Ten last minutes of hope.
Flags painted on their cheeks, clenched fists smashing the tables frantically and flags waving, French supporters cheered “Allez les Bleues” (“Come on France”) Friday afternoon as they waited out the last minutes of the game in the hope of an equalizing goal that never came.
They had gathered in the Golden Gate Tap Room, a bar in the Lower Nob Hill district, to watch the quarterfinal match of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup against the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT), the defending champion.
Many bookmakers listed the two teams as among the favorites of the competition. The awaited quarterfinal match brought around 100 French supporters to the bar, eight times more than the 15 who came out to watch the first group phase match on June 7th. Jimmy Conrad, former U.S men’s national soccer team’s captain and now a YouTuber with 130,000 followers, broadcast the match on Twitch, a live streaming platform.
When the two teams met previously on June 19th for a friendly match, France had won 3-1.
But on Friday, the United States won 2-1 after two goals from midfielder Megan Rapinoe, and qualified for the semifinal.
“They are almost unbeatable. They run so fast. It feels like we’re playing against machines,” said a disappointed French supporter.
Most supporters came to the bar because of “The French Team Fans,” an official Facebook page for French supporters created by Arnaud Auger Sengupta, 31, and Jules Caron, two French nationals living in Lower Nob Hill and Alamo Square, on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Back then, 40 supporters gathered at Kezar Bar for the first match of the group phase on June 16th, 2018.
“The experience is better abroad because you have to share and communicate with people you don’t know when you would have stayed with your family in France,” said Emmanuel Daval, a French supporter who has lived in the United States since 1992.
“Everything is more magical and powerful,” said Sengupta.
While Recreation and Parks officials scheduled a public screening at Sue Bierman Park at Washington and Drumm streets along the Embarcadero, as they did for the 2018 FIFA World Cup’s final, the French Team Fans preferred to stay at the Golden Gate Tap Room, which has partnered with them for every French game since France played Argentina in the 2018 FIFA World Cup round-of-16.
The page then caught the attention of the French media and got a steady boost on social media.
The supporters doubled at every game after that, to reach an all-time high of more than 2,000 people estimated to have been watching the Men’s World Cup final in and around The Golden Gate Tap Room.
The crowd grew so large that San Francisco Police Department shut down the cable car line for three hours on Powell Street after supporters took to the streets to celebrate France’s victory in the competition on July 15th last year.
Now, the French Team Fans are experiencing defeat for the first time. Group organizers say they now plan to move to McTeague’s Saloon, the official bar of the American Outlaws, to support the United States.