England Had a World Cup Game, but First Its Fans Had a Quest. For Beer.
The World Cup is a moment of collective pride for a country that’s been watching soccer and hoping to play one day. (It hasn’t for the United States, which has never had a player win the World Cup.) What’s most surprising is that in a country that so reveres its soccer experience—“the beautiful game,” as the British call it—no one had seen a World Cup game since 1985 until a game was streamed live from Russia. In that previous World Cup, Italy and Poland lost to the United States and Brazil and Portugal, respectively.
There’s a lot about soccer that’s a mystery, the beauty of which is that almost everything you can only discover when you spend enough time watching the game. You can’t go into a stadium without spotting the most unlikely jersey, the face of a young woman with long legs who’s wearing a blue body-hugging dress—the kind of thing that might be worn by a girl on a college volleyball team—or the most surprising hat on a man wearing a suit. The players, the teams, and the stadiums are as memorable as any of the players themselves.
But you don’t have to be a fan of a national team to have your own moments of soccer mystery; you simply need to be a fan of a baseball game. Which is to say that you could spend a year living in a tiny, dusty stadium in an obscure, largely forgotten corner of the world, watching one team win a World Series, and you might learn more about the game than you would by spending time at your favorite team’s spring training in Peoria, Illinois, or watching their games on the radio.
For the first weekend in June, that’s exactly what I did.
Before we start, let me just say that this was not me—the real me—making these decisions, and it’s certainly not me telling you how good or bad the experience was. Nor do I owe you a beer. I made these decisions independently and at my own pace. I only found out about this World Cup, this team, and its city, in my second day of residency.
I’ll get to the details later, but