World Cup 2014: World Cup Tournament Brings Together People of All Cultures [Watch]
The month-long tournament that is the World Cup is finally over as soccer fans across the world adjust to life without the "the beautiful game" after Sunday's finale at Estádio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Now that Germany has become the first European team to win the prestigious trophy on South American soil, employers all over the world can go back to making sure spreadsheets are being completed, documents are being written, and work is getting done instead of spending time trying to make sure their employees were not wasting company time watching the day's matches.
However, fans around the world, and across the U.S., each with their own unique stories to tell, are left with the memories of a spectacular tournament that brought them together for one month of soccer madness.
Corina Lopez Velasquez was one of those fans.
"I actually called out, emailed my boss that I'm leaving out early today, no explanations," said Velasquez, a Mexican supporter who cut out of work to watch El Tri face host nation Brazil in a Group Stage match at El Basurero in Astoria, Queens. "I texted [my daughter] and asked, 'You want come with me,' and that was that. Normally we'll watch at home, watch it with the family, but this time it's just me and my daughter."
The family get-togethers, barbeques with friends, or bonding over drinks with co-workers that sporadically occurred during the midsummer tournament are all but done for now.
The World Cup has a way of bringing people together, bonded by a common goal of goals, family, friendships, and patriotism that is unique to the international soccer tournament. It is not like the Olympics, where people pretend to know curling or gymnastics, never being engaged in the sports except on that given week.
Sure, that happens with the World Cup, casual sports fans getting caught up in the fervor of the world's largest party. And, yes, there is the father-son bond of going to the ball game that is common in baseball and the Super Bowl party that is used as an excuse to drink with friends. But it is the hardcore soccer fans -- who invest years watching their teams qualify into the tournament that determines the world's best team every four years -- the ones that make this tournament unique.
The World Cup tends to bring families closer, whether getting together to watch their home country play in the tournament in their homes or just "catching up" via social media with people back in their native land to talk about the goal that shocked the world, the horrible officiating, and all the drama that comes with the World Cup.
"Being here with these guys, everyone Brazilian, it's so great," said 15-year-old Joel Barsky of Queens, New York, who came to Favela Grill in Astoria with his father and brother to watch the 2014 World Cup opening game between Brazil and Croatia. "I play soccer so we have a lot of soccer friends. We have filled out brackets, invite a bunch of friends over [to watch the games]. Right now, I have a group of friends who are at friends' houses, but I'm here with the family."
New York City makes for an interesting backdrop and adds a different dynamic for World Cup fans, with every nationality playing in the tournament practically represented in some manner in the borough of Queens, along with the other four city boroughs.
Costa Ricans are not the largest Hispanic population in New York, with an estimated 11,576 Ticos currently living in-state, accordings to the U.S, Census report. But they made themselves heard during the country's Cinderella run into the Round of 16, surviving the "Group of Death" -- which included the Italian, English, and Uruguayan national teams -- taking over Legends, a bar that caters to soccer fans and located literally in the heart of the city, across the street from the Empire State Building.
"It's one big party. We have probably about 200 Costa Ricans inside," said Mauricio Sandoval, president of the Costa Rican Network Group New York City, whose group helped organize the Legend's party for Costa Rica's Game of 16 round game against Greece. "We're playing a little bit of our national tunes, our national music. We're all united for a World Cup game. What more of a national type of event where our colors can come through?"
The feel-good vibes of the 2014 World Cup and watching the games in a town like New York City with compatriots also helps reconnect people to their roots, especially those who have been away from their native country for awhile.
"It feels like home, but it's bittersweet because you end up missing home," said Daniela Gomez of San Jose, Costa Rica, who recently moved to New York City and attended the party at Legends with her sister. "But at the same time, it's great having so many Ticos behind you in New York and supporting the whole team. It just great, it's like being there now. We wish we could be doing this in Costa Rica or Brazil but, hey, we could do the same thing here in New York."
Even American fans, viewed as "newbies" by the rest of the world while soccer continues to make strides in the United States, got into the fun that was the World Cup.
"That's why I love the World Cup, the entire country, even if you're not into soccer, everyone gets behind it," said Wally Ali from New York, who normally watches Arsenal FC games at The Blind Pig in Union Square and brought his friends to the bar to enjoy the U.S. men's national team take on Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in their group stage match.
"I've been following soccer and every single year it gets crazier. I think they have like 200,000 fans in Brazil this year," he added. "That's twice or three times as many as other fans. MLS is getting huge. The team is getting good. [USMNT coach Jurgen] Klinsmann is finding younger guys. I love [Julian] Green, [DeAndre] Yedlin is great, it's going in the right direction."
Soccer can also make for strange bed-fellows, with fans switching allegiances as the tournament progressed. Colombian fans became German fans after Brazil knocked out Los Cafeteros in the quarterfinals, in what was very physical and bruising game (ask Neymar). Hondurans became Costa Rican fans, with Los Catrachos taking great pride that a Central American neighbor was performing at such a high level on the grandest stage. Even confederation rivals put aside their rancor, even if just temporarily, with bitter feelings tossed aside in the excitement of the tournament.
"We actually had a lot of support from Mexico, who is our longtime rival. I think it's fantastic," said Carla Gomez, who appreciated the support from disappointed Mexican fans lingering at Legends after El Tri lost to the Netherlands in the Round of 16 prior to the Costa Rican party.
In the end, people had to get behind either Argentina, looking for their third title, or Germany, who were attempting to win their fourth World Cup after appearing in four straight Cup semifinals.
Argentina featured arguably the best player in the world in Lionel Messi while Germany was playing like a focused, locked-in machine that would accept nothing less victory, having throttled Brazil 7-1 in front of their home crowd, sending both kids and grown adults crying home after their semifinal game.
Argentinians took great pride in this run to the finals, especially with La Albiceleste shining on their nemesis' home field while looking for revenge against a soccer rival that has given them problems in past World Cups.
"It's something unbelievable, we've been waiting for years, since we lost to Germany 4-0. We've been waiting for four years, everyday counting down," said Gonzalo Blanco, an Argentinian student studying in South Carolina and visiting New York City for the summer. "I don't know how to explain it. Like that other guys said, it's better than sex. You can't compare it to anything. It's Argentina in the World Cup."
Germany ended up breaking hearts for Argentinians and the fans that got behind the team, even if for only that afternoon. German fans celebrated loudly in bars across New York as their team went up the podium to collect their championship medals and the coveted World Cup trophy, while Argentinians lamented over Messi's last free kick that went flying over the crossbar as time ran down in overtime.
But the month-long party left its impression on both the hardcore and casual fans, as things go back to the normal chores of everyday life.
"As a soccer fan, you learn so much more about soccer," said Masato Sadahiro of New York City, a fan of the German team celebrating outside the Bling Pig.
Sadahiro admitted that he has no ties to Germany, but became a fan of the team after watching them play in 2002 South Korea-Japan World Cup. "I thought I knew a lot because I've been watching all my life, but I learned so much just this month. And the excitement goes up so much more when you have people to cheer with."