Belgium’s reward for sending the USA home from the World Cup was a quarterfinal meeting with Lionel Messi and Argentina. The Argentines came in to the World Cup as one of the favorites to win the entire tournament so I decided I had to head out and watch the match with Argentina supporters.
I found a restaurant in the East Village called Buenos Aires which on its website invited fans to watch the games “Argentine Style.” It also stated “Special new location right next door.”
Upon arrival I understood why the restaurant needed an overflow space. The actual restaurant was already full, but apparently the owner is opening a second eatery, which as they stated was one door over. Though the new space was not yet officially open, the room was packed and waiters were running back and forth from the actual restaurant with food orders. In addition, the bar area was packed with cases of Quilmes, the most popular beer in Argentina.
The restaurant is the real deal and is owned by a native Argentine Karina de Marco. The overflow room had several Argentina flags and team jerseys on the walls as well as the front entrance. Half the room was wearing the blue and white of the national team and there were even some fans draped in the country’s flag. There also were a number of small children wearing jerseys watching the match along with their parents. It felt more like a family get together than a bar outing to watch soccer.
I chatted with one fan, Paula De Michele who was visiting New York from Buenos Aires. She explained that she was in town visiting her son 23-year-old son Felipe who was sitting next to her. She was nervous about the match as she didn’t feel that Argentina had played very well yet in the World Cup.
De Michele explained that both of her parents were originally from Italy so she supports the Italian national team as well. However, she made it very clear that her loyalty is first for Argentina.
She also told me that she was surprised at the level of interest in the World Cup she has experienced in New York. She and her son had watched the previous day’s match between Brazil and Colombia at Brooklyn Bridge Park and she was amazed at the diversity of the crowd that was on hand for the outdoor viewing.
As for Felipe, he has been in New York for six months working at a hedge fund and is a huge fan of Argentine soccer. When asked what his favorite team is, he proudly announced Boca Juniors.
Throughout the match there were cries of vamos Messi and Messi, Messi, Messi whenever the striker was on the ball. There were also a number of chants that the crowd sang in unison. Everyone was totally focused on the match and it was obvious that the national team brings a lot of pride to the country.
When Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 8th minute the room went nuts and one got the sense that this was going to be an Argentina route. In the end, that was not the case as both teams failed to put much pressure on the keepers. Possession was pretty equal and both teams had ten shots on goal. The one area where Belgium bettered Argentina was not a good one as they were flagged for offside regularly throughout the game.
Messi was probably the best player on the pitch and at one point seemed to dance through four Belgium players while dribbling the ball past all of them.
At the final whistle the entire room cheered wildly and happy fans headed out in the midday heat to celebrate. Next up for Argentina is a semi-final date with Germany.