There have been a number of surprise teams at the current World Cup and one of those has been Colombia. The Colombian national team had not qualified for a World Cup since 1998, yet this current squad has gone further than any in the past. Their swagger and style of play led them to the quarterfinals and 22-year-old James Rodriguez has become the tournament’s breakout star.
New York City is home to a large Colombian population so I set out to watch Colombia play with fans of the country’s national team.
While Queens is where you’ll find the majority of Colombian restaurants, Dulce Vida Café is one of the few authentic Colombian restaurants in Manhattan. The Upper East restaurant was showing Colombia’s 12 p.m. match versus the Ivory Coast in the group stages.
Dulce Vida Café is owned by a married couple from Bogota and serves Colombian entrees, sweets and coffees. As I arrived, I was greeted out front by a Colombian flag and a sandwich board listing the day’s specials. It also announced the fact that the restaurant would be showing Colombia versus Costa de Marfil (the Spanish name for Ivory Coast).
Despite the midday kick-off every table inside the small restaurant was filled with fans wearing Colombian jerseys. Other customers stood and watched while waiting for their take-out orders.
I chatted briefly with owner Maria Marquez-Hass, but she was so busy with the packed café that we weren’t able to have a full conversation. It’s obvious that Colombia’s World Cup success has been good for business.
A couple of diners told me that the restaurant is the real deal and they had left work in order to watch the match with other Colombian friends.
The half ended goalless and the lunch crowd lingered to watch the second half. They were rewarded as Colombia was up by two goals in the 70th minute. A bit of tension was added when Gervinho pulled one back for Ivory Coast in the 73rd minute, but Colombia held out for the win.
With Colombia taking on Brazil in the quarterfinals, I decided to try a different spot where Colombian fans would be gathering. The Football Factory was the chosen destination, but when I arrived I found a long line and was told at the front door that the place was already full.
There was an Irish bar next door where fans that were unable to get in to the Football Factory were going. I joined them and watched the match at Foley’s.
Foley’s is a sports fans paradise as the bar is filled with 3000 autographed baseballs, hundreds of bobbleheads and jerseys of soccer and hockey teams from all over the world.
With fans unable to get in next door, Foley’s was packed with fans of Colombia and a few Brazilian fans sprinkled in.
The odds were truly stacked against Colombia as they were facing Brazil in Brazil with a crowd totally against them. Regardless, the Colombians held their own and the match was pretty even on possession, and shots on goal.
I spoke with Mauricio Malagon who was with friends and family to watch Colombia. While Malagon was born in New York, both of his parents were from Colombia. He moved to Bogota a year ago for work and told me that he was in Colombia for the team’s earlier matches in the tournament. He explained that everyone in the entire country was wearing the national team’s jersey and watching the matches.
Brazil got off to a great start when Thiago Silva slotted home in the 7th minute. One obnoxious Brazil fan made a spectacle of himself and celebrated wildly in front of the Colombian fans. Luckily for him, they pretty much ignored him.
The match remained 1-0 until the 68th minute when Brazil defender David Luiz scored on an amazing free kick over the Colombian wall and the goalkeeper’s reach. Once again the obnoxious Brazil fan taunted the Colombia fans with his celebration.
Spirits were raised in the 80th minute when Colombia was awarded a penalty. Rodriguez coolly put the ball in to the back of the next to bring Colombia within one.
Unfortunately for Colombia, they were unable to pull even and the match ended 2-1 to Brazil. The Colombian fans at Foley’s were bummed, but proud of how well their country performed on the World stage.