Schenectady County

Start of World Cup games gives soccer fans reason to gather

Hype has been building among players of the Saratoga-Wilton Soccer Club since May, when a vendor sho

Hype has been building among players of the Saratoga-Wilton Soccer Club since May, when a vendor showed up to a tournament with World Cup 2010 sticker booklets.

“From then on, many of our coaches encouraged our players to watch the games and get together,” said Ken Bishop, club president.

The excitement moved older players to organize a club-wide viewing at Mexican Connection in Saratoga of today’s U.S. vs. England game.

In addition to parties, bars and restaurants in the Capital Region are expecting crowds this afternoon as local soccer fans and teams come out to watch the World Cup 2010 games live from South Africa.

“We’re expecting a pretty decent crowd,” said Jason Friedman, owner of Mexican Connection.

The first game today between South Korea and Greece kicks off at 7:30 a.m. But most venues will not be opening doors quite that early. Many will open at 10 a.m. — still earlier than usual. One exception is Wolff’s Biergarten in Albany, which will open its doors at 7 a.m. in preparation for a World Cup block party from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We’ll have two big screens outside and the six inside to watch England beat the U.S.,” said Mark Graydon, manager at the Biergarten, who is originally from East London. “I can’t help it. I’m a little biased. But after this first game I’ll be rooting for the U.S.”

Graydon said he asked to place flags for England outside, but was told no by the owner.

The block party, in cooperation with Soccer Unlimited, will close about a half mile of Thatcher Street off Broadway Avenue for most of the day.

The party will feature several beer trucks, outdoor food vendors and a grassy area for practice penalty kicks.

Other bars may not be laying turf for Saturday’s game, but some are still drawing international interest.

Naill Roche, the owner of Irish Times Pub in Saratoga, said tourists staying in the area asked if they could watch the game at his bar.

“I was getting a few calls from a lot of English guys,” he said.

Roche also expects quite a few local residents, as well.

“We’ll have to separate them on different sides of the bar,” he said.

Roche is from Ireland, but said he is rooting for the U.S. team in the Saturday game.

Pinhead Susan’s in Schenectady is also expecting a crowd for this afternoon’s game despite very little advertising effort.

“It was all hearsay. We’re expecting our regulars, and hopefully we’ll have a lot of people,” said Mike Daniels, a family member of the owner.

For some local restaurant owners, the games will be on every day regardless of whether it draws a single patron.

The owners of El Mariachi’s in Albany will be showing — and watching — most of the games, fervently cheering for Mexico.

For many, today’s game will be the first live viewing of the World Cup, which will continue until the finals on July 11. And it certainly won’t be the last for the Clifton Park Soccer Club.

The club just bought a 55-inch flat-screen TV.

“Once it’s hooked up we’ll be watching a lot at the clubhouse,” said Peter Clinton, president of the soccer club. “But for the final, that’s the day a couple thousand people will be here watching the game.”

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