17 June 2006

World Cup Heaven

The World Cup started last Friday, and to date I have watched about twelve games. I had been hoping to find a cool hang-out in which to watch the matches. It is so much more fun with a crowd of football-crazy enthusiasts. So far, no real luck.

Opening game night, I went to the local pub out here in the burbs, where I met two friends. I was worried that it would be crowded and there would be no place to sit. The game started at 11pm, so I arrived at 10:30 to find an empty bar, save for my friends and a table of young kids and their father. It was nice, I enjoyed the game, but there was none of the party atmosphere that I had been waiting four years for.

The next night, a bunch of us went into town to a “sports bar”. I’d been told that it was a kick-back, unpretentious spot, in contrast to the other available venues. What it was, was icky. The place was nothing more than a medium sized, concrete cavern, set up in a theater arrangement. A giant screen hung above the small stage at the front. The seating area in front of the screen contained a total of six tables with comfortable chairs. Behind the tables there were a few, small, tall tables with bar stools. Behind that was the other half of the bar, the floor being about two feet higher than the loge seats. A counter ran along the divide between the two, and my friends and I were able to grab three stools.

It was crowded and noisy and I noticed that there was not nearly enough seating. The owner had obviously not spent any money on decoration. Concrete floor, concrete walls, a few bar stools and a lot of empty space, now being filled with bodies. The noise level without people would have been in the upper 200 decibels, what with the TV sound turned all the way up and the economy, concrete acoustics. Worse, the reception on the big screen sucked. It looked like you were watching old newsreel footage. It only improved after the match had ended.

As with all Saigon nighttime establishments, the waitresses were all young things in the requisite uniform; skin-tight jeans, cut so low that in any position other than standing straight up, you have butt-crack hanging out. On top, they all wear teeny, form fitting tank tops, sort of a Hooters-of-the-East concept. That doesn’t bother me. I am, however, less than pleased with the service which is pretty much non-existent even though there are ample amounts of servers. And I don’t blame the young women. They obviously have never been trained. They tend to follow each other around, looking lost, and occasionally try to grab your half-full glass. They have no idea about how to take orders, clean tables, or what to do with themselves.

It really was hard to get into the game, what with the poor television reception, the uncomfortable seating arrangement, and the noise, not to mention the loud group of Afrikaners to our left watching the rugby match on a small TV on the wall.

The saving grace of the evening was coming home and watching Trinidad and Tobago-Sweden play a fantastic game, in the comfort of my living room. Although I had wanted to watch with a crowd, personal viewing was preferable to what I had found so far in the city. Really, I just should have gone to an outdoor Vietnamese coffee house. The atmosphere would have been much better, I think.

Games are on at 8 and 11pm, and at 2am, so I have been forced to watch the weekday games at home instead of searching for a better place. On Tuesday night, I was just settling down to watch the 8pm South Korea-Togo game when I noticed that there was a whole lot of noise coming from outside. Drums were pounding, people were singing, and a voice over a loudspeaker was yelling something. I listen and realized it wasn’t Vietnamese. Oh yeah, it was Korean! I had forgotten that more than half the people living in my area are Korean. They kept up the festivities for the entire game. I found out later that they had all congregated at a Korean bar/restaurant that it just two blocks from my house. Now that was the atmosphere I had been hoping for. South Korea plays again tomorrow night, and the plan is to go and watch it there.

Between games, I have been busy packing and cleaning and working, getting ready for my Monday departure to California. It is all rather daunting for no reason other than that I find big trips daunting. I never feel like I can breathe until I am seated on the plane.

Must get back to the Ghana-Czech game.