on any team in the world. Good defenders. And our midfielders are young guys who play in Italy, so it is a good mix of youth and veterans.