On any day of the week, 7 a.m. may seem an unusual — even worrying — time to see a crowd of people lined up outside a pub.
But Lisa Glave, general manager of The Queen’s Arms Pub at the Village Center of Haile Plantation, says she opened her doors on June 18 at 7 a.m. to the sight of dozens of soccer supporters waiting for drinks to be served.
Glave, 46, said that more than a few shots of whiskey were poured. Plenty of beer was spilled, and the loud British chants echoed from the pub through Haile Village. Scenes like this have become more ordinary throughout Alachua County over the past month due to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
At Mother’s Pub & Grill on University Avenue in Gainesville, the absence of the U.S. National Team in this year’s FIFA World Cup hasn’t stopped the bar’s festivities. Unlike The Queen’s Arms Pub, this restaurant’s walls are covered in American flags and Florida Gators memorabilia.
Although on Tuesday, and for most of the past month, few of the chants sung at the restaurant have come from Americans or even been in English.
“Allez les Bleus, Allez les Bleus, Allez les Bleus…,” a group of French supporters sang on Tuesday while their country triumphed over Belgium. Nearly 300 people, most singing for France, visited the Irish-influenced pub to watch the semi-final between France and Belgium. The match ended with France securing a gritty 1-0 victory to advance into the World Cup Final.
Not all fans go home satisfied.
After an exciting tournament, England fans at the Queen’s Arms on Wednesday watched their team suffer defeat against Croatia, 2-1.
Despite the results, both restaurants will continue to host viewing parties for the two remaining matches of this year’s tournament: Saturday’s third-place playoff and Sunday’s final between France and Croatia.
General Manager and part-owner of Mother’s, Pat Schaller, 49, said that while the United States’ absence from this year’s tournament was indeed disappointing, he thinks this past month has proved that soccer is still a sport on the rise in Alachua County and nationwide.
“We have a lot of locals that love soccer, and they know that if there’s a game we’re going to have it on,” Schaller said. “We’ve probably had in-and-out over 1,000 people here when some of the biggest games have been televised.”
Through the tournament’s 110 matches, neither pub has been empty during one.
“Just by watching the World Cup at Mother’s, you can feel the passion from some of these soccer fans and what their countries mean to them. French supporters started singing today when their goal went in,” said Eric Panas, a 21-year-old University of Florida student. “When Brazil played last week, all their fans sang their chants in Portuguese and screamed after almost every important play. Even if you’re coming in as a neutral fan, it’s almost like you can’t help but root for one side by the end of the match.”
Schaller’s pub opens from 7:30 a.m. until 2 a.m. every day with the exception of Sunday. Meanwhile, The Queen’s Arms usually opens on 11 a.m. on weekdays but made exceptions for days when England played.
Jason Irwin, a longtime Alachua County resident and a Mother’s affiliate, even said that some of the tournament’s most electrifying moments have come bright and early on the Eastern coast.
“One of my favorite games was Germany’s 2-1 victory over Sweden,” Irwin said. “When the game-winning goal was scored in the 95th minute, I saw some fans doing things I had never seen before.”