A rambunctious, standing-room-only crowd filled the Britannia Arms in Capitola Village on Friday as the U.S men’s national soccer team tied England 0-0 in Qatar. The Americans need a victory against Iran on Tuesday to advance to the World Cup’s round of 16.
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On Black Friday, it was all about the red, white and blue.
A throng of Santa Cruz County soccer fans packed into Britannia Arms in Capitola Village to watch Friday’s FIFA World Cup match between the U.S. men’s national team and England, with every seat filled and little room even to stand as the teams played to a 0-0 draw in Qatar.
“I put money before the tournament on the U.S.A. to win the group,” bartender Andy Hewitt, a native Londoner, told Lookout’s Kevin Painchaud, “but obviously I’m English so today, I want England to win.”
The rambunctious crowd, which spilled out on the Brit’s patio along the Esplanade, was a mix of supporters of both teams.
“Definitely rooting for both sides, but a little bit more England than U.S.A.,” said Briton David Scholar, who was watching the game with Santa Cruzan Jonathan Crow. “Rooting for the U.S.A.,” said Crow, “but I wouldn’t mind seeing England go far.”
Even George Michael Henderson — better known to Bay Area sports fans as Krazy George, inventor of the wave and vibrant presence at stadiums large and small — was on hand.
“Professional cheerleader for the last 45 years, I was the World Cup cheerleader in ‘94 officially for the U.S.A. Now I’m with the San Jose Earthquakes,” he said. “I love Andy (Hewitt) and I love the Britannia Arms, so I showed up here for the World Cup game.”
While the competition on the field was the focus Friday, many fans did admit to some mixed feelings given the controversy surrounding Qatar’s hosting of the event. The country has drawn criticism for its poor treatment of the migrant workers brought in to build the venues and infrastructure needed to host the World Cup; thousands are reported to have died amid brutal conditions.
Many have also protested Qatar’s ban on same-sex relationships and its treatment of LGBTQ residents. FIFA has also faced criticism for moving the World Cup from its traditional summer schedule because of Qatar’s extreme heat, upsetting some European teams who were forced to pause their season.
“I have a problem with Qatar having it, to be honest,” David Van Beveren, a Santa Cruzan who has been to three World Cups, told Painchaud. “Forget about the fact that it’s the wrong time of year — all the stuff you hear about the workers, the term ‘slave labor’ has been used.”
“I don’t think it’s in FIFA’s best interest in the long term to be putting an event somewhere that’s so restrictive like that,” he added, taking soccer’s world governing body to task. “It puts them in a bad light.”
“Disgraceful,” Hewitt agreed of the monthlong tournament taking place in the Middle Eastern country in November and December rather than in summer. “Interrupting league play across the world, alcohol ban, human rights issues … disgusting.”
Though there ended up being no goals to celebrate during a contest in which both teams had their chances, there was chanting and cheering throughout, and smiles and cheers that gave way to a postgame singalong of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
With teams getting three points in the group standings for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss, England (4 points) is in the driver’s seat in Group B, whose top two teams will advance to the next round. After a pair of draws, the Americans have 2 points and must win their final match of group play to move on to the round of 16.
The U.S. finishes group play Tuesday against Iran (11 a.m. PT, televised by Fox and Telemundo).