The FIFA World Cup is underway and soccer enthusiasts are getting ready for a month's worth of international men's competition in the world's most popular sport. While many local establishments may have the matches available for viewing, one Buffalo bar in particular is anticipating steady business, even with the USA not competing this time around.
Mès Que on Hertel Avenue bills itself as a soccer bar. Scarves from numerous clubs or national teams hang from a series of hooks on a wall opposite the bar. On Thursday morning, that bar and several tables were fully occupied as the first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup got underway, a match between host Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Local "futbol" followers will not be able to watch their homeland compete. The USA, which has qualified for the men's World Cup every occasion since 1990, failed to make the final tournament this time around. Fans of the sport, WBFO found out, remain passionate nonetheless.
"It'd be really nice if they were in the tournament but at the same time, it's fun to watch," said Brendan O'Donnell. "I have a lot of friends from Saudi Arabia, so that's why I wanted to come out and see this game in particular."
Most everyone following the tournament has embraced one of the contenders for various reasons, including family backgrounds, places they've visited, for friends who live there. Teddy Marks, who works at Mès Que, explained that patrons frequent the establishment for numerous foreign competitions, most notably the English Premier League.
"A lot of our audience typically comes in for the EPL games and UEFA Champions League," he said. "We figure those people who are passionate about soccer would still come for the World Cup, even though the US isn't in it. It wasn't going to be the same as four years ago, when we were shutting down the street but we knew we'd get a good crowd."
Marks revealed he's supporting France at the 2018 World Cup.
Darcy was celebrating her birthday by taking in the Russia-Saudi Arabia match. She revealed she is rooting for Uruguay in this tournament, though admitted she didn't know entirely why. (Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930 and won it again in 1950.)
The 2022 World Cup will held in Qatar, after which the United States, Canada and Mexico will jointly host the 2026 tournament. Darcy was was asked if she's already thinking about the 2026 World Cup and the possibility of travel to one of the venues, which may include Toronto.
"I have, actually," she replied. "I was going to go to the Women's World Cup that was just in Montreal and I didn't. We'll see what tickets cost."
Others, like O'Donnell, might find themselves back on the bar stool at Mès Que instead.
"I'm sure a lot of Buffalonians who like soccer will try to make it a point to go to the World Cup. I'm happy watching it here," he said.
(Note for the curious: our reporter is rooting for Poland, for family background reasons.)