01 July 2014

USA x Belgium

I actually made it to a Latin American country to watch the World Cup. Even though the plan for the past four years had been to go to Brazil, Mexico was not a bad alternative.

With the USA x Belgium match starting at 3:00 PM Puerto Vallarta time, I set out early enough to give myself time to cruise the Malecon in search of an exciting venue to view the game.

It wasn’t long before I noticed that there did not seem to be much in the way of crazy soccer fans on the streets or in the bars I passed. I assumed that since Mexico was now out of it all, the interest in the mundial might have lessened. But I did expect to see American fans, even though it is low tourist season here.

Once I reached the end of the rows of restaurants and bars along the Malecon, and not finding anything that looked even close to a hopping-mad football fest, I decided to head back to a bar I’d passed earlier. Murphy’s Irish Pub; they had to be watching the game there. Looking up from below at the second story establishment, I didn’t see too many folks inside, but thought I saw a TV with what looked to be a game. I checked my watch – the game had already started – so headed up the narrow staircase to find what awaited me.

The game was indeed playing on several large and small screens. Right at the front, just inside the balcony, sat a group of six young American women, eyes glued to the TV set. Wow – has the world changed! I felt so proud that a group of gals would come out to watch a football match. I said hello and grabbed a table behind them.

Murphy’s was by no means packed, but there was a decent enough crowd comprised of families and small groups of men. I ordered a glass of tonic water and tuned my brain into the game along with my compatriots.

Having watched all the previous matches in the company of myself, I truly enjoyed being able to whoop out loud along with the rest of the patrons – or in some cases, let out a loud ooooohhhh! It really is much more fun to be part of a crowd when watching a sporting event.

We all know how the game ended, but I must say that those last few minutes were a joy to watch, with the entire pub cheering on Team USA.

I do feel a bit disappointed in the less-than-crazy World Cup atmosphere that I’ve found here. I was thinking back to several World Cups ago when I was living in Kuala Lumpur. It was the best time ever! Maybe it was because the games were on in the late afternoon and evening, and all the bars and restaurants were packed for every game. And it’s not like Malaysia was even in the World Cup. For the final, my friends and I had to book a table in a make-shift, outdoor club, right next to the Twin Towers. It was total sports fan nirvana.

World Cup apparent-lack-of-enthusiasm aside, it’s still fantastic to be in Puerto Vallarta, drinking in the heat, breathing in the humidity, and spending by days in happiness.