A phenomenon is upon us. It will catch you off guard as it overtakes San Francisco over the next month. Don’t be alarmed.
Between now and July 11, anyone making their way through The City streets — either by car or public transportation — will unexpectedly come upon seemingly random gatherings of people along sidewalks. They’ll be peering intently into the window of a street-side establishment, as if something not to be missed is going on inside.
It will happen at odd hours, sometimes in the morning or early afternoon, and it will set off a checklist in your head of things you might be missing.
The Giants? NBA playoffs? Aren’t the Stanley Cup finals over? What are they watching?
What these gatherings will be trying to do is get a glimpse of the World Cup, which began on Friday in South Africa and will captivate the rest of the world for the next four weeks. The phenomenon I speak of will be Bay Area residents of international heritage watching a World Cup game being shown on television.
San Francisco is known as a great international city, and the World Cup will prove it to you. Soccer fans — they call themselves football fans — who follow their national teams without mention most other times will be coming out of the woodwork trying to glean every second of World Cup action they can take in.
Argentinians. Australians. Brazilians. Koreans. Mexicans. Spaniards. The French. Italians. Thirty-two nationalities — including some Americans — if you’re counting, will be able to recite every detail of the world’s greatest sporting event.
The American team will take some added interest here, but to witness the passion that natives of Europe or South America have for their national soccer teams is truly an eye-opening experience. And you’ll get small doses of it across The City over the next month or so.
The 32 teams in the World Cup are divided into eight groups of four teams apiece, with 48 first-round games between now and June 25 determining the top two finishers in each group. The 16 surviving teams will play an NCAA-style elimination tournament, with the World Cup champion crowned in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 11.
Spain and Germany appear to be Europe’s strongest teams, with England and Holland as top contenders. Brazil and Argentina head a strong South American contingent. And the United States, ranked 13th in the world, appears to have a strong shot to reach the Round of 16, but after that they’ll be underdogs to advance.
No matter how the World Cup plays out, those gatherings of people along San Francisco’s sidewalks will tell you somebody’s team is still alive.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.