“I go around the world, hands outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’” So said legendary Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano about his beloved football.
Once every four years, the most popular single sporting event in history graces the earth and a collective drumroll of the heart begins across participating nations. Whether you sit in the stadiums of Russia or in a tiny backstreet cafe in Spain, the rules are the same for all 3 billion viewers worldwide.
The city comes to a standstill and people meet wherever they can find the biggest screen, often in the local square. Those who are non-religious suddenly believe in a “prophet” for one glorious month only – their striker savior or their midfield maestro.
So, where should you watch it this summer?
One of the most successful nations in footballing history, you can rely on the Germans to reach at least the semi-finals. Which means you’re guaranteed a party atmosphere in Berlin, Munich and beyond. Keep an eye out for the giant graffiti mural of Mario Götze on a building in Charlottenburg – he scored the winning goal in their 2014 triumph.
Andres Iniesta recently brought the curtain down on a magnificent career at FC Barcelona, so the taste of sentimentality will already be on the tongues of Spanish supporters. Find a spot in Madrid’s main square or a chair in Sports Bar Rambles, Barcelona’s 16-screen establishment.
It doesn’t get more iconic than watching France kick a bit of sculpted rubber on a giant screen by the Champs de Mars, beneath the Eiffel Tower. Embrace “Les Bleus,” hold a conversation with a local comparing the potential of midfielder Paul Pogba to Zidane in his early years, and live forever in the hearts of the French supporters around you.
Perennial underperformers, the proud nation of England has, since 1967, worked itself into a frenzy in anticipation of winning on the international stage. This year, for once, expectations are low. But don’t let this fool you – the atmosphere in bars across London and Manchester will be electric. Paint St. George’s flag on your cheek and you’ll be officially British.
The most successful team in the history of Central America, the tropical beach bars of Costa Rica will be an unforgettable place to watch football this summer. Don’t write these guys off either – last time, they came first in a group that consisted of three previous winners: Uruguay, Italy and England.
Tokyo is the “alternative” place to watch the matches this summer. Veteran captain Keisuka Honda will likely retire soon, so the nation will be desperate for success. Find a public viewing spot or head to a bar in Shibuya area. And if they win their group games? Get to the famous Shibuya intersection.
Nicknamed The Taegeuk Warriors, South Korea’s national team faces a very tough group this time out. With the fantastic Son Heung-Min of Tottenham though, anything could happen. Expect bars in the city center to be packed.
The spiritual home of football. The most successful footballing nation ever. A team that has always been skillful, passionate and inspiring in equal measure. Pele, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Garrincha, Sócrates – an endless list of greats. Brazilians have raised football to the status of art. Watch it anywhere, because it will be on screens everywhere.
Ok, so cricket is the national sport. We get it. But football is getting bigger over in the land of Oz, with the increasing popularity of their domestic A-League. Expect Brisbane, Sydney and Perth to be bouncing, literally.
The place to visit if you don’t like football. Find a quiet spot in Rome to sip an espresso while observing the Colosseum. You’ll be joining the nostalgic supporters of “The Azzurri” as they reflect on their missed chance this year and hope for a future football Renaissance.
Wherever you decide to watch, remember this: If you can’t find a screen to watch the game, just find an Irish pub. You can rely on them to show the big matches.