Holland 1, Serbia 0
Sunday morning is gorgeous, the streets empty. I'm riding my bike Mario with anticipation.
What Dutch presence there will be at Betty's (240 King East @ Sherbourne); what kind of Dutch name is Betty? Three blocks north still reeks of crack-whore but King E is gentrifying, loft-ifying and renovating: a lovely neighbourhood.
I get there late as usual, 10:30 am and Holland-Serbia is almost over.
Order a coffee and scope out the fans, whose garb burns a hole in my retina. The colour of Netherlands is bright orange - it's oh so citrus and I pine for a smoothie.
Holland wins 1-0, their fans are polite but glowing (orange) with pride. I think about my Dutch friend Claire and wonder if she's happy (in fact if I ever open a Dutch bar it will be called Claire's).
I wander for 30 minutes on Mario, accidentally running into Woofstock, a massive outdoor fair for dogs and another sign our civilization has lost its marbles. Most dog owners scare me; treating animals better than humans is a perverse fetish (yes yes, bring on the hatemail - I'm ready for you people).
Mexico 3, Iran 1
La Mexicana's north of Bloor on Yonge, boutique ethnic in South Rosedale - not exactly Latino central, but blessed with multiple screens. If Mexico makes it out of round-robin I'll hit the bars in Kensington that should have me hopping till manana.
I enter a fiesta of 80 Mexicans; the room is built for 20. I'm practically the only Gringo in the place; they tell me "There's space for you in the back room." A most welcome segregation - it's stuffy inside but sunny and cool on the patio.
The owner of La Mexicana, a not very Mexican looking Mr. Wong, is arranging umbrellas above his tv to minimize glare from the sun. Suddenly everyone on the patio is a professional set decorator; I even start suggesting ways to cut down the glare. "The sun's coming from the east!" I keep shouting. This is oh so important.
I order Corona from a slow-witted waitress who won't bring anyone their beer and wants to feed me an entire platter of tacos. "I can't eat that much," I explain, and she's annoyed at me. She's not actually a waitress, just somebody's sister. I successfully negotiate a burrito and sit facing the tiny glare-ridden screen.
The game is ok. The Mexican football announcers - to their credit - scream 'goooolllll!' just as loudly and lustily when Iran scores as when does Mexico (they each tally a goal before the half). I hadn't expected such impartiality.
After 45 minutes I'm fed up with glare and done with my beer; I don't speak Spanish so I sheepishly hit the exit. Next time I'll take the mountain to Mohammed and do Iran at Yonge and Steeles.
I bike home to prepare for Portugal-Angola. Life in Portugal Village ain't easy during football (or during Portugal Week, during Portugal Month or during any number of religious processions). Portugual followers in Toronto are notoriously proud. They love being Portuguese more than any other country loves being itself. They love their flag more than any other nation loves their colours. They love putting those plastic mini-drapeaus on the windows of their cars. I'm an Italy fan myself (and we're supposedly a patriotic lot) and I'm in awe: it is scary to witness the full flower of Portuguese nationalism. World Cup action in the College -Dufferin-Dundas-Ossington rectangle is a kind of dream-nightmare hybrid. Just don't try driving for groceries anytime after a match (that includes Brazil).
I watch from one of the nondescript old-man bars on the north side of College near Ossington, where Little Italy ends its yuppy charade and becomes 'Little Azores' for real. The crowd is loud and cranky. I'm drinking Heineken (is there Portuguese beer?). Pauleta scores an early marker, and the chaos by now is predictable. The drapeaued cars begin barrelling east-west with the horns shrieking staccato; funnelling down from St. Clair and up from Dovercourt. Portugal wins 1-0 over their former colony Angola (who btw have the best jerseys of the tournament - deadly black and red) and the streets are soaked with green red gold - and traffic-jam exhaust fumes - for the next 3-4 hours. Good thing for Mario.
Sidebar - there is a 40-man brawl at Dundas and Ossington long after the match is ended - front-page of The Sun kind of stuff. It was an argument between Portugal fans, probably over who loves Portugal the most. Apparently it necessitated several mouthfuls of broken glass to decide the matter, but in the end nobody wins.... Go Portugallll!