In my quest to watch the World Cup with natives of as many of the participating nations as possible, New York has truly proven to be a microcosm of the world. Every country competing in Brazil has a native fan base living within the five boroughs of the city.
“The beauty of New York City is its melting pot character. Unlike anywhere else on the planet, people from across the globe flock here, each new city dweller adding to our metropolis’ overall diversity. Historically, New York was a hub for immigrants, and it remains so today. As many as 800 languages are spoken throughout the five boroughs and about 36% of the population is foreign born.”
Having viewed games with fans of a dozen nations so far, I realized that I had yet to head out to watch Germany play. There are a number of good options on where to go in New York to watch soccer with German fans. First on my list had to be Heidelberg in Yorkville on the Upper East Side.
Yorkville was once known as Germantown due to the number of immigrants from Germany that settled in the neighborhood. One of the remaining remnants of this era is Heidelberg Restaurant. Opened in 1936, Heidelberg is still run by the same family.
Heidelberg is the real deal. Once you enter you automatically feel transported to Bavaria. The restaurant serves traditional German fare such as schnitzel and strudel and of course serves a variety of beers.
Germany was facing Ghana in the group stages and the place was packed. Every table was taken and the bar was overflowing with spectators.
I spoke with Kurt Krautheim who was at the bar. He explained that despite being born in Philadelphia, he is of German descent and wanted to watch the match with other German fans.
Andreas Matischak is the third generation of his family to work at the restaurant. While not a sports bar, he told me that Heidelberg gets great crowds when the German national team plays. This was evident from the turnout that day. I also learned that football talent runs in the Matischak family. Andreas’ father, Klaus Matischak was a striker in the German Bundesliga and also played for the German national team.
Among all the waiters and kitchen staff, I noticed an older woman who was walking from table to table checking in on customers. She is Barbara Heimer, who at 88 has lived next door to the restaurant since she first moved to New York from Germany in 1963. She is a friend of the Matischak family and though not an official employee, comes in regularly to help out.
The match itself was goalless at the half. The excitement level was finally raised when Mario Goetze opened the scoring in the 51st minute. Ghana pulled two back before Miroslav Klose equalized in the 71st minute. The game ended 2-2.
Despite not getting the win they wanted, the fans at Heidelberg remained and a few more beers were certainly poured.
Lorely was already packed one hour before game time so I headed to the nearby Paulaner Brauhaus and Restaurant. This turned out to be a great choice. Paulaner serves traditional German food and the bar contains two beer tanks from the Paulaner Brewery in Germany. Paulaner's brewer Andreas Heidenreich creates special beers for the bar using these tanks.
Paulaner was filled with people wearing German national jerseys and holding German flags. The restaurant side was completely booked and packed with folks waiting to watch the match on a large screen. The bar area was jammed as well.
As I made my way in, I spoke with a young man named Stefan who was wearing a German soccer shirt. He told me that he is from Stuttgart but currently lives and works in New York. He explained that his friends and brother were in Brazil for the World Cup and that they have tickets for the final in Rio. He added that if Germany defeated Brazil, he would be booking a flight to Rio as one of the tickets was intended for him.
As the match began I chatted with David Ramirez and Jurgen Wirges. Ramirez was born in Colombia and had been rooting for his country in the World Cup. Now that they were out of the tournament, he was just out to watch the match with his friend.
Wirges grew up in Caracas, Venezuela and was there to support Germany. He told me that his mother was born in Germany and moved to Venezuela after she met his father. Proving that you are never too old to learn something new, Wirges explained to me that there is a large population of Venezuelans that are of German descent.
It didn’t take long for the crowd to get in to the match as Thomas Mueller gave the Germans the lead in the 11th minute. We didn’t know it yet, but the party was just beginning. Germany scored four more goals within the first half hour and the crowd in Paulaner were singing, hugging each other and just plain celebrating. By half time everyone appeared to have a giant glass of beer in hand.
Someone who was already looking forward to the final was Denise Loci. She was in New York after having spent time working as an au pair in the Washington, D.C. area. The Hanover native was heading back home to Germany in a few days and was excited to be able to watch the championship match with her family.
In the dining room I met a mother and her young son who was wearing a Lukas Podolski jersey. She told me that they were from England but were rooting for Germany. When I asked her why, she told me that they were fans of Arsenal in the English Premier League and three of the German national team members play for the club. After England was knocked out, they chose to support Germany.
The second half was more of the same. Germany added two more goals and dominated the match. After the 7-1 victory the festive atmosphere at Paulaner continued. Of all the matches that I had watched during the course of the World Cup, this was the rowdiest crowd of all. Then again it was the craziest match of the tournament with the Germans totally destroying and embarrassing the hosts.
By the end of the game it felt more like a Saturday night than a Tuesday afternoon. Some of those fans are probably still celebrating. I’m also hoping that Stefan from Stuttgart is on his way to Brazil for Sunday’s final at the Maracana in Rio.