Joie de vivre flows in French enclave after Cup victory

The Champagne popped just after 2 p.m. Wednesday outside Café Bastille.

Inside, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” blasted on repeat, a testament to a French soccer team many thought was too old heading into this World Cup but has just kept on winning. Fans waved flags and danced while screaming “Allez Les Bleus” after the French defeated Portugal 1-0 to reach Sunday’s final against Italy.

“This is unbelievable, the greatest sporting event I’ve experienced in my whole life,” fan Sebastien Wiggs said. “I’m shocked we made it this far.”

More than 200 supporters took long lunches or simply called in sick to fill this French bar and restaurant in the Financial District. Businessmen and women took jerseys out of their briefcases and put them over dress shirts upon entering the alley at Belden Place where Café Bastille is located, an area known as the French Quarter of The City.

“My boss was nice enough to let me out for this, and I’ll make up the hours tonight,” said Frenchman Boris Delepine, who stood in the alley conducting business on his cell phone at halftime. “But I had to be here for this.”

Fans pecked friends on each cheek before settling in for the match, and cheered every time the French moved the ball up the field or stifled a Portuguese attack. The loudest ovations were reserved for midfielder Zinedine Zidane, as the crowd chanted “Zizou” every time the hero of France’s 1998 title run appeared on the screen. Zidane scored the game’s only goal on a first half penalty, inciting a frenzy of hugs, kisses, fist pumps, raucous cheers and blasts from a fog horn.

“We’re very happy for Zidane, the best player of the century,” Parisian Hakim Doghri said. “And this place gives us the same atmosphere we would get in France. We’re a small community, but everyone meets here for the matches.”

Owner Olivier Azancout wore a Zidane jersey and carried a huge French flag while walking around throughout the game, and he confessed his secret for preparing for the matches.

“We just stock up on beer,” he said. “And Sunday, it should be wild, packed from A to Z.”

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