“First, you root for your brother,” said Osman Otman, who is from Palestine, explaining his top picks in the globally venerated soccer tournament that opens Friday in South Africa. “Then for your cousin, and then for your friend. Algeria is closest to us, so I’m rooting for Algeria.” If Algeria doesn’t win, he said—few seriously think they will—then Otman wants America, his adopted homeland, to take the cup.
“I’m sorry, I’ll have to disagree,” Rassam Shareef piped in from behind the cash register at North Oakland’s Oasis Food Market. “I’m going for Algeria,” said Shareef, who’s from Yemen. “But after they get knocked out, I’ll go for Brazil, because I like the way they play.”
“But we live in America,” Otman argued back. “I’d like it to go forward.”
At the cafes, pubs and bars of North Oakland, the World Cup debates have begun, and are sure to escalate throughout the month-long tournament. The nine-hour time difference between California and South Africa means coffee may gain on beer as the favorite game-watching beverage. But, then again, this is soccer. A number of North Oakland bars will be serving up alcoholic beverages, as well as coffee, for the 7 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. games.
If you’re set on watching the 4:30 a.m. games with fellow diehards, Oasis Food Market is the place. The Middle Eastern market and cafe at 30th and Telegraph will be opening early for all the World Cup games, and serving up hummus, falafel, and fresh baked breads along with espresso and tea.
Just down the street, the newly opened Commonwealth Café and Public House at 28th and Telegraph Ave. will be offering a $5 breakfast special for the 7 a.m. games. “I’m on my way to Best Buy tonight to get another TV and some speakers,” said co-owner Pete Jeffryes. The local My Yute Soccer Camp is inviting fans to the Commonwealth on Saturday for the 11:30 AM colonial rumble between the United States and England. It’s the US team’s World Cup debut and North Oakland fans will be out in force. “Every one of us can sit at home and watch it, but we really like to share our passion with the people of Oakland,” said Lovel Sparks, director of the camp, which brings Oakland youth from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds together on the field.
On Piedmont Avenue, Kerry House is planning a free barbeque for the US v. UK game. They’ll be open from 9:30 a.m., serving $3 Budweiser’s to wash down the baby back ribs, hamburgers and sausages.
Also on Piedmont, the Park Avenue Bar and Grill is expecting a loyal crowd throughout the World Cup. “We’ve all told our wives and girlfriends, ‘Hey, baby, you come second’,” joked manager Eric Seitz.
On College Avenue, Barclays was full of soccer gab on Thursday afternoon. Suzanne and Todd O’Leary were pondering the lack of American soccer songs. “I mean, what are we supposed to chant?” asked Todd. ‘Olé olé olé!?’” The couple said the American team’s performance in Saturday’s game would determine whether they took down the stars and stripes that have been flying outside their house since Memorial Day. “If they win, we’ll keep it up,” said Suzanne.
Barclays will be opening at 6:30 a.m. for drinks and 7 a.m. for breakfast on opening day, and for other early morning, high-stakes games throughout the tournament. They’re expecting a big crowd. “We did it four years ago and it was a madhouse,” said manager Derek Krebs. “There were people lined up around the outside of the building. People were pulling kegs out into the street.”
It’s still not going to be Italy or Latin America, where life stops for the World Cup, but Oakland soccer fans will have plenty of places to follow the games.
Where will you be watching the World Cup? Let us know.
Other places to watch the World Cup in North Oakland (*not all locales are showing all games so it’s best to call first):
Dareye Hide A Way Ethiopian Restaurant: 6430 Telegraph Ave.
The Grand Tavern: 3601 Grand Ave.
Luka’s Taproom & Lounge: 2221 Broadway
McNally Irish Pub: 5352 College Ave.
La Calaca Loca: 5199 Telegraph Ave.
Jack London Square (for the final game on July 11) [Update: This event has been cancelled.]
Watching in San Francisco’s Mission District? Check out the downloadable map and list of locations at Mission Loc@l.
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