BY LUIS GRONDA
With the group stage finishing on Thursday, Queens has caught World Cup fever like many throughout the country.
Every four years, 32 teams compete for the right to hoist the FIFA World Cup trophy. The world gathers around their television or computer to watch the action and root for their country to emerge victorious.
Queens is no different from the rest of the world, as many who emigrated from their home country to pursue the American Dream. They gather at bars and restaurants, such as La Gran Uruguaya and Puerto Colombia restaurants, both in Jackson Heights, to watch the matches each afternoon.
During one recent afternoon, Colombia was set to play Japan in its final group stage game before moving onto the round of 16. Even though it was practically a meaningless game for the Colombians, as they already qualified for the next round, many Colombian-Americans were out in full force during the game.
They were out on Roosevelt Avenue, Northern Boulevard and 37th Avenue, donning their country’s jersey and waving the yellow, blue and red Colombian flag.
Cesar Alvarez, who has lived in Woodhaven for 30 years after coming to the United States from his native Colombia, said he is elated with the way his team is playing right now, but they must defeat Brazil if they want to make it deep into the tournament. Colombia is set to play Uruguay this Saturday and they could play Brazil in the quarterfinal if both teams win their matches.
Alvarez also said he has noticed many packed watering holes and eateries in Queens since the tournament began because people enjoy the experience of watching the games in public.
“It brings all of the countries together,” he said.
Antonio Moreira, a Corona resident originally from Uruguay, described the tournament as “a party for the entire world,” especially for people living far away from their home country.
“For those of us not in our own country, it makes me happy that the whole world can see our flag,” he said in Spanish.
Uruguay won their match on Tuesday against Italy, but it did include a controversy that caught many people’s attention.
Towards the end of the match, Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez appears to have bitten Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder. Chiellini was visibly angry, pulling down his jersey to show the referee the alleged bite mark. The official did not see the incident and it went unpunished. Uruguay scored one minute later and won 1-0.
“That’s a part of the game. They push and shove each other all the time. You have to defend yourself anyway that you can,” he said in his native language. “It’s worse if someone breaks your leg, a little bite is nothing.”
Richie Torres, a Colombian who lives in Westchester and works in Jackson Heights, disagreed with Moreira’s opinion.
“How can you do that? There’s no excuse for that. It’s not part of the game,” he said.
There is still a little more than two weeks left in the tournament. The round of 16 will begin on Saturday, June 28 and the final will be on July 13 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Argentina and Ecuador will have played their final group stage matches by press time. Argentina has clinched a place in the next round while Ecuador needs to win to join the other South American teams who have qualified. The United States will play Germany in their third group stage match, needing at least one point to get into the next round.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.