Kicking and screaming in Berkeley: World Cup fever

Johannesburg's Soccer City.

For most of the world, the 2010 World Cup which opens in Johannesburg’s Soccer City at 7 a.m. this morning Berkeley time is the biggest sporting event imaginable. It has caught on in the U.S. to the extent that ESPN and sister network ABC will broadcast all 62 games live. But the passion and intensity with which El Mundial is followed elsewhere is largely absent here.

There may well be pockets of Berkeley, however, where you’ll find something different. Saul’s Delicatessen on Shattuck is showing all but the earliest matches (there are games that kick off at 4:30 a.m. PDT) live. That may have something to do with co-owner Peter Levitt’s South African roots. There’s only one truly attractive early morning match in any case — Netherlands vs. Denmark on Monday, June 14, so you can see just about all the action you might want to see at Saul’s.

If you want a more partisan crowd, you might want to samba over to Nino’s Brazilian Restaurant & Pizzeria on MLK. They’re showing every Brazilian game live. For many soccer fans, Brazil is at least a second-favorite team because of its tradition of joga bonito (beautiful game) and its unparalleled fans.  That Brazilian soccer tradition has been lost in recent years, replaced by hard men like defender Lucio.

Chile has none of the soccer tradition of Brazil (or Argentina, Uruguay or even Colombia), but they qualified for the World Cup this year. Fans will be biting their fingers at Cafe Valparaiso on Shattuck. I’d guess Chile will handle Honduras easily in its first game (even Cafe Valparaiso will be shut at 4:30 a.m. next Wednesday, however), but may struggle against dull but proficient Switzerland before being taken apart by Spain in the final group match on June 25. (Spain is the true heir of the beautiful game tradition at the moment, with the always-calm Xavi Hernandez orchestrating things from midfield, Cesc Fabregas (if healthy) moving seamlessly from midfield to attack, and stunning forwards in Fernando Torres and David Villa.)


If you know of other Berkeley venues showing World Cup games, let us know.

If you want to follow the World Cup online, I think the best source of coverage and analysis is The Guardian’s football pages.  If you’re stuck at work and can’t watch a TV or a streaming feed on the web, you won’t do better than The Guardian’s minute-by-minute live commentary. It’s simultaneously informative and wittily irreverent. There are many great soccer/football blogs. I particularly enjoy The Run of Play.

Marca, one of Spain’s football dailies (yes, there are multiple daily newspapers that cover soccer — and a handful of other sports, but no non-sports news — in Spain and Italy), has a graphically inventive way for you to see what games are on when, provided you’re happy translating Spanish time to Berkeley (minus nine hours).

If you’re more analytically inclined, you can play with a variety of predictive tools on oil company Castrol’s football site.

I’m going to watch as many games as work and sanity allows. Come semifinals on July 2nd and 3rd, I’m expecting England (heart over head here, certainly) vs Brazil and Argentina vs Spain. The final is likely to be the Brazil vs Spain match that many people have been salivating over for a long time, with Spain going home World Cup champion for the first time ever. Brazil will have to content itself with its record five wins.


Photo of Soccer City by Shine 2010 from Flickr