The 2014 FIFA World Cup taking place in Brazil began on June 12 and will keep the world watching eagerly and waiting earnestly for a winner to be crowned on July 13.
While countries represented in the tournament are greatly wishing for their team to bring home the trophy, countries not represented still tune in for games, often times picking a new team to follow and cheer for till the very end.
One of the countries not represented at the world’s most-watched sporting event is Israel, but that hasn’t stopped its soccer fans.
In Jerusalem, between the sounds of cheering fans and game commentary echoing through the streets, not to mention the sight of soccer on every television screen in sight, it is safe to say that the World Cup is still a big deal in this part of the world.
“There are always a lot more people, everyone comes out for it, it’s always crazy in Israel when the World Cup comes around,” exclaimed Sheeran Ohayon, a manager and head bartender at Mike’s Place Jerusalem.
Many bars that normally don’t have televisions have brought in large projectors and erected them outside. Places that normally open after seven or close earlier than three in the morning (the daily kickoff and conclusion times) are now open through the entirety of all the games in the tournament.
Where there are normally only a few tables outside of a bar, rows and rows of chairs can now be seen. And some places have even created special food and drink menus. It seems that everyone is adapting to accommodate the environment that develops due to the World Cup.
Mike’s Place Jerusalem is one of those places that is taking on the World Cup like it’s their job.
“There is a special menu called the International Sandwich Menu, with themed sandwiches for teams playing in the World Cup,” mentioned Ohayon as he bit into a sandwich of his own and proceeded to talk about hours.
Mike’s Place Jerusalem like many other places are staying open for all games, so yes that means until about 3 a.m. but it’s because there is always a crowd.
While some games attract more people than others, there are always people who want to watch. And although crowds tend to disperse in between games played, they always tend to come back.
England, the Netherlands, Spain, Argentina and Brazil seem to be the most popular teams for Israelis from what Ohayon has observed, but that doesn’t stop crowds from accumulating for games that don’t include any of these teams.
Cheering could be heard down the street from Heleni Hamalka during the Germany-Portugal game. In Cat Square, the US national anthem, as well as chants of U-S-A could be heard throughout the US-Ghana showdown.
And dozens of people could be seen at local bar Hataklit for Italy versus Costa Rica, sitting in front of a giant projector as if they were at the cinema watching a blockbuster.
Due to Israel’s diverse population and tourist variety, it would be hard to believe that there isn’t a fan for each of the 32 teams playing in the World Cup. But the atmosphere of watching games with friends, being amongst eager fans shouting out of joy or disappointment, and becoming a dedicated fan of a team for 90 minutes, is what seems to be the biggest draw of the World Cup.
“I enjoy working during the games,” said Moshe Stern, a waiter at Mike’s Place Jerusalem.
“It’s a lot of fun watching customers get into the games, they create the environment every night.”
With three games being played in one night, the game environment that Stern mentioned has the ability to change multiple times, not just from game to game, but within individual games as well.
Each team brings a different fan base, some louder, some more rowdy, some more reserved, but for the most part, everyone just wants to see who is winning and who is moving on.
Group stage play continues through the week, but as the tournament progresses and teams get knocked out, people are only going to get more into it.
With England and Spain already out, Ohayon noted that “it will be interesting to see who people start to cheer for.”
Regardless of the outcome, as the World Cup moves towards its conclusion, it only makes sense that the crowds will get bigger, the cheering will get louder, and the World Cup environment that is Jerusalem will only continue to intensify.