The beautiful game 

FIFA World Cup
Radio Radio
Through July 9

Mari Cela has seen her father cry twice in her life. “Once was at my wedding and once was when he saw me in the national team jersey.” As the daughter of Mexican-born immigrants, Cela became one of the first American-born women to play on the Mexico Women’s National Football Team in 1998. Now, she works for an organization that brings soccer and poetry to 8- to 12-year-old children in impoverished schools in select American cities. Watching the World Cup doesn’t make her miss playing the game. “It makes me live it,” she said. On Friday, she joined a handful of impassioned soccer fans at Radio Radio as Mexico tied Angola 0-0 in a first round match, one of the 64 FIFA World Cup matches that Radio Radio will show through the July 9 championship.

World Cup games begin as early as 8:55 a.m., and continue relentlessly into the early evening with three or four sometimes simultaneous matches daily. For David “Tufty” Clough, Radio Radio club owner and Liverpool native, this is less than extraordinary. “During the Premiership I’ll get out of here by 3 or 4 and set the alarm for 7 to watch the games,” Clough said. Still, the grueling schedule of soccer during the day and music at night leaves the owner confined to the club around the clock, steeped in soccer and in the community of fans who now flock to Radio Radio to share the excitement and anxiety of the games with sympathetic devotees. Clough hoped that playing the games might draw out dormant soccer fans and attract a diverse, international crowd to Radio Radio.

British ex-patriots Matthew Hardy and Tim Kersoey extended their lunch break from Gilchrist and Soames, the British hotel supply toiletries company where they work, to see England through their 2-0 nail-biter against Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday. “I don’t sleep well after games like these,” Hardy said before England scored two goals in the 83rd and 91st minutes. For Hardy, a life-long soccer enthusiast from North London, who has “been living in the states for seven years and having a terrific time, thank you,” the allure of soccer lies in “craving for the goal.” “It’s 90 minutes of tension, but good tension,” he said.

The tension was palpable during the American match on Saturday, which ended in a 1-1 tie with Italy that temporarily saved the United States from elimination. Despite America’s global notoriety for collective under-appreciation of “the beautiful game,” a full house of fans packed tight around the two flat screens at Radio Radio to watch the United States battle Italy in one of the most decidedly unbeautiful matches of the first round.

The national and global pride evoked during the World Cup is echoed in Radio Radio’s spirit of local and global community. For Cela, soccer reflects the entire immigrant experience. “You don’t need money to play soccer,” Cela said. “It is a grass-roots sport” that has gained global popularity because people “want to stand behind something.”

For Tim Kersoey, the compelling interest is simple: “You never forget your roots.”

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