As the World Cup arrives, Soccer City is getting on board with a local flair

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Soccer fans celebrate Wednesday after Brazil scored a goal against Croatia in a double-decker bus in the Bus Stop Cafe at the World Cup Beer Garden on Northwest 21st Avenue. Portlanders are gathering at all hours to watch the matches across Soccer City USA. The World Cup hit Portland this week, dividing fans by generations.

A quick look around the World Cup Beer Garden in the parking lot of the defunct Gypsy bar (625 N.W. 21st Ave.,) shows a lot of 20- and 30-somethings taking a liquid lunch while enjoying the festive opener between host Brazil and Croatia. It felt like how they watch soccer in Mombasa and Phuket.

Fans bought fish and chips from a converted London bus and lurked, smoking around portapotties. The intense sound and sharp air conditioning of the typical sports bar are not for them. Even blue tarps couldn’t protect the modest, murky TV screens from glare, and the overhead sun shade ended up being a very holey umbrella as the skies opened.

Anna Swan, a server at Salty’s, was planning on watching all her games at bars since she does not have cable. She got her vintage “Brasil” shirt while in Brazil, her mother’s country.

“I wish Brazil had scored first; it would have meant a lot to the people,” she said, showing a little of the performance anxiety Brazil the country is feeling about Brazil the team. “Because they score a lot.”

She plans to watch a lot of games, even a few 9 a.m. ones at work.

Stephen Eckelmann, a Portlander home for the summer from New York University, was happy to see Brazil winning,

although he roots for Germany. He came because his sister and friends suggested it, also for atmosphere — his folks have the games on TV at home a few blocks away.

As the game concluded, Irek Wielgoz stayed to banter with some Croatians and then left smiling in his brand new Brazil jersey.

“I came here for the feeling of fan zone, the feeling of camaraderie with people from all over the world watching the beautiful game,” said the Polish-born Wielgoz. He went to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the games he did not see live, he watched on jumbo screens in public squares and parks with thousands of others. He’s got money on it this time: $20 in a pool. If the favorite, Brazil, goes all the way, he wins $240.

A construction estimator, he has strategically chosen his games and will take a few long lunches. “My schedule is flexible,” he says with a smile.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Soccer fans watch the opening World Cup Beer Garden match between Brazil and Croatia at the pop-up soccer beer garden in Northwest Portland. Its one of several places around the city hosting World Cup viewing events.

Thorns’ TV seminars

Non-soccer fans have long looked on in bemusement that the rest of the world downs tools for a month every four years for this game. Now, that mentality is spreading to American youth. The crowd at the opener was majority millennial, rather like a Portland Timbers MLS game. There were quite a few in Timbers colors.

That team has no players representing their national sides right now. Five countries at the 2104 World Cup are the homelands of a bunch of Timbers starters: Nigeria, Ghana, Costa Rica, the United States and Argentina. Players such as Norberto Paparatto, Diego Valeria and Maximiliano Urruti are naturally rooting for Argentina, according to club spokesman Chris Metz.

The MLS is taking a two-week break, but players will still train, and will either watch games together after training in the common room, or be left to their own devices, according to Metz.

Paul Riley, coach of Portland’s professional women’s soccer team the Portland Thorns, says, “This year I had TVs put in the locker room at Providence Park so the team could watch the World Cup after training.”

He points out that five years ago he met many professional women players who loved the game but didn’t watch it on television.

“I think the foreign players, with the passion they show for the Champions League and the World Cup, they’ve influenced the Americans to watch too. And that’s good because they can all learn so much.”

He says it’s not about the coach being there. “It’s about 10 players going ‘Did you see that? Do you want to go outside and try that?’ Anything that can get somebody off their bums so they can work on something new.”

The entire Thorns team and staff — 26 people — watched the Brazil Croatia opener at Cha, a Mexican restaurant in Northwest. Was it like a seminar, with coach Riley sagely pointing out tactics? “Nah, we just went to have fun. They were screaming every time Brazil got the ball in the box.”

He says the U.S. soccer fan has become more soccer savvy since the last World Cup.

“You see it in the stadiums every week, it’s attracting people in their 20s who want to have a drink and see an exciting game.”

Riley is planning his training sessions around the games — especially England and USA games.

“Me, I’m a huge Liverpool fan, I’m just excited to have three games a day. We salivate for four years for this.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Anna Swan from Brazil cheered her country's team during its first victory in the 2014 World Cup tournament.

As long as work is done

Tourists from the USA (150,000) make up the biggest foreign contingent heading to Brazil according to travel agents. Matthew Moss, head of accounts at Roundhouse, hopes to put a disappointing year of supporting his beloved Arsenal behind him by following England all the way. He and two English pals are jetting down to Rio for 10 days. He booked his main flight a year ago, but getting game tickets was tough.

“I slept with my laptop next to me and we all woke at three in the morning to do the ticket lottery,” says the Londoner.

A bit of wheeling and dealing later they secured tickets for five games in four cities, including England vs. Uruguay.

While in Brazil they might do some schmoozing with contacts at Adidas, but mainly it’s vacation.

“At work we have a 60-inch screen in the common room for the games, but I reckon I saw half the computer screens at work with the games on,” says Moss. “That’s considered fine, so long as the work gets done.”

Moss is also part of the team (with Adidas, Roundhouse and Oregon Sports Authority) putting on a screening of the championship final at noon on Sunday, July 13, in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

André Wolper is the chief executive officer of local startup company Embodee which makes software for 3D rendering of sportswear, one of the trickiest e-commerce categories. He’s leaving his cramped, downtown office to hit the nearby Thirsty Lion pub for games involving the USA and Germany (he’s German by birth and still has the accent). He might also see some games at the Nike campus with friends. Wolper’s seemingly casual attitude deliberately sets the tone for the new office place, where it’s possible to stream games on to work computers, tablets and phones at any time.

“We’re a results-based company, so as long as people do their work, I don’t care what time they come in, or if they take a break for the World Cup,” Wolper says.

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