SoMa pub is like U.K. for Cup

The blinds had been pulled down, blocking the sunlight from a California day from seeping into the pub.

There were waitresses weaving through the crowd, passing out fish and chips and pints of beer. And inside the Chieftain Pub, it was warm and packed with more than 50 chanting, red-clad English soccer fans Tuesday afternoon, all there to watch their team take on Sweden in the World Cup.

To Paul, a native of Coventry who has lived in Fremont for 14 years, it felt like home.

“I’m impressed — the spirit here is fantastic,” he said. “I told my mates when the match started that for the next 90 minutes, we’re in England.”

This SoMa pub has long been one of the most popular spots in The City to watch soccer and was recently named one of the top 10 places in the country to see the World Cup by msn.com. That puts the owner of the pub, also named Paul, in the precarious position of having to find room for everyone who walks in.

“It sometimes feels like I’m putting together a crazy jigsaw puzzle,” he said, standing by the front door and shepherding in guests. “But it’s been great.”

Shouts of “Come on, England!” echoed throughout the room, and the crowd erupted 30 minutes into the game when Joe Cole scored from well outside the penalty area to put England ahead 1-0. It caused Pierre, the lone man in the bar donning a Sweden shirt, to bow his head in disappointment.

“I came because I thought I could be a little bit cocky in here,” the native of Malmo, Sweden, said while taking a breather outside during halftime. “And now here I am, standing out here with my tail between my legs.”

A frenetic second half gave him a chance to cheer, as the Swedes tied the game 1-1, fell behind 2-1 and finally equalized again in extra time. The draw means England will play Ecuador next in the first game of the knockout stage and will avoid host Germany, to the relief of many of the England fans in attendance.

“We didn’t want to have to play Germany, so this was a good result for us,” England fan Mike Gibson said. “But we’ll have to tighten up if we want to go far in the tournament.”

melliser@examiner.com

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